Educating the educator

February is not my favorite time to go to the beach. Nevertheless, I found myself making the two-hour drive to Ocean City last weekend to attend the annual Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Educator conference. High winds and cold, driving rain didn’t make for good beach weather, but the conference was so engaging that I barely had time to glance at the roiling surf.

MAEOE conferences provide an opportunity for classroom and non-formal environmental educators to participate in advanced training, further their understanding of environmental initiatives, and network with colleagues. I started my morning with a cup of coffee sipped over a table of skulls. I had chosen the “Talking Bones” workshop and, despite feeling a frequent urge to wash my hands, was fascinated by the presenter’s ability to piece together an animal’s life history from bone fragments. From this workshop, I preceded to another on bio-indicator species.
Lunch at the Clarion overlooked the previously mentioned roiling surf. I was seated at a table with a Montessori teacher, a MAEOE intern, a CSA farmer, and a science teacher. My tablemates exemplified the diversity of MAEOE conference participants, and conversation ranged from fungal threats to bananas, gluten-free diets, event planning, seed experiments, and the next day’s canoeing outing (brrr). In keeping with MAEOE’s green mission, all meals served at the conference were vegetarian, and no plastic or paper ware was used.
This year’s plenary speakers focused on wind power, climate change, and the toxicity of synthetic material (which confirmed my belief that plastic is the bane of modern existence). I reluctantly left the plenary session early in order to prepare for my own workshop, entitled “Science Gone Wild: The Scientific Method for Environmental Outdoor Educators.” Although teaching adults makes me much more anxious than teaching children, I was lucky to have a great audience of fellow educators.
Thanks to their enthusiasm, I now look forward to the possibility of presenting at future conferences.
After a final workshop on ecosystem engineers led by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, it was time to pack up my conference loot (“Save the Bay” bumper stickers, a complimentary World Wildlife Federation T-shirt for my toddler, seed packets, lesson plans, a map of the Chesapeake Bay, etc.) and follow the setting sun to Centreville. Just outside of Salisbury, light snow began to fall. I thought again of what an amazing day I’d had…and of how fortunate I was not to be taking part in tomorrow’s canoeing expedition.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

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