July 2008

Last night, I dreamt that a bald eagle picked up a llama and flew away with it, and then proceeded to eat it in mid-air.

I think this is a sign. We will know that the bald eagle has made it’s terrific comeback when llama farmers begin to hide their livestock in a barn, the same way I did with my goats when I was eleven and read about the chupacabra. The National Geographic channel is not for the faint of heart.

Over my twenty years I have had the opportunity to spend many a week inside a residence hall with other peers. Never before have I seen a group come together as quickly and cohesively as this one has. In fact, right now, they have commandeered the living room to watch a movie on environmental lawn care. I am expecting slumber parties any day now.

This is fortuitous, given the theme of today’s special session with Chip Blake, the Director of the Orion Society and editor of Orion Magazine. Many times Blake circled back to the theme of communication and connection. Without a way for people to create a personal connection to the event they are individually experiencing, there is no way for us to move forward as a whole.

When I joined the conference planning stage, I remember how the need for individuals to connect through their experiences and to provide a forum for them to communicate these moments was a central focus. The desire to provide a time and place for participants to form bonds was prevalent in nearly every discussion that took place over the course of three months.

The field of education is a spectacular stage for all those involved to express their feelings, frustrations, experiences. It is, as stated earlier tonight, the common denominator in everything. Education provides us a way to connect, a way for us all to discover a personal reason for being.

“That,” to quote Chip Blake. “is why we’re all here.”


Day 1
I forgot how hot it is on the east coast in the summer. I’m not sure that this can be attributed to climate change or global warming or the climate change crisis but I think I need to find a pond to swim in soon.

Tonight we start our journey together–about 30 people who’d like to find ways to reach more people with information and (I hope) hope about climate change. I’m looking forward to meeting the group and pulling out of my own work project enough to stop worrying about deadlines and emails and obligations.

I’m coming with a lot of questions about the role that education plays in a huge global problem like this. It seems that the line between science, education and advocacy is very thin. How can we know about the changes that are happening and not do everything we can in our own lives and encourage people to make changes in theirs too. One of the biggest challenges (ok most frustrating aspects) is that there seems to be so little we can do, it is so easy to feel discouraged and tune out. I’ve changed my light bulbs and wash in cold water but I still don’t have a carbon tax option! If I feel that way and the leaders at my museum feel that it’s hopeless, what can we possibly offer to our visitors to help them navigate this–the largest challenge our culture has faced for a century or more?

Well off to find a pond–the computer and my brain are getting overheated.


Last night marked the launch of our first annual Education for a Changing Climate workshop.  After a reception sponsored by the Orion Society, workshop faculty member Nalini Nadkarni issued an “environmental challenge” for all participants.  Over the course of the workshop week, we’ll be using the following mode for scientific inquiry to think about environmental issues and how we can bring them to the classroom:

For the sake of this challenge,participants in our workshop have been placed into small groups.  Each group will identify an environmental problem from local litter to melting ice caps.  They’ll then consider solutions; perhaps most importantly, they will also discuss ways to convey that information to a given audience and inspire action.  On Friday night, each group will present their findings.  I can’t wait.

When planning the workshop, program faculty and administrators thought a lot about this system and its applications.  It seems to me the basic format could be applied to any number of situations, from a college classroom to a recycling center board of directors.  As a teacher of writing, I find myself wondering how this framework might be used in a course like college composition.  Certainly, it would make the experience more real and more, well, experiential.  I wonder if you all have ideas about how we might apply the framework to liberal arts classes and projects?



Welcome to the workshop blog for “Education in a Changing Environment.”  This conference brings together educators from across Europe and North America.  Participants range from aquarium curators to college professors to river and interpretive guides.  What unites us is a commitment to innovative pedagogy and the changing environment.  Throughout the week, workshop faculty and participants will be posting their thoughts, questions, theories and more here.  After the workshop, this blog will remain a place for participants to share ideas, continue discussions, and more.

Hoop house and demonstration garden on Unity's campus