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EE 30 Under 30 at the 2019 NAAEE Conference in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo credit: Melissa Blackall

Together, We're More Awesome!

As a 2019 EE 30 Under 30 awardee, attending the 2019 NAAEE Conference transformed my view of education, and sparked my curiosity to question how education for a more just and sustainable future should be. As a K–12 educator, my immediate association with education in general is to place it within a K–12 context and within a school system. However, seeing education as a part of sustainability requires us to view education within a larger context and go beyond our immediate networks and immediate areas of expertise to seek interdisciplinary solutions to issues of global and local significance.

As an educator, some of my most enriching professional experiences have been with professionals in different fields, such as scientists and National Geographic Explorers. Through partnerships with National Geographic Explorers, I learned how transformative it is to learn with someone who has a different perspective and a different world view. I grew up with a flight attendant mom and an architect dad, so my gaze is usually oriented upwards looking at the sky for airplanes, or looking at the sides of buildings. My Explorer partner remarked that because her job involves marine mammals, her perspective is usually oriented down towards water. Both ways of looking and noticing inform our work as professionals and who we are as individuals. For solutions for a more just and sustainable future, we need to combine all perspectives for a 360° gaze. We need more collaboration.

Meeting my fellow EE 30 Under 30 and hearing their “bright spot” presentations was so inspiring: A fellow classroom teacher, informal educators, photographers, activists, students, environmental educators…each has a different perspective of how they view education, what environmental education is, and what our solutions should be. For a 360° view, we need bold solutions. We need to knock down the wall of traditional views of education, and move from awareness to environmental stewardship. A 360° view requires education to be contributory, co-created, and collaborative.

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Kimi Waite is a social justice educator-explorer and empowers the next generation of explorers, engineers, artists, and change agents. She works as a teacher leader for the California Global Education Project and contributes to the National Geographic Education blog. She is also a member of the 2019 Class of EE 30 Under 30.

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