How environmental education
works in Minnesota
- Minnesota's Environmental Education History
A Historical Overview of Environmental Education in Minnesota was first published in 1993 as an appendix in A GreenPrint for Minnesota: State Plan for Environmental Education. In 2000, the second edition of the GreenPrint was released. It also included a historical appendix, titled Historical highlights: Environmental education in Minnesota. Between 2000 and 2010, members of the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education (MAEE) added significant events and accomplishments to the text of the latter appendix. The result is the information found here.
The most recent update to this document was completed in October 2010 by Jeff Ledermann, MAEE Secretary from 1996-2001 and project manager and author of the GreenPrint, Second Edition.
For more information contact the MAEE at email@example.com or visit http://www.minnesotaee.org/.
Minnesota has a long history of outdoor and nature-based education programs, but environmental education (EE) emerged along with widespread concerns about environmental quality raised in the late 1960s. During that time, the federal government initiated formal EE programs that generated some state responses (e.g. monies for the development of state environmental education plans), including in Minnesota.
- The Natural History Society of Minnesota, an association of professional and amateur naturalists, was founded. (1949)
- The Legislature mandated that tax-forfeited land may be designated as a school forest to encourage educators to use nature as an outdoor classroom. It required the Department of Conservation to support school forest lands. (1949)
- The first school forest is established at Blackduck. (1952)
- Golden Valley School District 275 received a major grant from the U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare to establish an environmental science center to develop curriculum, design outdoor classrooms and provide teacher in-service training. (1967) The center later became a nonprofit corporation, the Minnesota Environmental Sciences Foundation, Inc. (1969)
- Over growing concern about the state's surface waters, the Pollution Control Agency (PCA) was established by the Minnesota Legislature. Responsibilities for air quality and other environmental issues soon followed. (1967)
- The Minnesota Legislature authorized the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Department of Education to jointly create environmental education curriculum resources. A position was funded in each agency to facilitate it. (1969)
- Federal environmental education legislation led to a $440,000 grant for Minnesota from U.S. Health Education and Welfare to help fund a study and project to develop a state plan for environmental education. (1970)
- Gov. Wendell Anderson's executive order established the Minnesota Environmental Education Council to oversee the grant and development of the plan and to be staffed by the state Department of Education. (1971)
- The plan was published after a year of meetings and public discussion and called for a system of 13 regional volunteer councils to promote environmental education in both formal and nonformal settings. (1972)
- The Minnesota Naturalists' Association (MNA) was formed (August 1972), but didn't formerly incorporate until 1982. As of 2010, MNA has offered 110 field trips, conferences, and professional development gatherings over its history.
- The Minnesota Legislature created and funded the regional structure (13 regions) proposed in the state plan. The program was attached to the Department of Education and was to serve people of all ages in formal and informal education settings. (1973)
- The Minnesota Legislature created the Environmental Conservation Library (ECOL) which was housed in the Minneapolis Public Library. The collection included curriculum, and ECOL provided a number of environmental education services to schools. (1971)
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Minnesota Environmental Education Board (MEEB) and its regional councils, the environmental learning centers, Minnesota naturalists and a few others worked quietly to promote environmental awareness. Institutional support for these efforts was limited and fluctuated constantly. Still, these early efforts paid off, building a critical mass of understanding.
During the mid 1980's there was an explosion of environmental education effort in private, non-profit and governmental sectors. Hundreds of organizations and agencies became active in environmental education but with few common goals and little coordination.
- The Minnesota Legislature formed the Energy Agency. (1974)
- The Minnesota Environmental Education Council and its staff (four coordinators and a director) were transferred from the Department of Education to the State Planning Agency and renamed the Minnesota Environmental Education Board (MEEB). (1976)
- MEEB and the Department of Education sponsored a curriculum planning project providing small grants and free consulting to 30 school districts wishing to plan and implement environmental education programs. (1975-78)
- The DNR shifted its emphasis from environmental education to "outdoor education" and hunter education. (1977)
- The Energy Agency and the Department of Education collaborated in the development of energy education materials. Funding came mostly from federal sources. (1977-80)
- MEEB was transferred from the State Planning Agency to the DNR. (1978)
- Project Learning Tree (PLT), a supplementary environmental education curriculum subsidized by the American Forest Foundation, was introduced by the Department of Education. Most statewide distribution was provided by MEEB. (1978)
- The Minnesota Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) was established as a statewide forum for environmental/outdoor education professionals. (1980) The association dissolved a few years later.
