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Journal of the Association of Nature Center Administrators // Fall 2020
Founded in 1989, the Association of Nature Center Administrators is a
private nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting best
leadership and management practices for nature and environmental learning
centers. Serving more than 700 members, ANCA is the leader in the profession.
Promising Principles to
Enhance Distance Learning in
Environmental Education
pivot for many environmental education (EE)
providers toward distance learning. Our research
team responded to this pivot by conducting a system-
atic literature review to identify promising approaches
for designing virtual eld trips and online EE activ-
ities. Through an extensive search of the last decade
of published research (2010-2020), we identied 32
peer-reviewed articles that empirically measured en-
vironmental literacy outcomes of online EE programs.
We carefully reviewed program descriptions, study
results and authors’ conclusions to identify key princi-
ples that appear commonly linked to better outcomes
for participants related to environmental literacy.
Several promising principles emerged for poten-
tially enhancing the success of EE distance learning
programming for students in grades K–12. We divide
these principles into the following three broad catego-
ries commonly linked to better environmental literacy
outcomes for participants:
By Eileen Merritt, Marc Stern, Bob Powell, and Troy Frensley
• Participant engagement (how to engage participants
in online settings)
Promote student autonomy
Facilitate social interactions
Encourage active involvement
• Designing content (what content to emphasize and
how to design it)
Focus on relevant topics
Make socio-ecological connections
Highlight role models
Use multiple modalities to make content
Challenge students to use higher cognitive
Use positive framing
• Supporting participants (how to facilitate learning)
Prepare them to succeed
Provide feedback
Promising Principles to Enhance Distance Learning in EE (cont.)
Priciples to
Enhance Distance
5-7 Director’s Notes
Irvine Nature
FERN Boxes
Urbana Park
& Climate Change
from the
Google Group
16-17 Reecting on the
Virtual Summit
The Directions journal
contains news and trends in
the nature & environmental
learning center profession,
as well as relevant resources
and stories of innovative
leadership. ANCA members
receive each Directions by
email and can always see
back-issues via the member
portal on the ANCA website.
If you are part of the nature
center profession and wish
to receive Directions, see
ANCA membership
Directions oers advertising
space for ANCA Business
Partners, as well as
individual advertising
Participant engagement
As you consider platforms and tools for your distance learning programs,
begin by thinking about how participants will interact with the content and
each other. Look for interfaces and develop activities that allow for student
autonomy, social interactions, and active involvement. Can students make
choices within the activities? Can they create or develop their own products
to share? How might they work collaboratively? Can two-way communi-
cation strategies (either real-time discussion or asynchronous responses
to posted comments) be included? Most importantly, how can students be
induced into active participation and thought?
Multiple platforms provide easy means for polling or sharing ideas.
Breakout rooms allow students to discuss ideas and brainstorm togeth-
er. Platforms such as FlipGrid or Zoom allow students to pose questions
and respond to each other’s ideas. Some organizations lead activities with
materials that are easy to nd at home or provided in a kit. Autonomous
tasks, such as journaling, scavenger hunts, art activities or contests can also
be engaging. Annie Kilby uses an open-ended drawing task to help students
imagine themselves visiting and experiencing dierent life zones at Grand
Canyon National Park (Figure 1).
Designing content
Our literature review revealed the value of demonstrating the relevance
of content to learners’ lives, challenging learners so that they employ 21st
century skills and go beyond just learning facts, making socio-ecological
connections, using positive framing and role modeling.
As a major theme in ANCA’s Blue Ribbon Report, relevance is a goal
that we all strive for. Deciding what’s relevant for online programs can be
rather complex, because participants can connect from anywhere around
the country (or world!). When designing programs for local groups, lever-
age what you know about them from prior work. For broader audiences,
issue-based programs that include clear actions and consequences to hu-
man communities can often enhance relevance, as can activities that engage
participants to create or investigate issues of personal interest.
Role models help to put a human face on otherwise abstract issues and
can enhance relevance. Stories and examples shared by others can motivate
Figure 1: Using a drawing prompt. Photo by Kim Popek.
Promising Principles to Enhance Distance Learning in EE (cont.)
students to become interested in
topics, learn new skills or fuel mo-
tivation to take action. What exper-
tise do people at your organization
and within your wider networks
have to share, and what stories can
they tell about their lives or work
that will inspire students?
Socio-ecological connections
relate ecological systems to human
systems. The depth of exploration
of these connections can inuence
program outcomes. For example,
is the program focused on aquatic
wildlife with a brief mention of
ocean acidication or is it focused
on how a changing climate im-
pacts people and wildlife in coastal
areas? One way to help make these
connections visible is to document
and share visual evidence of en-
vironmental change. Changes are
often hard to see when you only
visit a place once, but photographs
and videos (e.g., glacial melt, water
levels, pollution) can make them
concrete for students in distance
learning programs. For example,
educators from the Gulf of Maine
Research Institute use images that
span across 30 years to engage
students in reecting on how tem-
perature changes inuence avail-
able lobster habitat (Figure 2).
