You can't wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.
Coming off of Earth Week, I am re-inspired by what we can do in this field to make a difference in the world. Yes, the news can be discouraging. Globally, we are facing the challenges of a lifetime—to protect the environment, advance justice, and strengthen democracy. But this is not the time to despair: It’s the time to roll up our sleeves and do all we can to keep moving forward. Our field is about inspiring action and preparing future and current generations to be solutions-minded and look at what is possible. Although change can bring uncertainty and fear, it can also encourage audacious, inspiring action—from small steps to giant leaps forward. And we can’t be afraid to fail. As Billie Jean King said, “Be bold. If you’re going to make an error, make a doozy, and don’t be afraid to hit the ball!”
As we think ahead, let’s boldly hit the ball as we focus on how to change systems that have hurt people and the planet and think creatively about the work we do. To get inspired, we hope you can join with us to learn, share, and network at one or both of our annual conferences. It’s been two years since the NAAEE community has been able to be together, and I’m excited that we are holding in-person conferences this year, each with an engaging virtual component.
The first is the Natural Start Alliance conference to support nature-based early childhood education. The Natural Start is all about great beginnings and linking the educators and organizations working to ensure that every child gets to experience nature as part of their early childhood education. The conference includes featured speakers, workshops, concurrent sessions, field experiences, and site tours of nature-based programs. We hope you’ll be part of this gathering in Cincinnati, Ohio from July 27–30, and if you can’t join in person there is also an online option. You can register now at conference.naturalstart.org.
The NAAEE Conference and Research Symposium will be held in Tucson, Arizona, the week of October 10. We are so excited to reconnect in person and look forward to networking, sharing, and forging ideas for the future. The call for presentations is open until the end of this week, April 29, so please put your creative and thought-provoking hats on and submit a proposal.
Our theme for this 51st conference is “Educating for Change,” and we will focus on the powerful role education can play in creating healthier communities and tackling today’s complex environmental and social issues. We’ll dig into topics in our field from climate change education and climate justice to the benefits of connecting to nature, building a green workforce, protecting biodiversity, and centering equity in our work. We’ll explore creative new approaches and delve into ways current research can increase our effectiveness. We are excited that Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer will be one of our keynoters. Robin wrote the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Braiding Sweetgrass. It’s a wonderful book and has gotten rave reviews, including this reflection from Jane Goodall: “It is the way she captures beauty that I love the most—the images of giant cedars and wild strawberries, a forest in the rain and the meadow of fragrant sweetgrass will stay with you long after you read the last page.”
Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.
—Robin Wall Kimmerer