- The Minnesota Legislature authorized the nongame wildlife check-off on state income tax forms. Public comment favored using some of the funds for education. (1980)
- The Minnesota Legislature required the DNR, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) and Department of Health to study and report on the status of acid rain in Minnesota. MEEB was required to provide a program of public education on the subject, but no funds were allocated. (1980)
- MEEB's budget was cut 50 percent. (1981)
- The Governor's Council on Rural Development funded a soil conservation curriculum for elementary students known as Ag-Stravaganza. (1983)
- The DNR's nongame wildlife program introduced Project WILD, a supplementary environmental education curriculum featuring wildlife themes, with support from MEEB and the Department of Education. (1984)
- The State Board of Education revised its Elementary Education Rule and included an environmental education requirement. (1984)
- The Waste Management Board formed a Waste Education Roundtable to advise the state about waste education needs. (1985)
- Environmental education became a priority of the Environmental Quality Board and was reinforced by participants in EQB's Environmental Congress. (1986)
- The Waste Management Board, PCA and MEEB prepared and circulated learning materials about household hazardous waste. (1987)
- The Waste Management Board established a Waste Education Coalition and developed a Waste Education Clearinghouse and waste education materials for grades K-6. (1987)
The beginning of this decade saw several efforts to coordinate EE at a statewide level. The Environmental Education Act of 1990 was passed, eliminating the Minnesota Environmental Education Board (MEEB) and its regional councils and creating a new Environmental Education Advisory Board (EEAB) comprised of state agency and citizen representatives. The Environmental Education Act also defined and set environmental literacy goals for K-12 students and all Minnesota citizens, including mandating that EE be taught in Minnesota schools, and encouraged the development of regional EE centers throughout the state.
Public interest in the environment and the EE movement continued to grow, including an active Minnesota Earth Day Network that was supported by state agencies and other organizations. EE in the state was also supported by several large grants from the newly created Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Overseen by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR), it was also used to fund development of a new state plan for environmental education.
Using the input of the 1,500 or so people who contributed, the new EEAB produced A GreenPrint for Minnesota: State Plan for Environmental Education in 1993. The GreenPrint laid out environmental education policy and goals and identified strategies by which these might be achieved. At the same time the new state plan was being developed, the Addendum to the GreenPrint: a Guide to Integrating Environmental Education was created by eight school districts to help teachers integrate environmental education into the curriculum. This too was funded by the Legislature as recommended by the LCMR.
Significant State level coordination support for EE was short-lived, however. In 1991 the environmental education consultant's position in the Department of Education was eliminated and EE coordination bounced among agencies for several years. In the context of streamlining K-12 education mandates and the development of new graduation requirements, the Legislature repealed several mandates for schools in 1993, including the mandate that environmental education be taught in classrooms. Buoyed by the large public interest in EE and frustration over the ever-changing landscape at the state level, the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education (MAEE) was born on November 6,1992 at the State EE conference at Cragun's Resort near Brainerd, Minnesota. MAEE grew throughout the decade, including becoming a coordinator in the annual state EE conferences, a regular newsletter and consistent membership of around 250 EE professionals.
- Voters approved a constitutional amendment permitting creation of an Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. (1988)
- The Minnesota Legislature reduced funding for MEEB by 73 percent and transferred the program to the State Planning Agency. (1989)
- The Minnesota Legislature abolished MEEB and established an Office of Environmental Education and an Environmental Education Advisory Board in the State Planning Agency. (1990)
- Hamline's Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) was founded as part of Hamline University's Graduate School of Education. Founding director Jennifer Gasperini started the environmental education program in the aftermath of engaging more than 15 million students worldwide in the heady excitement of following Minnesotan Will Steger's 1990 Trans-Antarctic Expedition adventure. (1990)
- The Minnesota Legislature allocated money for several environmental education projects from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund including the development of a new state plan for environmental education and a study of the state's day use and residential environmental learning centers. (1991)
- The North American Association for Environmental Education held its annual conference in downtown St. Paul in October, galvanizing interest in forming a statewide professional organization. The meeting chaired by George Davis of Moorhead State University. (1991)
- St. Olaf College launched the School Nature Area Project (SNAP) with support from the Blandin Foundation and later received other large grants, including LCMR. SNAP worked statewide with many Minnesota school districts to plan and develop school nature areas, and innovative, hands-on learning units to bring students into a first-hand relationship with the natural world. SNAP provided assistance in site planning and development, ecology and environmental education, curriculum planning and development, leadership training, and technology applications. (1991)
- The Minnesota Legislature abolished the State Planning Agency and transferred the Office of Environmental Education and the Environmental Education Advisory Board to the Department of Education. (1992)
- In the wake of the continuing changes at the state level, 85 EE professionals voted at the state EE conference to form the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education (MAEE), a non-profit professional organization. Siah St. Clair, Springbrook Nature Center, was elected as the first President. (1992)
- The MAEE hosted its first statewide EE conference on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. (October 1993)
- The Office of Environmental Education and its advisory board published A GreenPrint for Minnesota: State Plan for Environmental Education. As a result of recommendations in the GreenPrint, the LCMR, the Legislature, foundations and other organizations implemented many other EE programs in the following years. (1993)
- After years of funding declines during the 1980's, the Environmental Conservation Library (ECOL), which was housed in the Minneapolis Public Library, was eliminated. (1993)
- The Minnesota Legislature approved $7.5 million in bonds for capital improvements at several environmental learning centers. That amount was matched by the Blandin Foundation. (1994)
- The Blandin Foundation funded the GreenPrint Council to coordinate and strengthen the work of the state's environmental learning centers. (1994)
- The MAEE and EEAB began a partnership to host an annual Minnesota EE conference, with the state taking the lead role in producing the 1994 EE conference, November 18-19 in Alexandria, MN. 276 people registered for the conference. (1994)
- Work began to integrate environmental education into the state's emerging "graduation standards". (1995)
- The DNR's Division of Waters introduced Project WET (Water Education for Teachers), a national environmental education curriculum focused on water (1995).
