Stories from the Field

With NatureBridge Leadership, AEOE Receives Outstanding Affiliate Organization Award

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AEOE members receiving award, photo courtesy of NAAEE conference photographer Melissa Blackwell.

With a commitment to enhancing the field of environmental education, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) has been a leader and champion in the field since 1971. Each year, the NAAEE recognizes one of its 57 state, provincial or regional affiliate organizations in the United States, Canada and Mexico with the Outstanding Affiliate Organization Award.

This year’s recipient is the California Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (AEOE), an affiliate at which two NatureBridge members play a critical and influential role. NatureBridge’s National Education Manager, Estrella Risinger, serves as Executive Director and NatureBridge’s Yosemite Education Director, Reed Schneider, is President of the Board.

Estrella (second from left) receives award for AEOE. Photo courtesy of NAAEE conference photographer Melissa Blackwell.
Estrella Risinger (second from left), AEOE Executive Director, receives award with Angela Kemsley (far left), AEOE Board Member & Conference Chair; Judy Braus NAAEE, Executive Director; and Robb Stolberg (far right), AEOE volunteer & Fall Northern Section Conference Co-Chair.

Photo courtesy of NAAEE conference photographer Melissa Blackwell.

“The award brings a real sense of pride for the work that we’ve done and for everything that our board has been committed to within the last few years,” said Estrella. “It’s an important opportunity for us to strengthen and celebrate our role in the affiliate network. There’s an elevation of our role within NAAEE and an opportunity for us to reach out to new audiences.”

The Outstanding Affiliate Organization Award is given annually to recognize significant contributions to the field of environmental education by NAAEE Affiliate organizations.

The role of AEOE in connecting and convening environmental education program providers is among one of its biggest accomplishments in recent years. It has enabled the organization to create a professional network that is increasingly diverse and inclusive.

We see our role as trying to connect folks: Building a professional network, driving best environmental education practices, and sharing out strategies, tools and techniques for teaching. We’re driving what we believe to be best quality in order to advance environmental education in the state.
Estrella Risinger, NatureBridge National Education Manager

By stepping up to the challenges within environmental education, AEOE has successfully increased its sphere of influence. 

“Communication and networking among peer organizations has grown,” said Reed. “We’re pulling together and we’re on the same team, which is how are we moving this whole thing forward and advancing the field. It’s about how we are sharing resources across practitioners that ultimately results in higher environmental education experiences for youth.” 

Like AEOE, NatureBridge is a natural leader in the field of environmental education.

“As one of the biggest players of environmental education in the state of California, NatureBridge is a valuable partner in advancing environmental literacy,” said Estrella.

There is real synergy between AEOE and NatureBridge. To me this partnership is a win-win.
Reed Schneider, Yosemite Education Director

As one of the largest providers of environmental education in both the state and the country, NatureBridge’s work directly parallels with the AEOE. Both organizations are committed to improving programs across the board, by equipping providers with the right tools and resources. Together, the two are improving outcomes to ensure that each and every child’s outdoor learning experience yields the best results.

“It’s not just that one experience with that one kid, it’s about making the outcomes of all programs and providers better,” said Estrella. 

Currently, AEOE is working on the launch of an Environmental Educator certification program for California. This month, the organization is in the midst of hosting its two regional fall conference events and a retreat for program managers in central California. On the heels of a successful Northern fall conference in early November that drew more than 135 attendees, the Southern fall conference will take place November 15 through 17 and include 15+ environmental education workshops.

NAAEE’s influence stretches across North America and around the world, with members in more than 30 countries. NAAEE and its 54 state, provincial, and regional Affiliate organizations in the United States, Canada, and Mexico have more than 16,000 members. These members are professionals with environmental education responsibilities and interests across business, government, higher education, formal (K–12) education, nonformal education, early childhood education, science education and STEM, and other sectors of society.


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