Including multiple modalities
(visual, audio, kinesthetic) makes
content accessible to diverse
learners with dierent levels of
background knowledge. As you
design your program, use of both
words and images to explain com-
plex concepts can increase under-
standing (Mayer, 2008). English
language learners, in particular,
comprehend content better when
provided with sensory (pictures,
objects, activities) and graphic (ta-
bles, charts) supports and through
discussions with others (WIDA,
2014). Which modalities (audio,
visual, textual, etc.) are most useful
for your intended purpose, and
how might they be combined to
optimize learning?
In our literature review, pro-
grams that pushed students be-
yond factual recall, toward higher
order learning (e.g., formulating
and testing hypotheses, consid-
ering multiple possible futures,
debating opinions or courses of
action, applying knowledge to a
specic problem), tended to yield
more positive outcomes. Can you
guide students to pose interesting
questions or hypotheses? Design
ways to investigate them? Analyze
data? Draw conclusions? Evaluate
possible solutions to a messy prob-
lem? How might students use their
knowledge and skills to advocate
or educate others as part of their
learning experience?
A recent article by Ben Eldredge
exemplied positive framing in his
words and story about fostering
civic engagement in his commu-
nity. He opened the article saying,
“we are involved in a long game,
and we are denitely making a dif-
ference” (2019, p. 12). These words
remind us that EE matters, and we
are all in this work together. Stud-
ies in the literature review provide
evidence for the importance of
positive framing (e.g. Kleinhenz &
Parker, 2017). To remind students
of their agency, share examples
of local solutions involving youth,
individually or collectively, that
are working. Communicate hope
and empowerment, not doom and
Supporting participants
What do students need to know
to be able to succeed in distance
programs? Are there technology
tools and features that you need to
draw their attention to up front?
Are there certain vocabulary or
concepts that need a quick review
before explaining more complex
ideas? Brief audio or video intros
can be helpful. We might also
consider sending some content
ahead and/or partnering with
school teachers or others to ensure
students feel suciently prepared
when they embark upon programs.
Providing students with feedback
can help keep them engaged and
on track. Feedback can be provid-
ed by peers, instructors or even
Figure 2: Using visual evidence. Image by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.
ANCA will host an ANCA Member
CONNECTS meeting, Dec. 15
at 12pm MT to discuss the
research in this article.
Keep an eye out for registration!
technology tools. Some platforms such as Canvas and
VoiceThread have tools that enable feedback to stu-
dents through text, audio or video. This feedback can
be brief and immediate or can occur over time. For
example, Caitlin Stone-Webber, a naturalist at Huron
County Nature Center, recently initiated a pen pal
project to keep students thinking about science while
they were learning at home. She asked students to
send letters to her with questions, and she responded
with answers (Stone-Weber, 2020). These letters ad-
vanced their knowledge and validated their curiosity
and ideas. Other meaningful forms of feedback might
include simple badge icons or automated praise for
advancing through a program, pre-programmed feed-
back if students appear to stray from learning objec-
tives, or live encouragement in synchronous settings.
The path ahead
There is no clear road map for distance learning;
many environmental educators are entering un-
charted territory. However, the principles we’ve just
described appear to have positive impacts on learner
outcomes. We therefore put forth the list of principles
Promising Principles to Enhance Distance Learning in EE (cont.)
Eldredge, B. (2019). Conserving nature through civic engagement. Directions, Summer Edition.
Kleinhenz, P.N. & Parker, M.S. (2017) Video as a tool to increase understanding and support for the Endangered Species Act.
Applied Environmental Education & Communication, (16)1, 41-55.
Mayer, R. E. (2008). Applying the science of learning: Evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instruction.
American Psychologist, 63(8), 760.
Stone-Webber, C. (2020). Huron County Nature Center taps the power of the pen. Directions, Spring Edition.
WIDA. (2014). 2012 Amplication of the English Language Development Standards, Kindergarten – Grade 12. Board of
Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.
as a reference for distance learning providers. While
not all are necessary for a successful program, incor-
porating those that feel feasible may enhance partici-
pants’ experiences.
Distance learning opens new doors for students, and
may have special appeal to students who are digital
natives. Technology can do things that can’t be done
in person, such as observing changes over time or in-
troducing role models from distant places. The lessons
we learn about how to do distance learning now can
help enhance pre- and post-visit experiences for eld
experiences and connect with new audiences who can-
not make it to our sites. Collectively, if we all invest
our best into distance learning, we can inspire and
enable youth attending our programs to help solve the
socio-ecological problems we face in society today.
Eileen Merritt is a Research Scientist at Virginia Tech whose scholarship is broadly focused on environmen-
tal and sustainability education, STEM education and digital learning. She aims to advance pedagogies such
as garden-based and place-based learning, environmental service-learning, and nature journaling through
her research, writing and teaching.
