What does environmental education (EE) look like on the ground? How do we work together to strengthen EE in the southeast? What would a stronger, more inclusive EE movement look like?
For the past two years, driven by the desire to learn the answers to these questions, the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA) dove into a brand new undertaking: a landscape analysis of EE efforts in eight southeastern states.
Funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Pisces Foundation, the project included a comprehensive study of the environmental education already happening on the ground and was designed to help us—and many others—better understand the challenges and opportunities for environmental education in the southeast.
We wanted to complete an analysis that would give environmental education providers resources and tools to more effectively meet the needs of their communities. We designed it to help us to ensure that we are focusing our limited time and resources in the areas where we will have the biggest impact. Through it, we wanted educators to find the tools they need to connect with providers in their area to increase opportunities for students to engage in environmental education from early childhood to adulthood. And we wanted educators and providers to be able to target their efforts in the areas with the highest need, whether that need is demographic, geographic, or content based.
As a result of the project, any interested party can access the full stakeholder report and a robust online hub that includes interactive maps and toolbars, tutorials, state-specific findings, and more.
The analysis, along with state-specific recommendations included in the report, will equip organizations conducting environmental and conservation-related work in the southeast with the materials they need to address gaps, allocate resources more effectively, and, ultimately, meet the goal of increasing environmental literacy levels and stewardship behaviors.
The final report also provides recommendations and next steps for increasing environmental literacy efforts in the southeast based on an inventory of model programs and initiatives happening nationwide.
Environmental education in the southeast faces many challenges brought to light through our landscape analysis, which collected data from almost 650 programs. In North Carolina, Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) along with the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and the North Carolina Association of Environmental Education Centers (NCAEEC) collected responses from 133 programs, which were compiled with programs across our region for a full analysis. We found that senior staff leadership and audiences served by environmental education providers do not reflect the overall demographics of the region. The average entry-level salary for environmental educators is 15-25% lower than comparable fields. There are gaps in services found across the region in rural areas, areas with the highest social vulnerability index, and areas with the lowest income.
And yet, while challenges exist, many strengths of environmental education programs in the region were also made clear. More than two million youth in the southeast are served annually. Each year, EE takes place in 16,355 schools. And throughout the southeast, 79,857 volunteers assist with EE programs.
Through this work, environmental educators can access important data to inspire their programs and focus their efforts.
Via an interactive online portal, users can access the shareholder report, case studies, the storymap, a searchable dashboard and maps, and more. You can search, filter, and export datasets through an interactive dashboard. You can explore our regional or state-specific maps and toolbars, filtering by state, sector, terms used, percentage of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color) leadership, budget, themes, audience served, offerings, academic standards, program location, program time, language, and/or evaluation practices. You can discover new partners and programs in your area. You can identify gaps and barriers to access. You can build and strengthen your networks. You can use the project as a model for your own region. You can cultivate collective impact. And so much more.
Learn more about our findings, process and the resources the landscape analysis provides at southeastee.org/landscapeanalysis.
SEEA, the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance, is a network of state affiliates of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) in the southeastern region of the U.S. EPA Region 4. SEEA’s mission is to provide southeastern state affiliates and their stakeholders collaborative and capacity building opportunities that demonstrate collective impact and magnify environmental education efforts across the region.
This project builds on the collaborative work of many different organizations and individuals and was made possible with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Pisces Foundation.