How environmental education
works in Minnesota
- Minnesota Environmental Education Leadership Initiative (MEELI) Discussions
Discussion sessions are short group dialogs (usually two hours) that focus on a specific topic of interest to our community; learning typically takes place through one-on-one interactions and small group work. If you'd like to hold a discussion, here are some guidelines.
MEELI Discussion FrameworkDiscussion foundation pieces:
In the MEELI discussions, the following purpose, definition and ground rules make up the foundation for the conversations. They are read at the beginning and are also posted around the room.
- Purpose: Participants are told that the purpose of the discussion is to contemplate the issue and questions at hand, share thoughts, debate ideas and listen to others' views. They are also encouraged to meet other participants and make connections.
- Definition: Discussion - consideration of a question in open and usually informal debate; an exchange of views on some topic; a series of exchanges among at least two participants
- Ground Rules:
- Listen actively - respect others when they are talking.
- Speak from your own perspective.
- Remember that there are no right or wrong answers.
- The goal is not to agree - it's about hearing and exploring divergent perspectives.
- Don't be afraid to respectfully challenge one another by asking questions, but refrain from personal attacks -- focus on ideas.
- Don't hog the conversation.
Conducting the discussion:
The following MEELI discussion format is presented, although there are other formats that can be used.
- Before the discussion, develop approximately six discussion questions to be used. Print them out so each participant has a copy.
- Discussion is two hours in length, with a 15 minute break at mid-point.
- Offer information (purpose, definition of discussion, ground rules, structure).
- Provide brief background information on the topic if needed. (5 minutes or so)
- Introductions - participants state their names and organizations, if applicable.
- Attendees are divided into groups of 6-8 people. Do not use tables, when you can. Keep chairs in a tight circle. Using only chairs opens up the conversation.
- Ask one person in each group to facilitate and another to take general idea notes.
- After the first 40 minutes, participants come back into the large group and briefly share the main points from their discussion group.
- Take a 15 minute break.
- After the break, participants change groups and a different person facilitates and another takes general idea notes.
- After 40 minutes, participants come back into the large group and briefly share the main points from their discussion group.
- Ask for any final ideas, statements or suggestions.
- Gather the notes that were taken. (After the discussion, compile a summary of the main ideas into a summary sheet if desired.)
- Be sure to have the room available for at least half an hour after the discussion ends, as people often continue to discuss and network.
Discussion ResourcesThe World Cafe - Cafe Hosting Guides
The Art of Powerful Questions
Discussion Group Guidelines and Roles
Discussion Group Leader Guidelines
Turning to One Another: How to Start a Conversation
Share your discussionsIf you hold an environmental education discussion, please email the following information to: email@example.com for the benefit of others. In the words of Ansel Adams "In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration."
1. Topic of discussion
2. Questions used
3. Main ideas and thoughts that emerged
4. Number of participants
5. Length of time
6. Held when and where
7. What worked and what didn't
8. Lessons learned
MEELI 2007-2008 DiscussionsHow the discussions came about: At the Minnesota Environmental Education Leadership Summit held on April 26, 2007, in Alexandria, participants commented that they do not have many opportunities to come together and discuss issues in depth. They felt that since EE positions can often be isolating, the lack of dialogue is a detriment to the growth of the field and to the educators themselves. It was suggested that discussion groups be offered for environmental educators to come together to converse on environmental, educational and professional development issues.
From this suggestion, the Minnesota Environmental Education Leadership Initiative decided to hold every other month discussions in St. Paul and other locations around the state in 2007-2008. The topics offered were: The Risk and Fear of Change; Mentoring Leaders in Environmental Education; Environmental Education and Global Warming; and, Environmental Education Professional Development Roundtable.
Purpose for the discussions: The discussions gave environmental education leaders and interested others the chance to gather and dialogue on issues of interest, network, and build relationships. It also gave MEELI the opportunity to learn what members of the EE community are thinking on these issues. For the most part, the discussions were well attended. The participants overwhelmingly felt that the discussions were worthwhile and that valuable ideas were shared.
Summaries of the discussions
Recommendations: It was recommended that MEELI and/or other environmental education organizations continue to hold discussions such as these. If you are interested in holding a discussion group with your staff, colleagues, friends, audience groups or others, you'll find suggestions and guidelines here to help you do just that.
"What is more valuable than gold? Light. What is more precious than light? Conversation."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
- Posted: 10/16/08
- Revised: 6/16/09
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