The Missouri Environmental Education Association’s mission is to help educators connect every Missouri learner to the natural world and
equip them to care, understand, and act for the environment.

Missouri Environmental Education News: June 2021

Welcome to the lastest edition of MEEA's Newsletter
Lesli Moylan Photo

Table of Contents

  • Feature Article & Lesson
  • Kudos
  • Upcoming Events, Workshops & Grants
  • MEEA News Highlights

Dear MEEA Members,

We co-hosted the Sustainability Institute for Educators (SIE) this month. It was virtual, which I honestly wasn’t excited about, but it turned out to be really invigorating and thought provoking for me. The theme was OneHealth, the interconnected nature of the health of people, plants, and animals. 

We heard some inspiring stories and grappled with some really big questions during SIE. For instance, researchers at Fontbonne University discovered that raccoons in the St. Louis metro area live in two distinct areas, separated by the “red line” infamously known in St. Louis as the marker of de facto racial segregation. The St. Louis Metro raccoons have been sticking to one side of the red line so consistently over enough time that they have become genetically distinct on either side of the line. Why in the world aren’t they crossing this geographical line? They cross highways and other major thoroughfares. One theory? The physical environment is so different from one side of the red line to the other that these populations of raccoons have incompatible ways of foraging and surviving. Doesn’t that just hit you in the gut, the profound impact of segregation on……everything? 

Another question that keeps coming to mind from SIE was posed by Leah Clyburn of the Sierra Club and Community First Plus, asking “How creative do we need to be?” Leah shared stories of communities up and down the Missouri River working hard to protect water quality, noting that we need to actively resist the notion that the work in St. Louis is somehow unrelated to the community efforts in Labadie and vice versa. Leah was challenging us to really understand that we are all neighbors, and not to accept the idea that we are separate from one another–black and white, rural and urban, liberal and conservative. She admonished us to remember that we are much more powerful when we come together than when we are wedged apart into factions. How creative do we need to be? And how do we get there unless we expand who we see as our neighbors?

I’m excited by the creativity and planning that has been going on behind the scenes with MEEA over the last few months. If you want to help rethink how we approach being inclusive and equitable, assist in growing our certification program, or join the Missouri Green Schools team, don’t hesitate to reach out. There’s always more room for new volunteers. Thanks, everyone, and please enjoy this month’s article by MEEA Board Member Joan Ruppert! 

Lesli Moylan, Executive Director

Article: Engaging Children in Gardening and Nature Through Storytelling

FEATURED ARTICLE SUBMITTED BY:

Joan Ruppert, MEEA Board Member

A group of tourists were walking through the State Botanical Garden of Georgia near Athens, Georgia, when one of the members of the party engaged some children in the story about Jack in the Beanstalk.  Dr. Allan Armitage, renowned University of Georgia professor emeritus of horticulture, and internationally recognized author, observed sword bean (Canavalia gladiata) vines growing over a trellis in the garden and proceeded to show the children the huge bean pods and the large pink seeds within them. After extracting the story about Jack from the children, their eyes grew wide with amazement at seeing the “magic” beans Dr. Armitage showed them and were extremely pleased to receive a large pink seed to take home to plant their own beanstalk. (1)

Jack and the Beanstalk is just one example of simple stories parents, guardians and caregivers can read to their children that can be used as a reference to excite children for learning about gardening, nature, plants and animals. We all have read popular fairy tales, Golden Books and other literature to our kids. Everyday events and activities can tie into the stories and books they have “read”. These experiences can come from Modern day books and stories too. The little ones, ages 0-2 years may enjoy Let’s go Outside(2). You can use opportunities outside to point out the sky, trees and birds.  As you show your children a worm in your vegetable garden, remind them of A Diary of a Worm(3).  Or take them to a pond or lake to look at fish and tadpoles in the water, recollecting the Frog and Toad(4) stories. Go for a walk on a trail in a park and try to find trees, birds and animals mentioned in the books Let’s Go For a Walk(5) or The Hike(6).

Because of an Acorn(7) describes all of the layers of an ecosystem of the forest to children. When outdoors, children can see small trees growing, observe larger trees providing nests for birds, watch birds dropping seeds where flowers and plants will grow, thus connecting with the entire life cycle of the forest. Reading We Are Water Protectors(8) and My Friend Earth(9) exposes children to the notion they are responsible for preserving water and other natural resources on the earth. There are so many wonderful books about gardening, nature and animals to read to children which will become more real by experiencing them firsthand under the guidance of adults.