- The Teacher Preparation Project was established with the assistance of ten Minnesota university partners and developed a coordinated set of environmental education in-service courses and pre-service teacher education in environmental education. LCMR recommends funding and the Office of Environmental Assistance (OEA) and EEAB administrate appropriation. (1995)
- With significant coordination and assistance from the Southeast Minnesota EE Committee, MAEE and EEAB hosted the Midwest EE Conference in Rochester, MN. (October 12-15, 1995)
- The Legislature officially transferred the EEAB and the remaining, accompanying EE legislation to OEA which had been hosting the EEAB since 1995. (1996)
- SEEK (Sharing Environmental Education Knowledge), a computer-based environmental education resource center, is launched on Earth Day with funding from LCMR and project management by OEA. SEEK directs Minnesota citizens to environmental education resources throughout the state, provides a calendar of events, a method for all environmental education providers to collaborate, and a forum for discussion (1996).
- The annual Minnesota EE conference, co-sponsored by OEA, EEAB and MAEE, was titled "Environmental Issues ' 96: Inform Yourself, Educate Others." The conference drew 120 participants to Minneapolis on June 17 after being cancelled in March due to a snowstorm. (1996)
- MAEE, OEA and EEAB host the 8th annual state EE conference on Lake Superior, in Duluth. Over 200 people attend workshops, presentations and field trips. The conference included an update on Minnesota's deformed frogs. (May 17-19, 1997)
- OEA leads state agency workshop titled, "Tools for Educating about the Environment", which draws 75 agency participants and guest presenters from EPA and Illinois. (January 1998)
- Voters approved a constitutional amendment extending for another 25 years the allocation of a percentage of lottery proceeds to the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. (1998)
- MAEE, OEA and EEAB host the 9th annual state EE conference, June 19-20 on the campus of at St. John's University, Collegeville, MN. The keynote speaker was Bill Hammond, Florida educator and SNAP hosted a pre-conference workshop. Approximately 200 people attended. (1998)
- The state K-12 academic standards were changed to the Profiles of Learning standards. (1998)
- EEAB and OEA lead mid-point revision and assessment of the GreenPrint. (1998-99)
1999 - 2009
The late 90s and early 2000s saw a relatively stable period for EE in regards to statewide coordination and leadership. With the success of SEEK and other LCMR appropriations from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, OEA expanded EE efforts to the point that by 1999 there were full-time EE specialists in five regions of the state. In addition, the OEA annually distributed several hundred thousand dollars in EE-related grants. Since then, however, state budget cuts, mergers, staff departures and changing priorities resulted in a steady decline in EE resources and staff. Despite the dwindling resources several major projects and programs were launched, including the Environmental Literacy Scope and Sequence: Providing a systems approach to environmental education in Minnesota, The Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy and a new EE funding program with MAEE.
Many organizations became more involved in citizen education as "green" became a huge social movement in the late 2000s. OEA/PCA led the way in Minnesota with the founding of the Living Green Expo and Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair.