Marc Stern is a Professor at Virginia Tech whose scholarship focuses on environmental education, commu-
nications, and human behavior in diverse environmental contexts. His most recent book, Social Science Theory
for Environmental Sustainability: A Practical Guide, published by Oxford University Press, translates key prin-
ciples from social science into practical applications for environmental education and more.
Robert B. Powell is the George B. Hartzog, Jr. Endowed Professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation,
and Tourism Management at Clemson University and the Director of the Institute for Parks. His research and
outreach program focuses on environmental education, interpretation, and sustainable tourism and he is the
new co-editor of the Journal of Interpretation Research.
Troy Frensley is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the Department
of Environmental Sciences whose scholarship focuses on environmental education and interpretation, infor-
mal STEM learning, program evaluation, and citizen science. He also manages the master’s degree concentra-
tions in environmental education & interpretation and marine & coastal education.
See our website to learn more about our current
research. The research in this article was partly
funded by a grant from the North American
Association for Environmental Education.
Director’s Notes:
Let Us Unite Around Nature
Jen Levy, Executive Director
ANCA — Logan, UT
the 4:30 Movie’s Monster
Week. My brother, sister, and
I would sit on the couch in the
den with our hands covering our
eyes peeking out at the screen. I
was young and Godzilla, even the
classic 1954 version, was scary! I
have been reminded of that feeling
everyday for the past ten months,
especially when I wake up and
peek at the news. Some days the
news is much scarier than the giant
sea monster whose attack on post-
war Japan triggered fear of nuclear
There has been so much fear and
uncertainty lately and I have had to
challenge myself to focus on what
I know to be certain and to remain
hopeful. Recently the Governor of
Utah declared a state of emergen-
cy due to the increasing cases of
COVID-19 and the burden on our
healthcare system. It was a sober-
ing reminder of the virus that has
upended our lives and the fear and
uncertainty we have been living
with since early March. Also in the
news was the announcement that
early data shows a COVID-19 vac-
cine is more than 90% eective. Of
course we have many months to go
in testing, production, distribution,
and administration of a vaccine but
it feels good to have hope. So we
need to persevere in the face of dif-
culty...and we need to have hope.
Two things I am certain of and
that give me hope are the vital role
nature education institutions play
in the health of our communities
and the work you are doing to per-
severe. In a meeting of leaders of
residential environmental learning
centers recently I heard someone
say, “We are not nice to have,
we are need to have.” This I am
certain of.
We can unite people around
the idea that nature and outdoor
spaces are critical. If you ll a
room with people on both sides of
our much divided nation you can
nd common ground with three
questions. The questions can vary
but examples include, “Did you
ever stop what you were doing
to simply watch the sunset? Did
you climb trees or build forts as a
kid? Do you enjoy spending time
at the beach, in your local park,
or at a nature center?” Does this
sound familiar? In 2003, ANCA
Summit Attendees were chal-
lenged to address the extinction of
experience — a loss of interactions
with nature originally introduced
by author Robert Michale Pyle and
later referred to as nature decit
disorder in Richard Louv’s 2008
book, Last Child in the Woods.
Both were making the case for the
importance of unstructured time
in nature and for the work of our
industry. Fast forward to 2020
and the pandemic has deprived
all of us of many activities, events,
and social interactions, and people
have turned to nature to take a
breath and heal. A new question to
pose to make the case for nature,
“In the past ten months, have you
been drawn to outdoor spaces
after weeks or months of hunker-
ing down at home?” Based on what
I am hearing from ANCA members
across the country the overwhelm-
ing response is yes, and many peo-
ple are escaping to your facilities.
You, your organization, and your
work are ‘need to have!’
So I am going to stop shielding
my eyes from the news, face the
monsters, and focus on the work
ahead to support what is needed.
Director’s Notes (cont.)
In our most recent strategic plan, ANCA 2025, the board pri-
oritized the need to explore and dene our voice toward rele-
vant advocacy and civic engagement. Pre-pandemic, we worked
with a committee to develop a policy and procedures to identify
and address relevant issues and support our members in their
eorts. The myriad issues facing both ANCA and our members
was daunting and we were not in agreement where to focus our
eorts. This became much clearer when in March we joined oth-
er national and regional organizations asking Congress and the
White House to consider the needs of nature and environmental
learning centers in COVID-19 economic relief legislation. Then in
April the Lawrence Hall of Science Policy Brief made the case
for promoting the value of outdoor learning as safe, engaging,
eective, and essential. We are now nalizing our Public Policy
and Advocacy Strategy and have a better understanding of our
role as the voice of the profession and to elevate and advocate
for the eld. Our plan and strategies will focus on actions that
impact the ANCA community at large and will include calls to
action when we need our members to perform an action to call
attention to an issue.
We are expanding our program oerings for both members
and the nature and environmental learning center eld at large.
