News

  • 13 Jan 2021 10:11 AM | Lindsay Whitaker (Administrator)

    2020 has been a strange and difficult year for all and we at Vermont Education & Environment Network are ever optimistic that the New Year will bring changes for the better in our country, in education and in our communities. Even with such a trying year, we have plenty to be thankful for and proud of. 

    Vermont Education & Environment Network 2020 Accomplishments

    • Secured funding to hire a part-time coordinator for the Network. Which, in turn allowed us to increase our social media presence, update and increase our communication efforts as well as provide the board with meeting and event support. 

    • Board members Ashley Eaton and Kerri McAllister presented a workshop at the 2020 North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE) national conference Systems Change for More Welcoming Organizations.

    • Administered a survey for environmental educators across the State to help assess current educational needs during the pandemic. If you missed it, you can check out the November 2020 blog post summary of the results here.

    • Free monthly educational webinars with registrations far exceeding our expectations with one workshop registering 603 individuals. See our Events & Webinar page for information on upcoming webinars. 

    • Development of an equity statement to aid in refocusing our work as we look to understanding systemic racism in our organizations.

    As we enter into 2021 we are looking to continue the work we have moved forward this past year and aim to better understand the needs of VT Educators and youth. We will continue to help others connect to the outdoors with our digital content and offer high quality professional development opportunities for our members. Lastly, we want more diversity across our board and membership. Please spread this open invitation to engage with us and Happy New Year!

    Author: Beth Roy

  • 17 Dec 2020 2:22 PM | Lindsay Whitaker (Administrator)

    Staying connected and relevant can be challenging during these hard times. Our networks comes from a variety of different backgrounds, and we would love to share ideas and connect with everyone!  As our mission states, The Vermont Education and Environment Network is a coalition of dozens of organizations and individuals promoting environmental education in Vermont. Our mission is to foster a network of individuals and organizations working together to promote high quality outdoor, environmental and educational experiences.  We want to hear from you, our members, about what you want to see, whether it be on our website and the blogs that we post, our Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram! If you have content that you want to share and have valuable insight, we would also love to hear that too!

    Our current webinar series is based on the feedback we received from classroom and outdoor educators in a survey this fall. We endeavor to continue offering relevant content for you here too! You can find all of our past webinars on our YouTube channel too!

    Please complete this form to share your ideas on the content you would like us to offer. 

    Upcoming Webinars Hosted by VT Education & Environment Network

    January 14, 2021 4pm-5pm  Place-Based Education On A Budget



    February 25, 2021 4pm--5pm Gardens As Outdoor Classrooms





  • 19 Nov 2020 12:44 PM | Ashley Eaton (Administrator)


    Vermont classroom teachers along with outdoor, environmental and educational community partners pivoted quickly in March 2020 to provide fully remote learning opportunities for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. As teachers and students prepared for the 2020-2021 school year, there was uncertainty regarding the various distanced and remote learning structures that would be employed by schools. Local and national conversations among educators explored how COVID-19 safety guidelines would change instructional methods and learning spaces. One strategy became clear: outdoor classroom teaching and learning is a safe and effective alternative to indoor classroom teaching and learning, especially as the risk of COVID-19 growing during the winter months.

    In response to the ongoing shifts and changing needs of Vermont classroom teachers and outdoor, environmental, and educational community partners, the Vermont Education and Environment Network sought to assess, understand, and respond to educator needs for the upcoming school year. North American Association for Environmental Education state affiliate groups in Georgia and Maine also conducted statewide surveys in an effort to identify and support the needs of educators in their states. 

    Methods 

    The Vermont Education and Environment Network used Survey Monkey to create an online survey of Vermont educators who work in a variety of settings,  including pre-K-12 classroom teachers, outdoor and environmental educators, and educational community partners. Survey Monkey estimated survey the survey would take respondents six minutes to complete.  The survey was active and accepted responses August 15-September 15, 2020.  

    After providing demographic information, including school or organization and location in Vermont, educators were asked to self identify as either a classroom teacher or an outdoor, environmental, or community partner educator. The survey then included a branching format to distinguish classroom teacher responses from outdoor, environmental and community partner educator responses. The two groups were asked the same questions and the branching allowed for analysis of the educators’ responses as an affinity group.  

