We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.
A Little Spring in Our Step!
This month, the world lost one of the greatest scientists of our times—Stephen Hawking. He was known not only for his brilliance and digging deep into quantum mechanics and relativity to better understand black holes and more, but also for three other important life lessons: using humor in the face of adversity (as someone said he had a sense of humor as vast as the universe), having persistence and never giving up, no matter how hard things are, and being passionate about standing up for what he believed was right—including the role that we should play in addressing the world’s biggest issues. He also encouraged all of us to be curious—and to really think about how we can contribute to society!
So much of our work in EE touches on what Stephen Hawking was all about—understanding, skills, attitudes, and getting involved. So as you think about your work—what you’re doing to help promote understanding, how you are working for positive change, how you are delivering excellent programming and addressing key issues, what research questions you are exploring—I hope you will share your thinking at NAAEE’s 2018 annual international Conference in Spokane, Washington. Proposals are due on Monday, April 2 (we’ll leave it open until midnight, PT!), and we would love to see what you’re doing, what you’re learning, and how we can keep moving forward with our agenda to advance environmental literacy and civic engagement. We’re thrilled to be working with our Affiliate in Washington, E3 Washington, and I might be a little biased, but I think it’s going to be an amazing gathering!
I also encourage all of you to weigh in on our global Call for Action. Just go to ActNowforEE.org to vote and let us know what you think is most important for our agenda in EE for the next decade. We’ve had hundreds of people weigh in from around the world and will be keeping the site open through Earth Day, April 22. We’ll share the results and our next steps in Spokane.
As the cherry blossoms in DC burst into bloom, I hope we can all keep focusing on what we can do, as educators, to create the positive change Stephen Hawking was championing. By providing universal and equitable access to nature and high-quality environmental education programming for all learners, we are making a difference. By helping people gain the skills to be active in civic life (political and non-political), we are making a difference. By helping people understand the value and importance of science and its role in shaping policy and moving our thinking forward, we are making a difference. And by helping people everywhere understand that being an informed and active citizen and standing up against injustice is a cornerstone of our democracy, we are making a difference.
We just experienced an unbelievable demonstration of democracy in action with the March for Our Lives on March 24. So many of us were inspired by the young people standing up for what they believe—taking to the streets across the country and in cities around the world to support legislation to end gun violence. It was so inspiring to hear their words and feel their passion, and to see people from different backgrounds and ideologies coming together to promote the safety and the well-being of our young people and society as a whole.
At the same time, we received positive budget news in the United States at the national and state level. At the national level, we've seen continued support in 2018 for environmental education at EPA and NOAA, as well as the Department of Education for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and other agencies. We've also seen success at the state level, with exciting support for climate change education in Washington State coming from the governor’s office. (We’ll be highlighting some of the great work in the state of Washington at the conference! For more on this, see E3 Washington’s press release.) And this positive trend is the result of the actions so many of you took to engage your elected representatives to talk about the importance of environmental education in creating a more informed and engaged citizenry.
Next month, we will be launching our new research library, in partnership with the Children & Nature Network, Duke University, the Pisces Foundation, and ee360. So be on the look-out for that announcement. And we have some great webinars coming up, including a session focused on EE and the Next Generation Science Standards with Matt Krehbiel in April. And in May, award-winning poet, Aimee Nezhukumatathil will share her insights on how we connect to the natural world with writing and poems from her new book of poetry, Oceanic.
As Stephen Hawking said, “Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious, and however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.” I feel so amazingly fortunate to work with so many educators who never give up, and believe deeply in our individual and collective power to create positive change. I also feel fortunate that so many of you, just like Stephen Hawking, have such a wonderful sense of humor that gets us through the tough times!
NAAEE Executive Director
I like physics, but I love cartoons.
Only time (whatever that may be) will tell.