Ellen BashorEducation Director / Environmental Education Instructor, Prescott Community Nature Center / Prescott College
- 30 Under 30
- ee360 Fellow
Ellen is an environmental educator and community organizer collaborating with a wide range of institutions to increase equitable access to environmental education, outdoor opportunities, and a healthy environment.
How are you using education to build more sustainable and equitable communities?
In my current work, I am the Education Director and Park Ranger at the City of Prescott’s Community Nature Center. Through an intergovernmental agreement that I revived between our local public school district and Recreation Services Department, and through hours of fundraising, planning, outdoor classroom and trail building, curriculum writing, and more, we are now providing free outdoor and environmental education to thousands of public school students. Through our department’s collaborations with our Health Department, Cooperative Extension, and other non-profits, we have identified families’ barriers to accessing green space and have launched an initiative to provide education and targeted support to help families with young children more equitably access the outdoors. I also work through my board member roles in several non-profits to deliver funding, learning opportunities, and experiences to my community that are rooted in environmental sustainability and increasing inclusive and equitable opportunities to access nature.
Tell us about your journey to where you are today.
My path might be like canoeing in the Boundary Waters. Some swampy portages, sunrise paddling lake to lake, endless mosquitos, and moments along the way that are more than worth it. If you had asked me at any point in my life if I had guessed that I would end up where I am, I would have always been wrong. Change seems both purposeful and surprising. From childhood babysitting, to camp facilitation, to school teaching, to professional development, to higher education, to volunteering, to community organizing, to building places, to a nature center Education Director—it’s wild to reflect back on this journey. With honest excitement and comfortable uncertainty, here I am. I am humbled to be collaborating with the young folks, elders, and community leaders who I work with every day and honored to be able to help increase access to the benefits of the outdoors and the healthy environments everyone deserves.
Who keeps you hopeful for the future?
Young folks, elders, colleagues, my best friend, my family; the foundation of hope is all around us. When I look around and see and hear how hard we are all working to make our communities safer, healthier, and more equitable places to live and thrive, I have so much hope. Together we can accomplish anything (and I don’t mean that in a cheesy way! I really believe that!).
Who do you look up to as inspiration?
My teachers. So many of them! In and out of classrooms, human and non-human, I see so many people and places continuing to learn and grow and change despite immeasurable setbacks. There is so much bravery and wisdom in the small, the stories, the teachers who came before me. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to continue this inspiring work to reconcile and restore.
Describe your work in a haiku.
Someone’s first towhee
What is learning without love
This place is for all
Ellen Bashor is the Education Director for the City of Prescott's Community Nature Center where she directs environmental education programming for Prescott Unified School District students and teachers, organizes community events, leads ecological restoration projects, and advocates for the advancement of equitable and inclusive outdoor opportunities and green spaces. Ellen also serves on the board of directors for the Arizona Association for Environmental Education (AAEE), an NAAEE Affiliate Network member, where she chairs the Marketing & Membership Committee. She is also the Environmental Education (EE) instructor for Prescott College on-campus undergraduate programs and the director of the Prescott Creeks and Watershed Program. Ellen holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Education, both with emphases in Environmental Education. From 2018-2020 Ellen received the ee360 Community Fellowship from NAAEE. In late 2020, Ellen was awarded the Environmental Educator of the Year Award from the Arizona Association for Environmental Education for her work in developing a pandemic-response program for public school students using outdoor and environmental learning opportunities. This initiative continues to thrive and Ellen hopes to continue providing Prescott K–20 students and Arizona environmental educators opportunities to learn and grow as community stewards and advocates for a more socially and environmentally just world. When Ellen is not teaching and learning outdoors with kids and grown folks, she’s outdoors with her partner and desert dog, climbing rocks and reveling in the beauty of it all.
About Ellen’s ee360 Community Action Project
Ellen’s ee360 Fellowship Community Action Project is developing an Affiliate Network framework for the Natural Start Alliance, NAAEE’s Early Childhood Environmental Education (ECEE) program. Ellen's project has been an ever-evolving process to address the growing demand for localized support for nature-based early learning and early childhood environmental education. Natural Start, NAAEE's Early Childhood Environmental Education program, is a coalition of educators, parents, organizations, and others who want to help young children connect with nature and care for the environment. Natural Start’s network has grown exponentially in the past few years, and as a national program, they do not have the capacity to meet the growing demand for local support. By developing a framework for, and launching, a formalized network of state & regional partner organizations, she hopes to create a formalized space for organizations across North America to come together to better serve this growing field and more equitably increase access to nature-based learning and early childhood EE for all young children. Ellen's work on the Natural Start's Affiliate Network framework, strives to create a formalized space for other organizations dedicated to ECEE to work collaboratively on:
- making the case,
- providing the best tools,
- promoting access for all,
- advocating for children, and
- creating community.
Ellen works for the Center for Nature and Place where they provide leadership for the advancement of equitable and inclusive nature and place-based early learning. She believes that through an intentional framework design centered on best practices, she will help Natural Start and others across the nation increase access to equitable and inclusive ECEE for all.