    The survey asked about educational services each respondent was involved with providing pre-COVID; shifts in teaching implemented from March-June 2020; and educational approaches planned for fall 2020. Respondents were also asked about support needed to provide educational services during the 2020-21school year.  

    Using the Vermont Education and Environment Network email list, partner listservs, e-newsletters, and personal contacts, the survey was sent to over 600 individuals and organizations in Vermont identified as pre-K-12 classroom teachers, outdoor and environmental educators, and educational community partners. Recipients were encouraged to share the survey with colleagues and coworkers. A link to the survey was also posted on the Vermont Education and Environment Network website, and participation in the survey was encouraged during webinars with teacher and educator audiences. 

    Results 

    A total of 83 individuals began the survey and 59 completed the survey. Only completed surveys were used in the analyzed results presented in this article. The numbers in parenthesis in the map above indicate the number of classroom teacher respondents and number of informal educator respondents in each county.  

    Major shifts in response to COVID-19 activities for formal and informal educators included an increase in virtual instruction and a decrease in field trips and outdoor, environmental, and educational community partners programs. The image below shows the percent change in educational activities provided by Vermont classroom teachers and outdoor, environmental, and educational community partners due to COVID-19.

    To adapt to the changes in practices necessitated by COVID-19 Vermont classroom teachers state they need support with virtual education content; appropriate outdoor clothing for students; and content and materials for teaching in outdoor classrooms.


    Survey results showed that of the formal classroom teacher respondents 87% are teaching online and 67% said they are looking for lessons and activities for outdoor teaching content. In order to support outdoor learning 50% of classroom teachers identified a need for outdoor clothing and gear for their students and 23% expressed the need for knowledge of and access to local outdoor learning spaces. 


    The top needs of Vermont outdoor, environmental and educational community partners included 62% stating the need for training to use online teaching tools; 69% seek to apply best practices for online teaching strategies; and 62% wish to engage in exchanging ideas with other educators.  

    Many informal educators have experience teaching outdoors and can provide support and assistance. Building direct connections between school teachers and informal educators could improve the transfer of this information and materials. Additional outreach to connect informal educators with school teachers would be of benefit to both groups. A full inventory of outdoor equipment available for use by school teachers could improve the ability of school teachers to take students outside, while minimizing the risks presented by winter conditions.

    Discussion 

    A few themes emerge when comparing the results of the survey conducted by the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia (EEAG) and the Vermont Education and Environment Network Survey. Respondents from both surveys identified high quality outdoor activities and teaching resources as a top need: 59% of Georgia respondents said they need high quality teaching resources with activities kids can do outside, and 67% of Vermont respondents seek outdoor content. This was the number one need for Vermont classroom teachers. Additionally, respondents in both states identified a need for support in online learning: 48% of Georgia respondents identified a need for online teaching tips, whereas 69% of Vermont outdoor, environmental and educational community partners and 46% of classroom teachers identified a need to learn more about online teaching strategies. This was the top need identified by informal educators. Results from the Maine Environmental Education Association’s survey also show significant economic implications for organizations providing environmental and outdoor education with 51% of organizations shifting away from in person fee for service programming to free virtual programming.      

    Response 

    In response to the needs expressed by Vermont educators, the Vermont Education and Environment Network began a monthly webinar series in September 2020 on topics identified by educator respondents as priorities. Webinar topics have included support for virtual and outdoor classroom content; technology skills for online teaching and learning; and examples of successful outdoor teaching pedagogy.

    A winter outdoor clothing drive is being held in an effort to address the lack of warm winter clothing and gear that may inhibit some students’ and classes’ abilities to safely and comfortably participate in outdoor learning activities during the winter months.  

    Our Vermont Education and Environment Network website and social media accounts are being more efficiently utilized to reach and communicate with educators around Vermont and beyond.  We are using these platforms to build connections through our network of individuals and organizations working together to promote high quality outdoor, environmental, and educational experiences. Our website also offers opportunities to share educational resources; publicize our professional learning webinars, promote webinars by educational partners, and post job and grant funding opportunities relevant to educators.    

    We will continue to work with and identify the needs of Vermont educators both in the field and in the classroom.  We plan to respond to their current and emerging needs through this pandemic and beyond.


