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March 2023 Newsletter

Park for Every Classroom

March 2023 Newsletter


☀️ Greetings

Thanks for tuning into the second installment of the monthly Park for Every Classroom newsletter! We’ve got more PEC updates, from a PEC evaluation report to an informative trip to Hawai’i to a recap of another PD. Let’s dive in!

(If you would prefer not to receive these newsletters, email us at parkforeveryclassroom@shelburnefarms.org, and we’ll take you off the list.)

 

📝 An Evaluation of PEC


The past couple of years have seen some big PEC transitions – most notably the expansion from just Region 1 teams to a national scale with the national pilot cohort in 2022, which has been continued with the second national cohort starting this year. To help PEC navigate this expansion and grow into the future, one of the major partners behind PEC, Shelburne Farms, hired a team of evaluators at PEER Associates to dig into the data and provide suggestions for mapping PEC’s future. A brief summary of their feedback is below and you can read the full report here.


The Data: The team at PEER Associates based their findings off of 14 in-depth interviews with 23 PEC participants, stakeholders, and a collection of documents describing PEC’s efforts over the last 10+ years.


Highlights: The report distilled many of the strengths and accomplishments of PEC over its lifetime, including:

  • the power of the three-legged stool model of park, classroom, and community organization to create lasting relationships within teams;

  • the flow of ideas and support that happens amongst teams in the broader PEC Community of Practice network; and

  • PEC allowed parks to meet a wide variety of their stated educational and operational goals, like incorporating equity-centered climate change education and creating more meaningful connections with local students.

Challenges: The report also pointed out some challenge areas for PEC: Namely, a sustainable source and a need to continue to clarify identity, document all of the PEC Team achievements, and communicate more broadly about the work.


Opportunities: Last but not least, the report laid out some areas where PEC can not only address some of the challenges outlined but also emphasize its strengths as well. The report suggested that moving to a two-year model (providing training to teams in year one, then emphasizing networking in year two), continuing to improve hybrid/virtual delivery structures, and utilizing the region as an effective networking scale could all help to create a sustainable future for PEC.


While the PEC Facilitation Team is still digesting much of the feedback contained in this report, we have already started to make some moves – including improving our communication, as this newsletter hopefully goes to show! We are so grateful for PEER Associates for their insight and guidance and for all of our PEC participants who provided the feedback for the report, and of course, we are grateful for all you PEC folks who make this work happen!

 

🤝 Reflections on Co-Stewardship and Aloha ʻĀina from PEC Director Joan Haley

As many of you know, the National Park Service has recently issued a new policy guidance to strengthen Tribal co-stewardship of national park lands and waters. This is a big step forward and the culmination of many years of hard work for NPS Director Chuck Sams.


​​What implications might this have for climate change education and our PEC work together? My first thought was: Big change is possible and we just have to keep working towards what we believe is right for our parks, communities, and environments.


My second thought settled on the term “co-stewardship.” I’ve always struggled a bit with the term “stewardship” since we often use it to mean people taking care of other people (which can seem a little paternalistic) or people taking care of the Earth (although the Earth can certainly take care of itself!). There seems to be a bit of arrogance embedded in the traditional definition–as if stewards had something to offer and knew what was best, while those who or that which was being stewarded, did not. However, the “co” in front of the word, although aimed more at a partnership approach for park resource management, piqued my interest. How could a more reciprocal dynamic sparked by the simple two letters “c” and “o” influence a more nuanced understanding of stewardship?


A recent trip with a University of Vermont research team to the big island of Hawai’i offered some answers. First, the Hawai’i Volcano National Park PEC Team exemplified what (co!-)stewardship between people could be. I’ve generally thought of my role in PEC as taking care of PEC team participants, providing them with resources, expertise, park-based examples of PEC work, connections, encouragement, etc. However, way before I arrived, Jody Anastasio (Education Specialist, Hawai’i Volcano National Park) and Scott Laursen (Climate Change Adaptation Extension Specialist, Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center), and Barbara Sabin (Volcano School of Arts and Sciences) were taking care of me. They offered detailed suggestions for things to do, places to stay, routes to take, and arranged for time to be with me, even though Jody was preparing for some VIP’s and Scott donated his personal time.



