2020 Kickoff Convening

We are grateful for the sincere, honest and hopeful engagement of everyone who joined us in February! 49 individuals from 43 organizations met to kick off the Nature Based Education Consortium's work in 2020. We shared about our needs and aspirations for the Consortium's work, and shared new ideas for how to amplify our collective impact. Read below for notes and summaries of the event.

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Participants came wearing many different hats! A wide range of sectors were represented, though there were certainly some prevailing themes in who was at the table.

Here's what participants had to say 

Participants told us about their priorities for the work of the Consortium. In individual and organizational reflections, attendees shared about how they think NBEC could help them achieve their goals and looked forward to the changes they hope to see occurring as a result of our collective work. This graph summarizes the common themes in attendees' hopes and aspirations.

What excites you about the potential of this network?


"The idea of AMPLIFYING the collective work of the stakeholders here & using it as leverage for SYSTEMIC change."


"I LOVE collaboration - I think we are always better as a group than trying to stay above water alone - The diversity of work in Maine excites me and connection is vital"

What change could you see resulting from NBEC work?

"More schools seeing time outside as crucial to their mission. Encourage adventure and teach self-reliance and community resilience."
 

"Curriculum Integration & Policy and funding for equitable access to the outdoors throughout all grades that is based on the fabulous natural resources we have in Maine."
 

"The reduction of providers being isolated in their work and an increase in participants of nature-based ed."
 

"I want to see both a mandate/expectation and funding/support so that getting kids outdoors isn't an extra thing that some teachers take on and others don't. Maybe funding for community partners to hire education staff to be this support."
 

"It seems like the most quantifiable, large scale changes will happen via public institutions - schools, parks, libraries - with legislative + financial support. On a less quantifiable note, I would love to see a shift in what is considered "normal" in favor of more time spent in/with/connected to nature by students, teachers, families..."

How do your interests and/or role align with the work of NBEC?


"As a school administrator who wants all students engaged with nature and community, I'm eager to address/remove barriers."


"They align, but it's hard to work my way out of the daily challenges of funding and running a small non-profit - and think at a high level vision/policy level."


"I want to help connect young Mainers not just to nature-based learning opportunities, but show them they can have a viable career rooted in nature... and possibly help train them in those technical skills."

How could NBEC help you achieve your goals?

"Any work to better communicate about and advocate for outdoor learning will benefit us all - if NBEC can closely coordinate with those of us focused on birth - preK, all the better!"


"Developing connections -> develop resource list per region/county that can be accessed by various stakeholders in order to make work more holistic"


"Through collective advocacy, ensuring long-term, sustainable funding for nature-based activities in preK-12 schools (for us specifically, school gardens)".


" Helping public/parents understand the value of these experiences and ensure students are academically and emotionally prepared"

Group Discussion Notes

Do you like what you see? What excites you about the potential of this network?


Resources

  • Additional funding
  • Share resources/learn lessons
  • 3 goal areas
Connections
  • Network
  • Reduce isolation
  • Synergy- by meeting/talking with others in the field
  • Whole more than sum of parts
  • Leverage effort (small orgs. Part of network)
Vision
  • Vision is possible
  • Desire for inclusivity
  • Yes! Excited about a greater collective impact; being able to engage people [differently] and helping people overcome apprehensions re: the outdoors
  • Power of network to address systemic challenges/opportunities
  • Collaboration across disciplines/sectors
  • Connection of NBEC to other networks
  • Tone of learning, listening, emergent
Impacts
  • Advocacy
  • NBEC is (intends) taking the role of advocacy (frees up orgs. from that responsibility)




What challenges do you see?


General NBE Challenges

  • Transportation, especially in rural and underserved communities
  • Community partners = How to engage/support.empower them to use curriculum that has been created
  • Combination of simultaneous approaches
  • Funding
  • Mandate
  • Need support models for teachers
  • Timing
  • Many groups advocating to get funding
Network Challenges
Individual/Organizational Capacity and Other Barriers
  • Competition with our core work and weight of yet another network
  • Time to do this since I am so busy in my own job BUT if we keep having these opportunities to meet with a little informal time, I get a HUGE benefit of synergy that makes my work efficient
  • Sustaining individual energy and maintaining the energy to keep involving others in the work
  • Lack of capacity (community partners)
  • Everything else is prioritized even if this is a priority
  • Time, space equity to part of this group
Messaging
  • Carefully choose words/messaging to involve/excite people (esp. Around risks)
  • Breaking barrier that this is “extra”
  • Terminology
  • Understanding what outdoor learning is - clarity
  • Specific enough but broad enough to be inclusive
Network Building
  • How to approach populations whose basic needs are not being met?
  • Including everyone who needs to be at the table
  • What are the opportunities?
  • Blending user groups
  • Identify unlikely (or natural) allies - One size fits all will not work
  • Time to create a network of community partners for teachers




What ideas do you have in regards to NBEC’s large-scale work in Communications, Advocacy, Policy, etc.?


Communications?

  • Creating consistent messaging with no jargon
  • How not to duplicate efforts/step on each others toes/distribute resources evenly
  • Continue the Journey “Passport” to link all our orgs - schools, library, parks, land trust, nature orgs by several themes. Every child gets passport
Advocacy?
  • Top down, government led advocacy versus bottom up family
  • Advocacy for resources for public schools, e.g. outdoor education system
  • Advocate for flexibility on trip leading requirements (LD 1932)
  • EE/Outdoors across school curriculum this group supports to develop
  • Raising up teachers within schools
Policy?
  • Incorporate outdoor teaching skills into teacher policy training
  • Policy tied to teacher education/certification
  • Reward credits on grants for schools tied to nature-based opportunities
  • Keep government staff in loop regarding policy development
Other?
  • Umbrella of inclusivity - build understanding that includes sport, recreation, etc.
  • Connect this work to jobs & health
  • Funding connections
  • Certificate programs for any major
  • Involve Parks & Recreation Departments and Maine guides
  • Sustainability support
  • Many hands make light work
  • Grant writing & projects
  • More energy
  • Teachers swapping time
  • Teacher training (and in education programs) = Nature based integration
  • Connect teachers to community partners, make sure there are partners in all communities
  • Connecting nature-based ed with careers
  • Resilience building avenue for schools dealing with childhood trauma
  • Outdoor experiences as skill builders for at-risk youth




Do you have any other questions?


  • How will NBEC define “outdoor learning?”
  • How big can the tent be and still be effective?
  • Is this about specific curriculums (hunting, fishing, etc) or about connecting with nature in general?
  • Who would be eligible for funding? What criteria?
  • What points of contact/champions of this do we have/can we develop in Aroostook County and other areas farther from Southern Maine?
  • How can we coordinate/connect across the continuum of exposure/play/learning?
  • Clarify purpose & outcomes of programs
  • Equitable & Consistent quality around the state
  • What about NBEC isn’t in the role of MEEA - worry about too many networks and ability to participate in all
  • How do we know if we’re successful? More kids outside? More $ flowing? Connections in network? What’s actually measurable?
  • What is the plan for reaching partners who are not here/at the table?
NBEC will be answering these questions and more on the website in detail in weeks to come.





How to get involved

As the convening wrapped up, participants were invited to join the network by taking on some specific roles. If you didn't make it to the Kickoff Convening, you can still get involved! Just click the button below to join the effort.