Promoting Professional Development and Best Practice in EE
eeGuidance for Reopening Schools—Affiliate Toolkit
NAAEE convened a series of conversations with Affiliates around responding to COVID-19 as EE organizations. One of the key needs expressed in these conversations was development of a guidance document for schools that incorporates environmental education (EE), outdoor learning, outdoor classrooms, and EE programs and providers as strategies for reopening schools. eeGuidance for Reopening Schools provides Affiliates with a customizable guidance document and tools and resources for communications and promotion. These recommendations have been developed based on more than 65 community feedback calls conducted with hundreds of environmental and outdoors learning providers from around the country during the spring of 2020.
There is an opportunity to raise all boats with this effort, elevating the conversation and attention to environmental education on both the state/provincial and national level. Recognizing the varying capacity of each Affiliate Organization, the following represent the targeted actions that we hope all Affiliates will take:
- Add your own state Affiliate logo to the eeGuidance document. Please download a copy of the document to add your logo.
- Share NAAEE’s press release with your networks and/or customize and issue a press release on behalf of your Affiliate. Find a template to customize here. Original press releases were shared starting Wednesday, July 1, 2020. NAAEE can help you distribute your press release locally if you send it to Bruce Young, firstname.lastname@example.org. There is more information about press releases and roll out strategies below.
- Promote the eeGuidance document through your organization’s social media channels. Sample social media posts may be found here.
- Send a letter from your organization to your State Department of Education Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, and Science/Other Content Specialists (sample letter).
The following provides some specific guidance and additional opportunities for your Affiliate!
Co-Brand and Customize for Your State EE Association
eeGuidance for Reopening Schools is being provided to Affiliates as a Word document so that state and provincial EE organizations can customize the document to meet your needs or use it as is. The following are suggestions and possibilities for customization:
*Recommended for all Affiliates
- Logo*: Co-brand this document by including your Affiliate logo, website, and contact information so that schools and districts know who to contact. NOTE: Please do not remove the NAAEE logo as you revise this document.
- Specific State/Province Related Guidance: If your state or province has some specific reopening requirements or recommendations, this document can be modified to meet those state specific needs. You might want to provide links to your state/province guidance in this document. Check your state/provincial department of education’s website for state/province specific information.
- Exemplars: If you know of schools or districts in your area that were using these approaches pre-COVID, consider developing call out boxes that help the readers see these practices in action.
- Engage EE Providers: Gather support and help spread the word by having your partners and EE providers sign on to this guidance document and then ask them to help your organization get it to local schools and districts in their area.
- EE Provider Directory: Many of these suggested strategies involve engaging local EE providers. If you don’t already have one, consider creating a Google form to collect data from EE providers to share with schools and districts (perhaps at the point of signing onto the eeGuidance for Reopening Schools). Or share this form created by NAAEE, and NAAEE will collect and share examples. Write email@example.com with any questions.
See sample customizations by state here.
Get the Word Out!
Now that you have this great resource to provide support and assistance to schools as they reopen this fall, you’ll need to get the word out. You will be most successful if your Affiliate uses several communications strategies. Below are some potential opportunities with samples and resources:
*Recommended for all Affiliates
- Press Release*: One of the most effective ways you can generate awareness about an issue is to send out a press release—plus, it’s free! Here are a couple of different strategies to consider:
- Option 1: Customize a press release for your state, linking to the eeGuidance document as is. (Releases went out starting Wednesday, July 1, 2020). In your press release, address any plans you have to adapt the eeGuidance to existing state plans, circumstances, and needs. We have created a template for you to customize here. Take time to customize the eeGuidance as appropriate for your state and develop any additional tools and resources. When you’re ready, issue a press release on behalf of your Affiliate, announcing your own state-specific eeGuidance for Reopening Schools.
- Option 2: Share NAAEE’s press release or a state customized press release with your networks starting on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 to help spread the word. Consider customizing the eeGuidance with your Affiliate logo and adapt the press release to include your state EE association. This is best for states who will not be customizing the eeGuidance further.
In either case, NAAEE can provide assistance to distribute your press release to your local media contacts. Send your press release to Bruce Young (firstname.lastname@example.org) and he will distribute it through Meltwater.
- Website and Social Media*: Don’t forget to have a landing page on your website and use your social media channels to get the word out. See sample social media posts and graphics here. Use the hashtags: #reThinkOutside and #enviroed and any hashtags that are state specific to your education organizations.
- Letter to the Governor and/or State Department/State Board of Education*: Another strategy to get the word out is to send a letter to your Governor, Secretary/Commissioner of Education and/or the Board of Education in your state. A sample letter may be found here.
- Letter to the Editor: A letter to the editor will often catch the attention of local school officials and board members, is usually short and can be compelling when it combines both emotion and facts. You may wish to consider whether your state EE association sends out the letter or a local partner does so. CAEE has shared examples of these letters for Affiliates to adapt.
- From State EE Organizations: Might be most effective in larger city newspapers. (Sample State EE Org Op-Ed)
- From Local EE Providers or Organizations: Might be most effective in smaller local newspapers. (Sample EE Provider Op-Ed)
- Press Conference: It may seem like a daunting task, but holding a press conference can be one of the quickest ways to promote eeGuidance for Reopening Schools and get your organization’s name out at the same time. Here is a “how to” guide developed by the Community Tool Box. Consider key partners who may serve as speakers.
- Option 1: Host a Press Conference with key partners to talk about how your state can use national guidance.
- Option 2: Host a Press Conference in 2–4 weeks to release a state/regionally customized version of the document. You may want to host one or more meetings/briefings (more information below) to support customization and develop buy-in from key stakeholders who might participate in your Press Conference.
- Meetings/Briefings with State or Local Education Agencies: If your organization has an existing relationship with education agencies at the state or local level, you can invite them to a virtual or in-person meeting to share the eeGuidance for School Reopening document (e.g. State Superintendents webinar that is an open invitation or an invitation to specific individuals to talk more one on one). This could not only make them aware of the document, but open a door for discussing how your state EE organization could support this effort.
- Additional Audiences for Letters and Meetings/Briefings: There are other influential organizations that might be good avenues to share information on the role of EE in reopening schools including Superintendents Associations, Principal Associations, Content-specific Teacher Organizations, School Board Associations, and/or State Representatives and Senators (especially those that serve on the education committee). If you have a superintendent or school board member who is already engaged in environmental education and outdoor learning, engage them as the message ambassadors. This can be accomplished at the local level in collaboration with local organizational partners and members of your state EE association.