By Emily Cobar, Restoration and Education Staff, and Stacey Vigallon, Director of Environmental Education

The first cohort of the ee360 EE Community Fellows — 32 fellows from across the nation and 4 international fellows | Photo credit ee360 Team

The first cohort of the ee360 EE Community Fellows — 32 fellows from across the nation and 4 international fellows | Photo credit ee360 Team

Our guest author for this issue’s Interpreting Nature column is Emily Cobar. An alumna of the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Program the Environment for the Americas internship, and a Los Angeles Audubon staff member since 2015, Emily has been working on community connections to nature since her high school days. In the summer of 2018, Emily was accepted to the ee360 Fellowship Program, a new initiative led by the North American Association for Environmental Education that connects and promotes leaders dedicated to advancing environmental literacy for everyone, everywhere (visit ee360.org to learn more). In the paragraphs below, Emily discusses her experience at the ee360 summer training session in Virginia.

Fireflies, Northern Cardinals, and skinks: these critters that I will never see in the busy city of Los Angeles welcomed me on my first visit to Warrenton, Virginia. I was recently accepted to the ee360 Community EE Fellowship Program through the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). This fellowship consists of 32 fellows in the environmental education profession from around the nation and four that are international. With support of the ee360 team, all fellows will plan and implement an action project that addresses local environmental issues and builds resiliency in their respective communities. Last month, fellows received an all-expense-paid trip to Virginia to participate in a five-day professional development and leadership training. During this training, we had presenters talk about community engagement, theory of change, climate resiliency, fundraising, and much more. This was the opportunity for fellows to learn new concepts and get feedback on their their projects as well as share ideas and resources with one another.

It was inspiring to meet and network with other people who are passionate in making a change in their communities. There were projects that ranged from water, sanitation, and hygiene education in India to youth gardening programs in Detroit to air quality testing with teens in Washington DC. Everyone has different approaches to working towards the broad range of local environmental issues. My community action project focuses on intergenerational networking and learning with college students, elementary school teachers, and elementary school students.

Last day in Warrenton, Virgnia with these passionate and inspiring community leaders. From left to right, Emily Cobar, Anita from Detroit, Stephanie from Seattle, and Amaris from Chicago (photo credit ee360 Team).

Last day in Warrenton, Virgnia with these passionate and inspiring community leaders. From left to right, Emily Cobar, Anita from Detroit, Stephanie from Seattle, and Amaris from Chicago (photo credit ee360 Team).

Los Angeles Audubon has numerous educational programs especially for 3rd–12th grade including one that has been running for 10 years now, the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Program in which I am an alumni of, and their newly established program for West LA Community College students, the Baldwin Hills Parklands Conservation Certificate Program. My project engages alumni from both of those programs, typically either students in college or recent college grads. Those who will participate in this project will develop and/or adapt curriculum focused on an environmental topic such as water conservation, urban gardening, waste management, urban habitat/native plant landscaping, and more. I hope that participants will benefit from this project by adding new skills in their resumes, growing their network as young professionals, and teaching others about solving local environmental issues.

I feel fortunate to become part of this fellowship program because I learn how to be more effective as a community leader, and I learn from others with a similar passion. We all have different projects but we all have the same goal to engage the community in our projects whether it’s through gardening, through youth summits, or through intergenerational learning. I look forward to meeting all the other 31 fellows once again at the 2018 Annual NAAEE conference in Spokane, Washington this upcoming October. We once again are getting financial support to attend, so I am very appreciative for this opportunity. Thank you to the EPA for funding, thank you to the ee360 team and fellows for the tremendous support, and thank you to my two mentors who took the time to write letters of recommendation when I applied to this program, Stacey Vigallon from LA Audubon and Chris Lay from UC Santa Cruz.

The first cohort of the ee360 EE Community Fellows — 32 fellows from across the nation and 4 international fellows (photo credit ee360 Team).

Fellows playing the game Happy Village: Exploring the Benefits of Integrating Approaches to Climate Change Adaption (photo credit ee360 Team).

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