The ANCA Member CONNECTS program was launched in March
in response to the need to connect our members at the start of
the pandemic. We have been pleased with the response and the
opportunity to meet so many new members who have not been
able to travel to in-person events in the past and have made
CONNECTS a permanent addition to our members-only benets.
More information can be found here including upcoming CON-
NECTS meetings for residential centers and new ANCA mem-
bers. Future ANCA Member CONNECTS topics include the bene-
ts of risk management assessments, teaching visitors to recreate
responsibly, and stress relief in challenging times. In early 2021,
members of the ANCA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commit-
tee will host a discussion on implementing a community-based
approach to program development to attract new audiences. We
are also planning a discussion about the 2020 Virtual Summit
session on Evidence-based Practices for Designing Online
EE Programs, which is based in the literature review by Eileen
Merritt, Marc Stern, Bob Powell, and Troy Frensley.
We have decided to move away from organizing ANCA Region
Meetings and instead oer ANCA Peer Meetings throughout the
country. The change is subtle — instead of the work that went
into trying to organize regions, we will instead focus on the meet-
ings themselves bringing nature and environmental learning
center leaders together throughout the country, and providing
those leaders the opportunity to discuss what is happening in
their region, share program updates, tour facilities, and network
with peers. For now, these meetings will be oered virtually, and
we will resume in-person Peer Meetings as soon as we can. These
meetings are open to members and non-members; nd more info
John DeFillipo
John Bunker Sands Wetland Center
Kitty Pochman
Linda Loring Nature Foundation
Kristin Smith
Tualatin Hills Nature Center
Brooks Paternotte
Irvine Nature Center
Jason Meyer
Blandford Nature Center
Mary McKinley
Ogden Nature Center
Jeff Giesen
North Cascades Institute
Glenna Holstein
Urban Ecology Center
Javier de León
Estero Llano Grande State Park
& World Birding Center
Iain MacLeod
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
Pam Musk
National Audubon Society (formerly)
John Myers
Indian Creek Nature Center
Vera Roberts
Warner Park Nature Center
Chad Truxall
Marine Discovery Center
Jenn Wright
Grass River Natural Area
Jen Levy
Asa Duffee
Sarah Reding
Taylia Sunderland
Meg Murdock
We have a brand new ANCA Member benet in response to a ques-
tion that was posted in the ANCA Google Group in August. Mark Mc-
Laughlin asked if anyone was interested in sharing their Zoom-based
programming announcements to boost attendees. Someone suggest-
ed ANCA host a ‘national share program’ and as soon as the Summit
wrapped in September, we got to work putting something in place. The
ANCA Virtual Program Exchange is an online calendar, hosted on
the ANCA website, where Professional and Organization members of
ANCA can post their live virtual programs. We will market this widely
as an opportunity for people across the country to explore dierent
ecosystems, learn from experts across the country, and meet the greater
ANCA community of nature and environmental learning centers. We
are hopeful that when travel is safe again these programs will inspire
people to visit the new places they have been introduced to virtually.
More information about this new program can be found here.
We want to continue to build programs and services that benet the
work you do. Join an upcoming ANCA Member CONNECTS or ANCA
Peer Meeting, reach out through the ANCA Google Group, or send me
an email at and let me know how you are and
what you need. Keep up the great work, wear your masks, and remem-
ber to nd the time to escape in nature.
Director’s Notes (cont.)
Outside (and Inside) the Box:
The Story Behind Irvine Nature
Center’s FERN Boxes
Emily Ludy, Rental/Program Coordinator
Irvine Nature Center — Owings Mills, MD
CENTER decided to close
the center to the public on March
16th, 2020 the naturalist team
started to come up with some
alternative ideas as to how pro-
gramming would continue. Our
ever-so-popular Summer Nature
Camp had to be canceled to be as
safe as possible. Alternatives to
summer camp started to arise as
we wanted to continue our rela-
tionship with the families that had
already signed up.
Developing a box program
The idea of a box program was
our go-to option, but the execu-
tion took some more planning. To
help guide us, we came up with the
title FERN Boxes, in which FERN
stood for Families Engaging Re-
motely with Nature. From here,
we decided to move forward with
a subscription-style box based on
the surge of popularity of other
subscription boxes such as plants,
wine, and even underwear! This
was the best option due to a con-
tinuous revenue source and sup-
plied activities for the duration
of the summer just as our regular
summer camp would have done.
The next factor was pricing,
which was chosen based around
the research of other subscription
boxes and supply costs. We valued
each box at $35 per month with a
special pricing of $30 for the three
months of the summer deal. This
was to entice families to get the
subscription box for the summer
at a discounted price. We also
decided to include membership
discounts to further the family’s
involvement with the organization.
We were able to utilize supplies
that we already had and that would
t into our most popular themes
based on previous summer camps.
Extra items were then purchased
based on the theme of the month to
enhance the box’s perceived value.
These items ranged from general
nature supplies such as guides and
fact cards to theme specic items
including astronaut ice cream and
nature journals.
