A new Web site page through the Oklahoma chapter of The Nature Conservancy is linking environmental education opportunities throughout the state. The Conservation Education Initiative connects state-run agencies and private groups to present a searchable database for educators, parents and children.
The idea for consolidating environmental education information was planted in 1992 with a bill passed by the Oklahoma Legislature directing the Oklahoma Conservation Commission to create the Oklahoma Environmental Education Coordinating Committee (OKEECC). That group brought together state agencies, said Karla Beatty, the education coordinator with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and a board member of the OKEECC.
It didn't, however, include any private organizations. But recently, Beatty said, the Kirkpatrick Foundation, looking to get more engaged with environmental education, contacted her about ways to get involved. With the impetus and financial support of the foundation, educators from both state and private groups met and brainstormed " the result was the Conservation Education Initiative.
FINDING A HOME
The initiative found a home with The Nature Conservancy, which protects 70,000 acres of land and water in Oklahoma and runs 11 statewide preserves.
"If you weren't a conservation educator, you wouldn't know where to go for information," said Deborah Batson, associate state director of The Nature Conservancy. With a home on the Web site of The Nature Conservancy, she said the initiative is in the position to become the "one-stop shop for conservation education in the state."
The Conservation Education Initiative section of the Web site was launched in March and consists of three segments " for students, parents and educators " and a nature locator with event information. The student section is geared for a wide range, from elementary all the way up to college, while the teacher section gives tips on incorporating environmental education into every subject.
"It's like an onion," Batson said. "It's continually expanding."
One of the organizations involved in the Conservation Education Initiative is Martin Park Nature Center, a 140-acre park located in northwest Oklahoma City. Neil Garrison, naturalist at Martin Park, said he was introduced to the initiative through Tom Bailey, a member of Friends of Martin Park, who attended an OKEECC meeting. He said the initiative is a way to promote the many programs that Martin Park offers and educate kids and parents about the importance of conservation.
"Nature, conservation, preservation, protection, that's my bread and butter; that's what's near and dear to my heart and is really important to me. But the thing is, if I just hid myself in a closet and I never did anything to inspire others, well, what kind of impact am I going to have?" Garrison said. "There's going to come a point in time when kids are going to be the shoppers and they're going to be the voters and they need to be informed citizenry that make intelligent choices now and in the future." "Jenny Coon Peterson