“Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now!”
—The Schuyler Sisters, Hamilton: An American Musical
From the moment I first heard the cast recording of the musical Hamilton, these words have been repeating in my head. These revolutionary sisters sing with excitement about the American Revolution that was brewing on the streets of New York City in the late 1700s. And just like them, I feel lucky to be alive right now, in a time that for many might seem plagued by fear and global threats, but—like the pre-revolutionary years—is filled with opportunity and growing momentum for positive change.
As we get close to a half decade of Earth Day celebrations, one constant remains, and that is change. The faces of those both affected by global environmental issues and working to find solutions continue to change and reflect the diversity of a human community that grows, moves, adapts, and finds ways to make things work. Just as a hip hop Broadway musical about the “10 dollar founding father without a father” can be a game changer and make American history and civism relevant to today’s high school students, there are infinite examples of environmental education leaders in communities around the globe bringing nature to people, and people to nature, in schoolyards, urban gardens, national parks, and even corporate offices in more ways than ever before. And so, changing audiences and new challenges are calling for unconventional partnerships that can take us into the uncharted waters of innovation.
At NAAEE we’ve been preparing for these changes for the last few years, and today we are doing things a little differently. You'll notice some new faces on the NAAEE board. We're excited to introduce five new board members for NAAEE—each bringing new skills and expertise to NAAEE and the field of EE. We invite you to visit our website to learn more about each of them.
Part of what we are doing differently is the way we develop and grow our board. During the strategic planning process, we revised our bylaws, based on discussions with the board, and input from members and from experts in the fields of association management and organizational development. The new bylaws are designed to help us create the most effective board possible and strengthen the organization by identifying key skill sets, such as expertise in governance, connections to new funding sources, and ideas for reaching new audiences. As part of the new process, in the fall of every year, we will ask for nominations from our members. Our Governance Committee will vet those nominations and present a slate for the board to approve.
We also created the NAAEE Advisory Council, a blue ribbon panel of experts and leaders from the field of EE, which includes representatives from the Affiliate Network, as well as members and supporters who bring diverse perspectives in environmental education. In addition, we launched our new website in January, including a new professional learning hub for EE called eePRO, which we’ve highlighted before. We have 27 eePRO group moderators who have stepped up to help share resources, spur discussion, and promote provocative thinking in our field. In addition, we have created a partners’ page that highlights the foundations, corporations, government agencies, universities, and NGOs who have joined with us as we work together to create a more environmentally literate and civically engaged society.
We believe these changes will help strengthen our organization and build on our 45-year history. We encourage all of you to play a role in NAAEE going forward. Please let us know if you are interested in serving on the board or Council, and if you know a great candidate for the future, encourage them to submit a nomination when the call for nominations is announced later this year. Please continue sharing your ideas and suggestions for eePRO and the website. We also depend on all of you to help shape the conference by serving as strand leaders and reviewers—and helping to provide input and ideas for ensuring that we have high-quality sessions that will help us all learn. (And thanks to all of you serving as reviewers this year!) As always, please reach out to us if you have any questions about our strategy going forward or how you can volunteer to be a part of our work.
We really hope you can join us in Madison this fall at our annual international conference. You can meet new people, say hi to old friends, engage in sessions, walk the halls with hundreds of colleagues, and look around to acknowledge how lucky we all are to have this community of leaders that feels both new and refreshing. To me, it’s like coming back home every single time. Together, we can all be part of the change!