With the supplies gured out, we
wanted to include an interactive/
virtual component in the form
of Zoom meetings and YouTube
links. These videos would act as the
participants “virtual teachers” who
would be able to guide the children
through some of the crafts and
activities given in the box.
Once we had all the decisions
made, we were ready to market
our new box idea to the public. Our
main audience that we focused on
was previous participants associ-
ated with the following programs:
summer camp, afterschool pro-
grams, and public programs. We
also advertised to our social media
followings on Facebook and In-
stagram as well as our newslet-
ter email chain. Then we waited
anxiously to see what the overall
results were going to be!
Irvine Nature Center’s FERN Boxes, ready for the mail.
Overall, the program was very
well received by our audience with
a total of 700 boxes sold. We were
able to get great feedback from the
subscribers through a survey link
sent out which included questions
such as what your favorite activity
was, what items did you like best,
Challenges along the way
While we had great success, we
also faced many obstacles. One of
the main hurdles we had to jump
over was the supply aspect. We had
a tough time guring out exactly
how many supplies to get, how
to bulk order certain items, and
hoping that items would arrive
on time. We also had to keep and
update a budget to make sure our
board members were informed
on the cost of the program versus
Another unseen hiccup was the
amount of paper and ink needed
to make the boxes as self-sucient
to the recipient as possible. Due
to many of the crafts and activ-
ities being included with work-
sheets and instructions, a massive
amount of printing, paper-clipping,
and assembling took a lot of sta
time from our limited sta and one
Besides making and printing the
worksheets, it took even more time
and eort to fully assemble all the
boxes. We were limited on space in
the building and we had to main-
tain quality control on the items we
created and were providing.
The last issue we faced was hav-
ing to get a large quantity of the
shipping supplies such as boxes
and tape ordered and assembled
before we were ready to ship out
the supplies. We had to schedule
pick-ups for these boxes, due to the
high volume that otherwise would
have needed dropped o at the
post oce.
Though we faced many obstacles,
we were still able to get all of our
boxes out on time and with little
disruption to our participants.
Irvine Nature Center’s FERN Boxes (cont.)
This ornate signage welcomes visitors at Fontenelle Forest Nature Center.
Funding and partnering
Funding this large-scale project
went rather smoothly, as we were
fortunate enough to have some
grant money originally for our
scholarship summer camp partic-
ipants that we were able to switch
over to our summer camp sub-
scription boxes.
We partnered with other organi-
zations who provided either virtual
experiences or craft supplies for
the boxes. These organizations
included The National Aquari-
um, Ladew Topiary Gardens, the
Annapolis Maritime Museum, the
Baltimore Museum of Industry,
Phoenix Wildlife Center, the Mary-
land Science Center, and Robinson
Nature Center.
To connect with our closest com-
munity, we reached out to Title I
schools in Baltimore County, and
partnered with Reisterstown and
Inside a FERN Box.
Irvine Nature Center’s FERN Boxes (cont.)
Emily Ludy is the Rental/Program Coordinator at Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills,
Maryland. Check out Irvine’s website to learn more about their mission to explore,
respect, and protect nature!
molded it into an afterschool program. We continued
sending boxes with various supplies and themes and
partnered it with a weekly virtual meeting where the
students can log on and learn a 30-minute lesson from
a Naturalist together with other students in the area.
We have learned greatly from our trial and error —
and success — with these boxes and are constantly
growing and adapting to the ever-changing learning
environment with our local school systems. We are
excited to continue with the afterschool Eco-FERN
Club boxes and we have used our newfound virtual
skills to pivot into virtual teaching with our Nature in
the Classroom programs. As the pandemic continues,
constantly changing and morphing, the Irvine Sta
stand ready to adapt to the situation and encourage
people to explore, respect, and protect Nature.
Glyndon Elementary Schools, who chose 30 of their
students to participate in the camp box subscription
at no cost to the families.
Continuing the program
As the summer came to an end, we wanted to con-
tinue our subscription box concept into the fall. We
decided that the best program to adapt into a box-
based program was our afterschool Eco-Explorers
program. This program typically occurs after school at
one of our many dierent elementary schools within
the Baltimore County region. Due to schools being
remote this fall, we gured the box idea would be a
perfect way to stay connected to the K-5th grade com-
For our new Eco-FERN Club, we took popular
elements of our summer camp box subscription and
evident, and our desire to act was already there,
but it was a simple conversation that accelerated the
Urbana Park District’s organized eort to combat
climate change.
In the fall of 2019, Executive Director Tim Bartlett
called me with a message of encouragement. He want-
ed to explore how the District could more aggressively
act on climate change, and he wanted me to know that
he would support my role in making it happen.
Today, the District is in the process of writing its
own climate action plan that will direct its environ-
mentally-responsible practices and policies into the
future, and we have expanded our networks of inter-
nal and external support to help ensure our success.
