"You have 20 Minutes. Go!"

“You have 20 minutes. Go!”

-Lauren Pyle, WNC Nature Center

Okay, they didn’t actually say that - but in January 2018, I teamed up with Linda Kinney of the NC Zoo to facilitate a rapid introduction to the NAAEE Guidelines for Excellence for the AZA’s southeast region educators conference.   We were initially planning a 50 minute concurrent session, but the organizers wanted us to present to everyone, and based on the schedule we ended up with 20 minutes to engage all 60+ conference attendees.

Impossible as though it may seem, we ended up having great conversations, building an amazing assessment toolkit, and attempted to convince a bunch of zoo educators that they are indeed environmental educators.  We accomplished this by utilizing pre and post activities to extend our contact.  As school and program assessment was a major theme of this conference, we decided to focus on the Guidelines for Learning (K-12).

At the opening meeting of the conference, we asked every attending facility to complete the K-4 self assessment from the Guidelines for Learning (K-12) Executive Summary, to introduce them to the Guidelines and to get them thinking about their programs.  

During our 20 minute presentation, we formally introduced the Guidelines, what they are and why they are important, and then actually spent most of our time on a group activity brainstorming ways that we as informal educators could actually assess our programs to see if we are meeting the K-12 Learner Guidelines, our state curriculum, or personal educational goals.  Using post-it notes, attendees compiled their successful strategies for assessing informal programs, short programs (45-60 min), longer programs (half-full day),  and extended programs (repeat visits).  Each attending facility (16 in all) then received a full copy of the K-12 Learner Guidelines Executive Summary, our contact information, and a strong recommendation to come to further Guidelines training.

After the conference, I then compiled the 70+ suggested assessment strategies and circulated it around to conference attendees.  The solutions ran the gamut from more traditional methods like online surveys and observational assessments, to custom games, participant post-in note feedback boards, and student performance pieces.  In the end, we would have loved to have more time but by engaging participants before our session and following up afterward, we were able to provide our fellow educators with a toolkit they could use, an opportunity to connect with each other, and hopefully enough of a tease that many of them pursue additional training for the Guidelines for Excellence.


You are right! The short and sweet presentation, especially the one that just pops up, can be challenging. We have lots of resources available when you have the luxury of preparing a long workshop. On the Guidelines for Excellence page, we've posted modules outlining daylong workshops for each of the sets of guidelines: So, a challenge to all of you who share the guidelines in one way or another: What's your favorite (or most successful) method/tool for presenting about the Guidelines for Excellence when you have a short amount of time?

I would love some 20 minute ideas for introducing the guidelines. All too often, even though I may be told I have more time, I get about 20 minutes. Thanks for these ideas!

Great way to use 20 minutes super effectively. Thank you for sharing as this is helpful to consider when I do another Guidelines training. It would be fun to see your 70 suggestions if you can share them. I had 20 minutes two weeks ago at a conference to share the Community Engagement Guidelines - 20 minutes is REALLY short... yet I did what I could and feel good about what I was able to pull off. Thanks Lauren!