Interview with Kat Riley, AmeriCorps program coordinator for the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education.
What does your organization do and how long have you been around?
The Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education (CAEE) was established in 1989. We support the many types of educators who teach concepts we all need to understand: how natural systems work, what we must do to interact responsibly with the environment, and how we can protect natural resources for future generations. We are the largest network of environmental educators in Colorado, serving over 800,000 learners. Collectively, we inspire educators, schools, and communities to impact conservation, education, social justice, health and wellness, and positive youth development.
What specific programs, practices, or priorities is your organization most focused on right now?
We’re most focused on how to best support and uplift the field of environmental education through times of COVID-19 transmission. More than ever, environmental education (EE) is so important as it helps to lower disease transmission by offering open, outdoor learning spaces for school-aged children. EE is also changing the way we learn by not only teaching individuals about their natural environment, but by developing lifelong skills in critical thinking, sense of belonging, ownership, and justice which leads to responsible action, and creating long-term behavioral change through increased awareness.
To help guide the future of environmental education in Colorado, CAEE partnered with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) to convene over 65 community feedback calls with hundreds of environmental and outdoors learning providers from across the country. This resulted in the formation of the eeGuidance for Reopening Schools, which outlines several specific areas where environmental and outdoor education programs can help schools, students, teachers, and families.
We’re also currently working on other projects, such as the Careers in Natural Resources Initiative and the Environmental Education Corps (eeCorps) AmeriCorps Program. The Careers in Natural Resources Initiative provides young adults with stepping stones towards pursuing a career in natural resources, and the AmeriCorps Program places AmeriCorps members with EE host sites across the state to meet the goals of the Colorado Environmental Education Plan.
In what ways could The Alliance Center community help you achieve your mission?
We will be offering professional development and learning opportunities to our AmeriCorps members, so it would be great to have them learn about the work that The Alliance Center tenants are doing. If there’s ways for them to get involved, especially as part of their mandatory Days of Service, let us know! If any organizations have existing committees that our AmeriCorps members can participate in, this would work towards their training hours commitment and provide them with professional development surrounding leadership and advising.
We also want to extend a hand in case we can assist any of you with your education efforts. We can offer technical assistance and training in education best practices. We currently have 850 members across Colorado; if you’re looking for a particular partner to help with educational development, we can make those connections for you. We chose The Alliance Center over other working spaces because it’s a major part of our mission to connect with others and create partnerships.
What is your proudest achievement as an organization?
The formation of the Colorado Environmental Education Plan (CEEP), which was adopted in December 2012 by the State Board of Education in partnership between CAEE, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and the Colorado Department of Education. It was designed to promote, coordinate, and sustain standards-based environmental education across the state. The CEEP is also the basis for our AmeriCorps Program.
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