A history of environmental action
The Urbana Park District is fortunate to have a
decades-long culture of environmental awareness and
stewardship. The District began organizing education
and volunteer programs in natural areas in the 1970s,
at a time when community-led environmental groups
were also forming. A volunteer, Anita Purves, began
with a cart of natural materials that quickly expand-
ed to become a classroom called the Environmental
Awareness Center. Today, the District manages 595
acres of public lands, and its Anita Purves Nature
Center (named in memoriam) has been curating envi-
ronmental education and interpretive experiences for
schools and the public for more than 40 years.
The District’s story of climate action is more recent
and complex — so much of our progress has seemed
to unfold simultaneously over the past year. And this
story can be only halfway told; we are still in the pro-
cess of gaining a deeper organizational awareness as
we start confronting climate change. My hope is that
by sharing our story, you might feel inspired — even
pressured — to initiate your organization’s formal ac-
knowledgement of and action against climate change.
Creating a culture to address climate change
Based at the Anita Purves Nature Center, my posi-
tion at the Urbana Park District is coordinating envi-
ronmental public programs. Over the past few years
I have been actively seeking out more opportunities
to incorporate climate change into my programs, but
with some hesitation. I admit I was afraid that I, or
the District, would be perceived as taking a political
stance and apprehensive of potential backlash from
the public.
Knowing that I have the full support of the admin-
istration has made all the dierence in my condence
in approaching climate change issues through public
programming. The truth is that deniers, who are the
Savannah Donovan, Environmental Public Program Coordinator
Urbana Park District / Anita Purves Nature Center — Urbana, IL
The Time to Act Is Now:
Urbana Park District
Addresses Climate Change
Solar panels sit atop Anita Purves Nature Center. The Center installed the panels in March 2019.
Urbana Park District Addresses Climate Change (cont.)
minority in most populations, tend
to be more outspoken than those
who accept the reality of climate
change. We need to make climate
change a topic of everyday con-
versation in order to make lasting
changes in our behavior.
The Urbana Park District’s suc-
cess in addressing climate change
has come through a key combi-
nation of internal structure and
involvement, and external net-
working and support. Over the past
ve years, the District’s internal
“Green Team” committee has been
encouraging all sta to make en-
vironmentally-responsible choices
in their daily work. The team is
made up of sta from all facilities
and departments. This allows for
a comprehensive understanding
of challenges and opportunities
across the District.
Making a formal plan
Promoting conservation and
community health, contributing
to the attractiveness of neighbor-
hoods, and improving the quality
of life of its citizens are at the heart
of the District’s mission. In the last
ve years, we have installed solar
panels and bioswales, restored wet-
lands and other natural areas, and
decreased overall energy consump-
tion and waste. It became evident
that a formal plan of action would
help to coordinate our eorts
to decrease our greenhouse gas
emissions and carbon footprint,
anticipate and respond to the local
impacts of climate change, and
eectively communicate about the
importance of action.
The Green Team chairs orga-
nized a thirteen-person steering
committee of several team mem-
bers plus some additional internal
stakeholders — sta who will be
integral to the ultimate imple-
mentation and success of the plan.
This committee has been meeting
monthly since September 2020
and aims to have the plan complete
for nal public release by Earth
Day 2021.
These plans come by many
dierent names depending on
their focus; there are sustainability
and resilience plans, green infra-
structure plans, climate action
plans and more. Before COVID,
members of the Green Team had
already started collecting, reading
410.332.1009 |
Reading, PA
and evaluating plans from other
cities, park districts, and forest
preserves. Themes from other
plans that most pertained to the
District’s mission were teased out
and organized into our plan’s three
primary pillars:
1) Communicating Climate
Action incorporates both inter-
nal communication and education
and external outreach and part-
2) Protecting & Strengthen-
ing Natural Environments
focuses on supporting natural
areas, natural resources and bio-
3) Conserving Resources
examines how the district can re-
duce waste and conserve energy.
The plan’s nal name was sug-
gested by the District’s Facilities
Maintenance Supervisor and
The District’s Green Team logo is used
for internal messaging.
received overwhelming support: the Urbana Park Dis-
trict CARES (Climate Action, Resilience, Education &
Sustainability) Plan.
Our next step was to interview external advisors--in-
dividuals from other agen-
cies who have worked on
sustainability plans or their
implementation. Eight
interviews were conducted,
and we gained expert advice
about how to make our plan
realistic and achievable.
We also opened the doors
for preliminary feedback by
introducing the project in its
early stages to the district’s
citizen advisory committee,
Natural Areas Committee,
and board of directors.
These individuals, plus all 50 full-time sta at the dis-
trict, will be asked for their input in drafting the plan’s
values statement and primary topics or goals. Once
the CARES Plan is halfway complete, a draft will be
shared with the community for review and feedback.
Building a coalition
Following my conversation last fall with the Dis-
trict’s Executive Director Tim Bartlett, we arranged
a meeting to learn what other community organiza-
tions were doing to address climate change issues.