    View the complete survey results online



    Authors: Ashley Eaton and Kerri McAllister 

  • 28 Oct 2020 3:14 PM | Lindsay Whitaker (Administrator)

    Hello Vermont Education and Environment Network! 

    (photo: Visiting Tracy's Arm Fjord and glacier in Alaska 2018)

    I’m Lindsay Whitaker, Vermont Education and Environment Network’s new, temporary, Administrative Coordinator. Outside of this role, I also work as Summer Camp Director at Shelburne Farms.

    Vermont Education & Environment Network is the Vermont state-level affiliate of the North American Association of Environmental Educators (NAAEE) and member of the regional New England Environmental Education Alliance (NEEEA) . This year in particular, our board members have worked to rebrand Vermont Education & Environment Network (formerly, VT SWEEP), and work towards becoming a more welcoming and inclusive organization that benefits teachers, educators, and learners across the state of Vermont. Three key areas we are focusing our current work on include: supporting teachers & educators, increasing communications & engagement with educators & teachers across the state, and enhancing the benefits to our members.

    Classroom teachers shared that due to current COVID protocols in schools, they’re spending more time outside with their students, but that many students won’t have appropriate winter gear to wear in the colder months. The VEEN Board is organizing a winter gear drive to collect and distribute cold weather clothes to schools around the state. The Winter Gear Drive event came from a survey of educator needs we distributed this fall. If you’d like to donate gear please contact us at thenetworkvt@gmail.com. While winter gear is just one of the many needs educators have, we are committed to listening to the needs of our members, including offering relevant programming and resources.

    Increasing communications and engagement with educators and teachers across the state is part of the work I’ll be doing as VEEN’s Administrative Coordinator. You can look to our Facebook page, Twitter, website, and blog to read about the work we’re doing, and sign up for upcoming webinars, where you can also submit relevant events and webinars for us to share with our Network. An upcoming and ongoing project is establishing regional hubs in different areas of the state that will allow opportunities for classroom and informal educators to network in their region. 

    In the past few months, VEEN has seen a lot of positive changes, and more are coming. We endeavor to listen and be responsive to the needs of classroom and environmental educators in our state. We are committed to equity, justice, inclusion and creating systems change within our organization. We acknowledge that when it comes to this work our organization is not yet where we strive to be. We are working on learning, addressing, and improving the way we move through the world as individuals and an organization by engaging in active listening and learning.

    If you know of organizations or individuals that would be an asset to The Vermont Education and Environment Network, or know of a story or event we could help spotlight, have a question, or just want to say hello, you can reach me thenetworkvt@gmail.com.  

    In solidarity,

    Lindsay (she/her)

  • 29 Jul 2020 8:00 PM | Anonymous

    There is an urgent need to double down on our commitment to racial justice, especially in education. One way organizations can accomplish this is forming partnerships, in addition to being open to supporting and learning from one another. Here in Vermont we serve many of the same students and communities across the state through our work. Therefore it is key that we work together to learn about, support and amplify each other's work for the benefit of our students and our communities.

    This blog highlights the partnership between the Vermont Education and Environment Network (VEEN) and Audubon Vermont. Debbie Archer, the Education Coordinator at Audubon Vermont, was featured in Seven Days as part of the Black Birders Week movement. The movement highlighted “the connection between racial justice and environmental progress and the importance of visibility, representation and hiring people of color in the fields of natural resources.” Below is a video production where Archer, reflects upon her experience as a Black woman who birds.

    I asked Debbie about her experience working with the Vermont Education and Environment Network (VEEN) she said, “Audubon values the connection that VEEN facilitates with other outdoor education programs around the state. We make time for at least one person from our office to attend meetings or participate with the Board because a strong network of outdoor learning holds our own programs to a high standard and benefits everyone in the state.” 

