This year Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education (CAEE) is celebrating 30 years of being a statewide leader in environmental education in Colorado. Last week they put on their 19th annual Advancing Environmental Education Conference. Cottonwood Institute (CI) presented two conference sessions and received the Advancing Environmental Literacy Award on behalf of the Nature Kids/Jovenes de la Naturaleza project partners.
The theme this year was “Looking Back, Moving Forward,” a nod to the past 30 years of education and community as we continue our work to advance the field. CI’s contributions to this year’s Advancing Environmental Education Conference included a session on cognitive dissonance and education titled “Cognitive Dissonance – Or is my Uncle/Student/Friend Just a Crazy Person?” and a round table discussion titled “Program Directors Unite!”
CAP Instructor Amy Atkins and Program Director Madeline Bachner Lane teamed up to present a host of resources to help educators navigate the tricky path of engaging students (and others) who sometimes “don’t believe” in the issues we talk about relating to the environment. Based on the massive array of media available at the tips of our fingers, many folks, and especially many teens, are led astray in the hunt for information about the world around us.
The session explored cognitive dissonance and other psychological phenomena that provide insight into how climate skeptics and one-click activists think. Amy and Madeline offered tools to skillfully engage with anyone in understanding science, enticing them to take action, and avoiding conflict and burnout. You can see their resource sheet and take a look at some of the ideas they shared by clicking here.
The bottom line, as they presented it, is to find common ground by sharing stories and building connection through a shared love of place. There is social science data showing that in sharing stories, we can literally sync our brain waves to connect with folks across seemingly uncrossable chasms between world views. The twenty-two participants of the session enjoyed practicing their story telling skills in pairs. They ended the session with many good questions and dialogue.
The second session presented by CI was Madeline Bachner Lane’s round table discussion with program directors. In this hour-long interactive discussion, nine program directors shared stories about several topics: how they do their jobs, what is challenging for them, and tricks they employ to succeed at this all-encompassing, often demanding position with a host of associated duties. It was an extremely supportive conversation about this multifaceted role. Folks left with a sense of shared understanding and some great contacts to continue to reach out to about their work.
Cottonwood Institute is a lead partner for Nature Kids/Jovenes de la Naturaleza (Nature Kids), which is an innovative, 5-year, $10M collective impact project that includes over 30 community partners. Nature Kids has two primary goals: 1. To connect Lafayette, CO youth and their families to nature and the outdoors through a continuum of free, pre-K to high-school, backyard to backcountry, and family integrated environmental education and outdoor recreation programs, including career training and paid employment, and 2. To ensure all Lafayette youth live within a safe 10-minute walk to nature.
CAEE awarded the Nature Kids collaboration with the 2018 Advancing Environmental Literacy Award at the Awards for Excellence in Environmental Education presentation! Lead partners for this project include: Thorne Nature Experience, Boulder Valley School District, Cal-Wood Education Center, City of Lafayette Parks Recreation & Open Space, CU Science Discovery, and Cottonwood Institute. A huge thanks and shout out to Erin Angel, CI’s amazing and talented CAP teacher at Angevine Middle School and Centaurus High School, and all of the funders, partners, and supporters that make this collaboration possible!