We invited individuals from the Champaign County
Forest Preserve District, the City of Urbana, the Uni-
versity of Illinois, the teen-led Climate Justice Forum,
and other local organizations to meet. Together we
discussed how we could amplify our work through
collaborations and coordinated outreach. One year
later, the Champaign County Climate Coalition (C4)
has evolved.
Savannah Donovan is an environmental program coordinator at the Anita Purves
Nature Center, part of the Urbana Park District in east-central Illinois. She serves as
the district’s Green Team co-chair, leads meetings for the Champaign County Climate
Coalition, and is a certied Climate Reality Leader. Check out the Urbana Park
District’s Green Initiatives Page for information and resources.
Our peers in C4 are an ideal group to review and
assist with the development and eventual implemen-
tation of the CARES Plan. The mission of C4 is “to em-
power individuals and groups in Champaign County
to create equity and resil-
ience through education,
relationship-building, and
responsive action to count-
er climate change.” The
Coalition is working toward
hosting climate change dis-
cussions, planning collab-
orative community pro-
grams, and encouraging the
adoption of climate action
plans with similar stan-
dards across organizations.
I like to call it “the power of
positive peer pressure.”
We must act now
It’s not serendipitous that the Urbana Park Dis-
trict has the encouragement of C4 as we develop the
CARES Plan and take our rst major strides toward
ghting climate change head-on. We sought out ex-
ternal support through new partnerships, and these
relationships are invaluable resources. But what has
further accelerated our District is the administration’s
support and empowerment of its sta. If you are an
administrator of a nature center or similar agency, I
encourage you to talk to your sta about the impor-
tance of addressing climate change. Make that call to
The Urbana Park District’s battle against climate
change is long from over. We see the road ahead, and
there will always be more to do, but our momentum
is strong. As Tim best said to me, “The time to act on
climate change is now. Many organizations will look
back and wish they had acted sooner.”
Urbana Park District Addresses Climate Change (cont.)
The Champaign County Climate Coalition meets every
two weeks to address climate change in the community.
Highlights from
the Google Group
BELIEVES THAT the collective
wisdom and diversity of our peer net-
work is our greatest resource, and the ANCA Google Group
continually exemplies that belief. Of course we encourage
you to keep up with the discussions there, but we also want
to highlight some of the recent conversations that received
high engagement. Below we’ve linked to the specic discus-
sions and included the rst post that started them o. Feel
free to click the topics and continue the conversation there!
Nature Centers as Refuges from
Information Technology
I hope you will indulge me in posting a sort of philosophi-
cal question.
I’ve been thinking about all the ways and reasons why
nature centers should embrace technology: use CRM
software to personalize communication with constitu-
ents, provide free wi to support meeting space rentals
and visitor preferences, ensure cell phone coverage over
the entire property to create a feeling of safety, etc. But
is there, in fact, a market for the opposite approach? Are
there market segments that would actually welcome a
nature center that purposely EXCLUDED technology,
and advertised themselves as a REFUGE from modern
intrusions? A place where the outside world can’t reach
you (or your spouse)? An exhibit area where parents are
not checked out on the phone while their kids play unsu-
pervised? A trail where people aren’t walking along with
their heads down, texting?
In other words, might there be a niche for a “Mackinac Is-
land” approach to a center? (Mackinac Island, Michigan,
does not allow motor vehicles. You have to leave yours
behind at the ferry dock.)
Have you ever seen such a place? Or been asked by con-
stituents to provide one?
David Catlin
Principal, David Catlin Consulting
Barred owls at the Cheakamus Centre.
Photo by Jason Fullerton.
Spinning o a for-prot LLC
Does anyone have a private, for prot LLC that is under the um-
brella of your 501c3 or know of any examples?
Corky McReynolds, PhD, CPF
Principal, LeadTeam, LLC
I’m curious about other nature centers’ e-newsletters. Does any-
one mind sharing how often you put out an e-newsletter, if you
always do it a particular day and time of the week, and what’s
your general open rate and approximate number of subscribers?
We are just getting going with a regular e-newsletter, and most
of the information I can nd online is focused towards business-
es that are selling things. I’m especially curious as to a “typical”
open rate in our environmental non-prot world.
Thank you,
Jenica McEvoy
Board Member, Southern Vermont Natural History
Awe Moments
Hi Everyone. I would love to take a break for a minute and share
with each other what makes us pause and experience moments
of awe. Have you been able to take a break recently, even for a
moment, and allow a little wonder in your day? I hope so be-
cause we all need it!
For me, the rst snow that really sticks in our valley is a favor-
ite awe moment! It happened this morning and I stared out the
window a few extra minutes just taking it in.
I challenge you to go outside, even for a few minutes, and share
an awe moment with the group.
Jen Levy
Executive Director, ANCA
Highlights from the Google Group (cont.)