- Over 300 people participated in the Midwest EE Conference and annual state conference in Stillwater, MN, which was hosted and coordinated by MAEE. Highlights included a Minnesota Biome play put on by first and second graders from the Tri-District Community Cultures and Environmental Science School (now Harambee Elementary, Maplewood) and keynotes by Winona LaDuke, Paul Douglas and Ted Mondale. (August 5-8, 1999)
- To help shape the second edition of the GreenPrint, the OEA conducts a survey of Minnesota EE providers. 455 professionals participate with a response rate of 47 percent. "Time available in the curriculum" and "inadequate funding" were identified as the top two barriers to EE implementation. (1999)
- MAEE partnered with MNA and the National Association for Interpretation to offer a combined EE Conference in Duluth, MN. (March 2000)
- With input from over 445 workshop participants and the EE provider survey results, the second edition of the state plan for EE, A Greenprint for Minnesota, is published by the EEAB and OEA. A major focus of the document is the identification of seven statewide EE outcomes and strategies. (August 2000)
- School Nature Area Project (SNAP) ended due to lack of funding. (2001)
- Environmental Literacy Scope and Sequence: Providing a systems approach to environmental education in Minnesota is released. (March 2002)
- The first Living Green Expo is produced by several agencies and environmental organizations. (May 2002) Over the years the OEA and PCA take on increasing coordination of the event and attendance reaches approximately 25,000 in 2008.
- The Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy a baseline report measuring Minnesota citizen's environmental literacy is coordinated by Hamline University through a grant from OEA. (October 2002)
- MAEE partnered with the OEA to put on the annual EE conference in Rosemount. MAEE's bylaws were revamped and the organization structure moved to a 4-member Executive Committee, and 10-12 member Board of Directors, and sub-committees to support work. (2003)
- The Legislature repealed the Profiles of Learning and began creating new K-12 academic standards and assessment tests for math, language arts, social studies and science that are updated every 4 years following adoption. (2003)
- An effort was led by MAEE to incorporate EE components in the new science and social studies K-12 academic standards. (February 2004)
- MAEE partnered with the Minnesota Science Teachers' Association for the annual EE conference, which was held in Mankato and drew hundreds of participants. (April 2004)
- MAEE receives an EETAP grant to present a workshop on "Strengthening Diversity in Environmental Education" with international speakers. (August 2004)
- The Second Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy is published. (August 2004)
- MAEE and EEAB host state EE Conference at Wolf Ridge ELC. There were 160 attendees, including several students and Canadians. The Minnesota Naturalists' Association organized the field trip on the North Shore immediately following the conference. (March 2005)
- The OEA was officially merged with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA), and although the EEAB term was sunset due to legislative language, it continued as an advisory group to the Commissioner of the PCA. (July 2005)
- Journalist Richard Louv writes Last Child in the Woods and coins the term "Nature Deficit Disorder", which in the late 2000s eventually becomes a highly publicized national campaign to get kids outside. (2005)
- MAEE co-hosted with the Midwest Environmental Ethics Group the "Environmental Ethics Conference". (May 2006)
- MAEE partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to bring the Education Program Evaluation Course to Minnesota with funding from the PCA. (May 2006)
- PCA, the Minnesota State Fair and over 100 partners debut the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair to 350,000 visitors, making it one the largest EE events in the world. (August 2006)
- MAEE successfully hosts the NAAEE Conference in downtown St. Paul. A record 1,000 people participated. Minnesota efforts resulted in the greenest conference in NAAEE's history including sustainable food offerings and carbon off-sets for travelers. (October 2006)
- Ninety people attended the annual EE conference hosted by MAEE in Alexandria. The EEAB, supported by the PCA, held a pre-conference EE Leadership Summit and MNA hosted the field trips. (April 2007)
- "No Child Left Inside" bill introduced into National House and Senate as an amendment to the "No Child Left Behind" law. Bill would include provisions for providing EE and ensuring all graduating seniors are environmentally literate, but does not pass. (2007)
- MAEE receives grant from PCA to research the process and administer first set of Environmental Literacy in Minnesota (ELM) funds, a four year effort of the EEAB. (2008)
- MAEE successfully encourages Governor Tim Pawlenty to proclaim Minnesota's first EE Week (April 13-19, 2008).
- Led by the EEAB and PCA staff, A GreenPrint for Minnesota: State plan for environmental education, third edition is published (August 2008)
- The Third Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy is developed and written by St. Catherine University under contract to the PCA. (December 2008)
- Due to state budget cuts, the PCA decides to no longer coordinate the Living Green Expo. One of the original partners, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, takes over coordination. (December 2009)
2010 - present
The on-going economic recession and corresponding state budget shortfalls have eliminated nearly all funding at the PCA for environmental education. At the start of 2010, the PCA management decided to
eliminate the Environmental Education Advisory Task Force, previously the EEAB, and the three remaining EE specialist positions. MAEE remains very strong with over 250 members and is working towards ways to support statewide EE coordination.
Hope remains that federal legislation, "No Child Left Inside", which will provide a means for additional resources for states to coordinate EE, is nearing passage in the U.S. Congress.
- State budget cuts result in PCA eliminating the state /citizen advisory board, EEATF, and three EE specialist staff positions. (March 2010)
For more information visit the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education website at http://www.minnesotaee.org/.
- Posted: 10/26/00
- Revised: 11/16/12
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