There was a big storm when I arrived, which made travel a little dicey, but with their thoughtful help, we figured it out. (Unfortunately, Barbara’s road was blocked by flooding so we could not see one another.) Their kindness and concern was deeply moving – and I believe without it would have made our interactions more formal and less insightful and productive. I treasure our honest and thought-provoking discussions which helped me to truly know Jody and Scott better and much more fully understand their joys, challenges, and brilliance in their climate change education work and beyond. This “relationality” (I hope I am using that term correctly, Scott!) feels like it is at the core of our PEC work; recognizing that in stewardship, we are all stewards and stewardees, educators and learners. Alapaki Nahele-a, Director of the ‘Iole Stewardship Center, explained that this spirit of generosity is part of the “aloha” tradition of caring for one another. How much richer and more regenerative the term stewardship seems in this light.


Later in my journey, the need to conceptualize stewardship of our environment with more humility also became evident. As I visited schools and nonprofits, I learned more about the devastation wreaked on Native Hawaiian cultures and ecosystems from extractive, oppressive, and violent practices during the past century and a half. On the more hopeful and inspiring side, I saw many Hawaiians fully committed and working hard to revive Hawaiian culture and land. (See resources below to learn more about this disturbing history and some incredible rejuvenation efforts - a part of U.S. history, and culture, that I was never taught growing up.)


In the environmental education field, we often talk about “taking care of the Earth,” or being “stewards of the Earth.” I use the term “climate stewardship” myself. However, in Native Hawaiian cultures, and some other Indigenous traditions, it is recognized that over millennia, the Earth has borne the lion’s share of responsibility for stewarding humanity. Looking at climate change and other harmful-to-living-beings disruptions in Earth’s systems, clearly humans need to work more in harmony with the Earth, but how? Without a close connection to our natural environment, it is challenging to deeply sense and understand how dependent we are on Earth’s gifts and services, causing uninformed interactions that can lead to irreparable damage to the systems that sustain us. (For example, take a listen to this recent NPR interview about light pollution and the unanticipated harm it is causing.)


Many people we met in Hawai’i are trying to change this by cultivating a closer relationship with the Earth; listening to 'āina, “that which feeds, that being the land and its produce, as well as the sea and all the things from it we can collect and harvest to sustain ourselves with.” (Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park). One teacher, and one farmer, in different instances, mentioned they were trying to learn what “'āina liked” by seeing what thrived in her soils and could offer them fruits from their labors. In other words, they needed to learn (or re-learn, as the case may be) how to co-steward in an intimate connection and partnership with the Earth to thrive. This sentiment echoed as I recently listened to Janis Boubol, a new PEC teacher in Woodstock, Vermont, say, “I just want my kids to get their hands dirty, digging in the soil, connecting with nature.”


Together, aloha and ʻāina (as described by Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park) combine to provide more depth to my understanding of stewardship, making the “co-” inherent in its success. Hopefully the new Co-Stewardship collaborative process will be based on a continually growing understanding and caring between NPS and Indigenous partners, and close listening to Earth’s wisdom to guide us on a more equitable and environmentally healthy path forward. I am curious how others understand stewardship and how we might apply the concept to our own PEC work together. Hopefully the HAVO Team will be able to explore this topic with us in more depth during our upcoming community of practice session!


Resources:

Scott also suggests the MCC Approach page to learn more about a variety of knowledge forms in the top figure that may be helpful support for pathways to engaging vulnerable connection

 

🍄 PEC Community of Practice

March 15th saw the second meeting of the PEC community of practice this year. The meeting had lots of great energy, and we were excited to see at least one person from every team at the meeting. A big highlight from the meeting was hearing about all of the great work that is happening at the National Parks of Boston in partnership with the Stone Living Lab. Huge thanks to their team for sharing!


In addition, attendees broke out into three smaller groups and brainstormed ideas about how to continue to connect with each other and strengthen the Community of Practice. You can check out these ideas here, here, and here.


The next CoP meeting will be May 25th at 3pm ET.

 

🌎 Teaching Climate Change Resources

This month we’re featuring a few organizations and websites that are dedicated to helping teachers bring climate change into the classroom and providing students with the tools to learn, discuss, and take action.

  • Subject to Climate - A trove of climate change education resources for teachers and students K-12 and links to other potential partner websites/organizations

  • Climate Generation - An organization that aims to help teachers enable students to take action on climate change

  • Teach Climate Justice - A campaign with resources to teach about climate change in a way that emphasizes how it intersects with (in)justice, equity, and imagining a better future

  • Earth to Sky - Coming from NASA, this organization has a lot of resources about understanding and communicating the science behind climate change with an emphasis on place-based education

Screen shot from Subject to Climate

 

🌱 Thanks for reading!

That’s all for now! You can send ideas, questions, and/or feedback about this newsletter to ingridthyr@gmail.com.


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