By: Kathayoon Khalil, Ph.D.
Last week, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) held their annual conference “NAAEE 2022: Educating for Change” in Tucson, AZ. Part of that conference included a committee meeting that Kathayoon Khalil, Ph.D. participated in to establish the new Guidelines for Excellence in Climate Education/Climate Justice. The Guidelines for Excellence project is an ongoing effort to establish best practice standards for the field of environmental education: https://naaee.org/programs/guidelines-excellence. [Disclaimer: that title – and everything else discussed below – is still in draft form].
Below are takeaways from that committee meeting:
- This meeting took place alongside the NAAEE Research Symposium – each year, NAAEE holds a two-day research symposium directly in advance of the annual conference to allow environmental education researchers to come together and share their work.
- This climate education/climate justice set of guidelines is new to the collection, so the committee brainstormed the first efforts instead of iterating and updating an existing document.
- The climate education writing group included members of the AZA community as well as specialists from academia, nature and science centers, government entities, and consultants. In all, there were 12 members working on the guidelines.
- The first topic discussed was the idea that there is no climate education without climate justice. That issue was heavily addressed, integrated, and highlighted throughout the final document.
- The committee also discussed who these guidelines are for, realizing that no one document will please everyone. The committee centered on environmental education practitioners in formal and informal learning environments. It seems like a big area – because it is!
- The committee also highlighted the need for a systems-thinking approach – helping users to understand and educate others on how to look at interconnections and influences throughout social and ecological systems.
- Another major point of discussion was the idea of caring for the educator – avoiding fatigue, burnout, depression, fear, grief, and anxiety – all the heavy emotions that often surround this kind of work. The committee talked about the need to focus on joy, personal growth, optimism, and wellness and how these will present in the final guidelines.
- The conversations were robust and are ongoing. Once a draft is prepared, it will be shared with potential user groups for feedback and iteration.
- As a fun bonus, Kathayoon was able to present a roundtable on the AZA Social Science Research Agenda during the Research Symposium. This conversation was lively and very supportive – the group was largely comprised of graduate students, early professionals, funders, and researchers. This group will continue to share the agenda with the NAAEE audiences because of the obvious (and potential!) synergies and opportunities to contribute to the work.