Grandparents can get in on the fun too! Kids love spending time with their grandparents, and these visits with the grandkids can be teachable moments. If you have the opportunity to spend an afternoon, evening or weekend with your grandchild, pick up Sharon Lovejoy’s Camp Granny(10). Make firefly lanterns, or just collect fireflies in jars with holes punched in the lid. This was one of my favorite activities as a child in mid to late June, when the fireflies are plentiful in the backyard. This book also has ideas for making a worm hotel, a pizza box solar oven and many more exciting projects.

Kids LOVE stories. And they have a natural curiosity about the world they live in. Connecting stories and books to real life adventures encourages them to CARE about this world. As they grow up, they will UNDERSTAND how important it is to preserve this wonderful planet and to ACT to become involved in making decisions that will improve our world.  

Have a nice June!

Joan Ruppert, MEEA Board Member

Resources

References

1 Armitage, Allan. “Why Gardening is Not Really About the Kids.” Greenhouse Grower, January, 2021.

2 Let’s Go Outside(March 21, 2020) by Ekaterina Trukhan

3 Diary of a Worm (2003) by Doreen Cronin

4 Frog and Toad Are Friends (1970) by Arnold Lobel

5 Let’s go for a Walk (to be released July, 2021) by Ranger Hamza

6 The Hike (2019) by Alison Farrell

7 Because of an Acorn (2016) by Adam Schaefer and Lola M. Schaefer

8 We Are Water Protectors (2020) by Carole Lindstrom

9 My Friend Earth (2020) by Patricia MacLachlin

10 Camp Granny (2010) by Sharon Lovejoy

What's Outdoors Right Now?

Missouri Department of Conservation A-Z Field Guide
Learn about the habitat, diet, and life cycle of Missouri’s animals, plants, and mushrooms.

Kudos

Kudos to Heartland Conservation Alliance and Exploring Roots for their merger!  This creative way-making resulted in the new program in Kansas City called Exploring Roots Summer Adventure Challenge and includes prizes for everyone who completes an outdoor adventure! Learn more by clicking HERE.

Kudos to Donna Rae Jones for facilitating the June Virtual Monthly Event with MEEA and KACEE! Donna Rae provides classes in mindfulness and yoga on the chair through St. Louis-based Yoga Buzz, and led us through a great chair yoga practice. Slowing down and tuning in to the present moment is a great way to foster openness and creativity. Thank you, Donna Rae!

Kudos to Gateway Greening for their creative list of summer school garden maintenance ideas! Each school is unique, and their ideas are sure to spark ideas to help create management plans that work for different situations. They suggest organizing community work days for big tasks, partnering with a summer camp, renting garden beds over the summer, asking families to adopt the garden for a week at a time, or even covering garden beds and giving the garden and volunteers the summer off. You can sign up for their newsletter to get more school garden advice!

Kudos to VOX Magazine for their article featuring Blue Fox Farm, a forest kindergarten in mid-Missouri. Blue Fox Farm is one of only about 10 forest schools in Missouri. Forest schools ground student learning in nature, spending time outdoors most of the day every day.

Kudos to Samuel Levac-Levey who created Solutions the Game to help people think about climate change in a way that focuses on creativity and solutions.  This board game was inspired by Project Drawdown. Creativity begets creativity! 

 

Featured…

Events

Featured Event: MEEA and KACEE co-host a panel presentation about students in KC and STL engaging in climate action. July 16 at 4pm.

Grants

Featured Grant: WWF’s Food Waste Warriors Mini and Large Grants – Deadline July 20, 2021

Workshops

Featured Workshop: NAAEE K-12 Guidelines for Excellence Workshop. July 16 in KC.

MEEA News

Learning to use Dynamic Governance

In May, the MEEA Board of Directors engaged in a Dynamic Governance training facilitated by Hannah Hemmelgarn. Dynamic Governance is a mode of governance designed to promote the inclusion and valuing of all the voices involved in decision-making for an organization. We’ve spent the past two board meetings learning by doing, tackling some issues around our membership structure utilizing Dynamic Governance rounds.

After two meetings with time devoted to this issue, we have formed a more complete picture of the “What” as it relates to membership. In short, we have identified the question to be “How do we change our membership so that people get what they want from MEEA and membership is a more significant funding stream for MEEA?” We spent part of the June meeting also tackling the implications of potential changes, generating a pretty big list of “So Whats”. Stay tuned, because the next step in the process is generating proposals to adress the question we’ve been exploring. 

If you’re interested in viewing the Dynamic Governance training, the recording is available HERE. Board minutes are in the Document Library section of the MEEA website.