Three things you are not likely to see at the annual Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE, for short) conference: GOP bumper stickers, bacon, and plastic cups. What you are likely to see: an outgoing, energetic mix of environmentally conscious educators “making connections and taking action,” to paraphrase this year’s conference theme.
The conference opened on a recent Friday night with keynote speaker Davey Rogner, co-founder of Pick Up America. Rogner described his three- year walking odyssey across the country, during which time he and an ever-changing host of fellow environmentalists collected over 100 tons of trash. His enthusiasm was contagious: who wouldn’t be inspired by a guy who prefaced his talk with a guitar serenade?
For me, Saturday was marked by a case of the jitters, as I was scheduled to present a workshop on tree ring science—dendrochronology for the nature nerds among us—later in the day. That didn’t prevent me from enjoying other great workshops. I learned to weave plastic bags into jump ropes and attach empty glue sticks as handles. I learned that the anti-coagulant bats inject into their victims is used in the medical world to treat heart patients. I pretended to be a carbon dioxide molecule in a workshop on environmental games and tossed macroinvertebrate dice in a “Creek Freaks” workshop. I even managed to enjoy my own presentation to a group of some 60 attendees. The staff of the Princess Royale hotel is to be commended for their amazing clean-up of the tree ring debris we left behind.
For many outdoor educators, February is a time to prepare for the coming onslaught of spring programs. This was my fourth MAEOE conference, and, like the other three, provided just what I needed: a heady shot of energy, enthusiasm, and community to sustain me in the busy months ahead.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator