The goal for environmental education (EE) in Minnesota and throughout the United States is to develop an environmentally literate citizenry.
Environmental literacy is possessing knowledge about the environment and issues related to it; being capable of, and inclined to, further self- directed environmental learning and/or action. (North American Association for Environmental Education)
From the mid-1990's through 2010 the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance's (OEA) environmental education team focused their work on achieving the state goal of environmental literacy. (Note: The Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance (OEA) merged with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in 2005.) They did this through "capacity building" efforts for environmental education -- developing effective organizations and individual leaders in order to achieve comprehensive EE programs at the state, regional and local level. The four areas of concentration to the EE capacity-building efforts were:
1. Providing, leveraging and developing resources for educators.
2. Fostering coordination and partnerships.
3. Furthering communication among EE providers.
4. Delivering skill-building opportunities.
1. Providing resources to educators
OEA's Clearinghouse offered many resources including videos, fact sheets, curricula, and interactive media.
The SEEK (Sharing Environmental Education Knowledge) website is Minnesota's online home of EE resources - seek.minnesotaee.org
A GreenPrint for Minnesota: State Plan for Environmental Education is a guide for individuals, organizations, and agencies that deliver or support environmental education in Minnesota.
Environmental Literacy Scope and Sequence is a document that provides a series of EE concepts that support an understanding of our environment through a systems framework. Highlighting the interrelations of the natural and social systems, the scope and sequence is a great tool for formal and non-formal educators.
Grants were funded by the OEA/PCA for several excellent environmental education projects and programs.
Providing resources and access to resources is vital to delivering fair, current, and accurate environmental education. The resources offered included:
2. Fostering coordination and partnerships
The Minnesota Environmental Education Advisory Board (EEAB) and then the Environmental Education Advisory Task Force (EEATF) were advisory groups composed of both citizen members and agency representatives. They advised the leaders of the sitting agencies on environmental education matters and were a great vehicle to foster coordinated EE partnerships throughout Minnesota.
SEEK Partners are organizations in Minnesota that provide EE programs and resources to Minnesota's EE community.
Grantees and people involved in EE grant projects.
Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning (EIC) is an educational approach for schools that combines best practices with the local environment while simultaneously addressing content standards from multiple disciplines. EIC uses the school's natural and socio-cultural settings to engage students in schoolwork that they perceive as relevant to their daily lives, thus increasing their motivation for learning and academic achievement.
Offering coordination and serving as a catalyst for EE providers is the second component of capacity building. This was done through:
3. Furthering communication among EE providers
The SEEK Bulletin is a monthly email newsletter offering new and time-worthy environmental education items pulled from the SEEK website.
Environmental Education Workshops and Brown Bags are offered on a variety of topics.
The Minnesota Environmental Education Advisory Board gives agencies and citizens, along with the public, a chance to communicate on issues at hand within their organizations and at the state level.
Personal communication is considered key in learning what is needed by and what is available to Minnesotans. One-on-one assistance with others working in the environmental field is an important element in delivering effective, relevant environmental education.
With all the organizations, agencies, and individuals working to educate Minnesotans on environmental issues, communication channels and opportunities are imperative to successful EE. These are some of the tools and activities implemented:
4. Developing education skills
EE Capacity-building Workshops were monthly workshops that provided fundamental educational skills for individuals trained as scientists, technical specialists, and researchers, as well as up-to-date education tools for the trained educators seeking assistance in honing their skills in order to better educate their audiences.
Regional EE workshops were developed and offered in partnership with local organizations, according to the needs of the particular audiences.
One-on-one skill-building assistance was offered as the situation warrants.
The ability to effectively educate others on environmental issues takes more than technical environmental knowledge. It requires education skills and the ability to communicate. These were the skill-building programs offered.
For information on national EE Capacity Building, visit the National Environmental Education Advancement Project (NEEAP) at http://www4.uwsp.edu/cnr/neeap/
To learn more about the state of Minnesota's defined goals for its citizens in regards to environmental literacy, visit https://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/statutes/?id=115A.073 115A.073 ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION GOALS AND PLAN (Minn. Stat. §115A.073)