    VEEN works with many partner organizations throughout Vermont. If you are interested in learning more about available resources, or connecting with other educators, then consider joining our Vermont Education and Environment Network by visiting our website and clicking “join us” https://vteandenetwork.org


    Author: Caroline Blake featuring partner organization Audubon Vermont

  • 27 May 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    Two months ago, we received the difficult news that Vermont schools would remain closed for in-person instruction for the rest of the school year to slow the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus. Many people have worked tirelessly to implement Vermont Agency of Education’s Continuity of Learning Plan and provide for the well-being of children during remote schooling. Amidst these challenging times, and inconceivable losses, spring has fully sprung and beckons even the most screen-addicted teenager outside to feel potential for growth and renewal. 

    Yearning for vibrant connections, I asked several Vermont Education and Environment Network board members to share an experience with stay-at-home education for this blog post. Chris Runcie of Four Winds Nature Institute replied quickly with her story of daily online interaction with a grandchild in another state. Her dedication to staying connected and supporting her family with childcare from a distance is inspiring.

    We miss seeing our kids and grandchildren so very much. However, we've been happy to receive daily Skype calls from our 8-yr-old grandson. We've been reading through the Narnia series over Skype. We've found ways to do some science projects. We send a list ahead of simple household items he'll need, and then we gather the same materials here. We've seen how many drops of water fit onto a penny, floated paperclips, studied a green lacewing he caught, put celery into food coloring, and, with his mother's help, made an egg go into a milk bottle - no hands! Of course we ache to be with him and our kids, but it really helps to see and talk with them and we're so grateful for the technology that makes it possible.

    At the other extreme of physical connection to a child is Rebecca Roy. She has been working full-time remotely for the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation while supporting her daughter, Alice, age eight, with at-home school. Rebecca sent this story of exciting natural science learning close to home.

    Alice has many Google meetup classes, and I try to balance outside learning time with her required online time. Tuesdays are her biggest day with over 3.5 hours of online classes. Getting her outside “after school” on those days is very important to me, and we regularly hike to a special remote place, Silver Lake in Leicester in the Green Mountain National Forest. It feels like an adventure to pack up snacks, water bottles, rubber boots, and nets and then hike the 0.6 miles to our destination. We have been watching the ephemeral wildflowers emerging on each trip with new ones blooming every time. We recently went on a fun outing looking for newts and talked about their three unique amphibious life stages, and their habitat needs. Alice caught five newts, and we watched them in our bucket for a little while before letting them go again. We will both always remember that adventure. Learning outside feels even more important than ever right now. 

          

    Photos of "Newt Catching" at Silver Lake

    Beth Roy of Vital Communities, another board member working full-time remotely while supporting her two elementary-aged children stuck in stay-at-home school, is also helping Upper Valley schools to feed many students and families. Beth’s family keeps extra busy with raising chicks of various breeds, gardening and doing simple experiments, such as growing a seedling in a box with a small window to understand more about phototropism. In an excerpt taken from a blog post Beth wrote for Vital Communities, she describes beautifully what I have been feeling during these times, too, in my spot of the Upper Valley, while supporting a high school student at home.

    Over these past few weeks I have experienced waves of anxiety and sadness, and at the same time such gratitude. I can’t imagine going through this crisis in any other part of the world. The Upper Valley is an amazing place filled with amazing people and places. I have the ability to walk out my door and witness first-hand the coming of spring as the buds emerge and the mud slowly dries. 

    Beth further wrote in her blog about their successful experience creating a Family Quest, similar to a treasure hunt, that included special places near their house using cleverly-written clues. Click on this link to learn more about how she created the Family Quest.

    Recently my teenage daughter, Faye, made it through the stress of three at-home Advanced Placement exams. Like many of us, she has had more screen-time than ever before for socializing, studying with others and attending classes. Today her AP Environmental Science class participated in an interesting real-life Webinar called Zoom A Scientist. With the lovely warmer spring weather, Faye and I are both more motivated to be outside for some of our Zoom meetings, exercising, physical-distance visits with local friends and walks with our puppy. The puppy, although a difficult and exhausting learner, has reminded us of the joy of being outside, fully in the moment, and connecting to everything, from below-ground up! 

    Thank you to our board members who were willing to share their stories from home so that we might relate more to our community. All of us from the Vermont Education and Environment Network sincerely hope you are able to feel connected with others and the out-of-doors, if only from a front step, window or screen. Stay safe and well.


    Author: Nicole Conte

  • 7 May 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    Fifty years ago, environmental activism on college campuses changed important environmental laws herein the United States, and later around the world. Today our Earth needs us more than ever. We face two emergencies today, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the destruction of Earth’s climate. We were unprepared for the novel coronavirus pandemic, but we have time to prepare and make changes for our climate. Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary is a great place to start.

    Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, this powerful book started the modern environmentalist movement by helping people think about our environment in new ways. In 1969 the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire due to the massive amount of pollutants from industry. The huge Santa Barbara oil spill also occurred in 1969, spilling 80-100,000 barrels of crude oil in the water and all over beaches in southern California. These terrible and very visual devastating events sparked US Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin to call for teach-ins about the environment on college campuses across the United States.

    The 1970’s were a time of strong civil engagement, and college campuses were a hot bed of activity. Over 20 million Americans took to the streets in protest and participated in teach-ins on the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. This was before social media so you can imagine the passion driving this environmental movement.

    The success of the first Earth Day was seen quickly as the Environmental Protection Agency was formed by December 1970. Over the next few years, the modern environmental movement was strengthened by passage of landmark environmental laws: The Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Many other countries around the world followed suit and adopted similar laws.

    Photo from Vermont Youth Climate March - 2019

    Today more than 195 countries and more than 1 billion people around the world participate in Earth Day events. The 50th anniversary is your chance to participate in multiple events taking place all over the world virtually. Or plan your own Earth Day event anytime in 2020. Earth Day is the perfect time for people to rise together to make a difference for our climate just as we did in 1970.

    Click here to search and join virtual Earth Day events around the world and add your own events: https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/


    Author: Rebecca Roy, Vermont State Parks 

  • 21 Mar 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    My name is Caroline Blake. I was recently hired as the Administrative Coordinator for the Vermont Education and Environment Network (The Network). Over the course of the next year I will assist with increasing organizational capacity and support professional development opportunities across Vermont for educators and folks working in the environmental sector. 


    I want to share a little bit about myself and my path as an environmental educator. I have lived in various places both in the continental U.S. and overseas, but have called Vermont home on and off for the past 10 years. My career in environmental education (EE) informally began in 2013 when I volunteered my senior year at ECHO in Burlington, VT. After graduating from UVM in 2013 with a BA in Biology and Chemistry, I accepted a full-time, seasonal EE at an outdoor science school in Southern California. Between 2013 and 2017, I held multiple seasonal EE positions across the U.S. In 2017, I returned to school to complete a Master of Science in Natural Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where my thesis work focused on environmental knowledge and personal environmental education teaching efficacy of pre-service teachers in Wisconsin. Upon graduation, I was offered a position back in Vermont, at my alma mater, where my career in EE officially began.  

    Currently, I am a full-time employee with the Lake Champlain Sea Grant program, which is also affiliated with UVM Extension, the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, as well as NOAA (yes, it is a mouthful). I serve as their Watershed and Lake Education Program Assistant, where I support K-12 teachers and students as well as undergraduate interns who serve as Watershed Educators for our school programming.  

    I became affiliated with The Network, previously known as Vermont SWEEP, back in 2017 when I was invited by a previous supervisor to attend one of their gatherings before heading off to Wisconsin for graduate school. Upon my return to Vermont, I was eager to once again be connected with this wonderful organization. I became an independent contractor for them back in February. As the Administrative Coordinator, I will help The Network as they transition and grow this professional network and affiliated offerings including our new website and rebranding efforts. Additionally, my position will aid our volunteer Board Members regarding communication, member recruitment, event planning, and board member meetings and retreats. I look forward to working with you all and that our paths may cross in the not too distant future. Please do not hesitate to reach out at thenetworkvt@gmail.com.

    Author: Caroline Blake

  • 10 Jan 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    The board is very excited to announce a new name for our network. Vermont State Wide Environmental Education Programs (SWEEP), will now be known as the Vermont Education & Environment Network (VEEN). Along with our name change we are also launching a new website with new member resources like, the ability for members to post events and job announcements and a clear way to stay up to date with events happening within the network. 

    With the turning of the calendars to a new year also means it is time to renew your membership, all online and accessible through our new website. Please renew today so you have access to our new resources and connect with your colleagues.

    Happy New Year,

    The VEEN Board

    Author: Beth Roy


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