Photo from the Loxahatchee River Center
Reecting on the Virtual Summit
September and was the rst of its kind for ANCA.
Though we know a virtual event will never replicate
the experience of being in person, the ANCA team
organized this Summit to maximize the benets of a
digital space, and it clearly succeeded in aiding the
nature & environmental learning center community.
We are grateful for the positive feedback from our
members, with no attendees rating the Summit below
“good” or “excellent” on our feedback form, and the
vast majority rating it “excellent.”
ANCA Member Corky McReynolds, who has attend-
ed every Summit since they began in 1994, said of the
Virtual Summit, “I was surprised how intimate the ex-
perience felt with the only thing missing was physical
hugs.” We asked three other attendees some questions
about their experiences, and recorded their responses
What surprised you the most about your
Virtual Summit experience?
SJ: The Virtual Summit was my rst ANCA Summit
and I went in with the assumption that I would learn
interesting information, but not feel like I got the
benet of being able to network. After the rst set of
facilitated discussions this was completely ipped
upside down! I was so impressed by how well every-
one shared the virtual oor and made sure to include
everyone in sessions. As a new participant, I felt
welcomed, included, and even made a few contacts to
continue conversation with after the conference.
It was very apparent that ANCA is a group of peers
who think highly of each other, form long-lasting
relationships, but also are eager to bring new people
into the fold. I’m looking forward to my rst in-person
summit thanks to this experience, instead of worry-
ing I’ll be the new kid on the edges of the room and
LJE: I was surprised at the fact that the conference
didn’t overwhelm! I loved the networking time as well.
TS: I was pleased to see how seamless it worked with
very few technical problems. Nothing beats a real
in-person Summit for multiple reasons, but given the
circumstances, I think it went very smoothly and well.
SJ — Sara Jose, Preserve Manager at the Oso
Bay Wetlands Preserve & Learning Center
LJE — Lari Jo Edwards, Director of the Coastal
Bend Bays & Estuaries Program
TS — Tim Sandsmark, Education Supervisor at
Jeerson County Open Space
Sunset at the Dunes Learning Center. Photo by Kayla Groen.
Reecting on the Virtual Summit (cont.)
What was the most useful session that you attended?
How was it useful?
SJ: I think the Keynote session by Dr. Marc Stern will be the most
immediately useful for my site. Unlike many other nature centers, we
did not dive into virtual eld trips during the COVID shut down but
instead focused our eorts on other programs. Having the insight into
what does and doesn’t translate well to a virtual eld trip environment
can help us make smarter and more eective decisions if we decide to
move to the virtual world for our classroom engagement.
I am also appreciative that his facilitated discussion on the topic is
available on the Summit website so that I can go back and watch it
soon, as well as share it with our team. This is a benet that may not
have been available during a traditional conference.
LJE: Reopening Your Center. The information in that session helped us better tweak our plan to host eld
trips as schools open back up.
TS: I facilitated a couple of sessions and thought those went well. I got the most out of the informal sessions
at the end of the day. It was nice to see many old friends and new faces, and to take part in the discussions and
the camaraderie that always occurs when ANCA peeps get together, even if it was through a computer screen.
What will you do or change at your organization, based on what you learned at the
Virtual Summit?
SJ: Immediately after nishing August Ball’s session, Recruitment & Hiring for Diversity, Equity, and Inclu-
sion, I made some changes to our onboarding process for the Preserve. Our site is a part of a municipal govern-
ment so there are limited changes we can make in the early part of the process, but we can absolutely ensure
everyone gets a more welcoming start to our particular site.
We’ve also already reworded our accessibility question in our registration software based on feedback in the A
Healthy Dose of Nature session on asking if visitors would benet from adaptive equipment.
LJE: We have begun rewriting our SOPs and adding sections to include COVID precautions and Diversity,
Equity, & Inclusion. Our advisory councils will begin meeting in January to rework these sections.
We are going to participate in the EE21 Survey with our online classes.
Taking time to go out on the property and remember why we do what we do is part of the monthly training ses-
sion now. We spend the rst 10-30 minutes out on the trail simply observing and connecting with place.
TS: My education coordinator helped facilitate a session and participated in many others. This was her rst
experience with ANCA and she was very complementary and enjoyed the sessions she was involved with. She
came out of it with some new ideas for handling programs and also helped reassure her of some of the success-
ful things she was doing with our programs already.
Background photo: Fall foliage at NIU Lorado Taft Field Campus, by Alyssa Parker.
Thanks to our Business Partners
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... This provides endless opportunities for examining emerging practices in a timely fashion. For example, recent trends have included an enhanced emphasis on dialogic techniques, such as facilitated dialog and distance learning efforts (Bruch et al., 2011;Merritt et al., 2020). We urge practitioners and researchers to collaborate on evaluating these programs on an iterative basis as they develop. ...
We reviewed all manuscripts published within the Journal of Interpretation Research from 2010 to 2019 to identify lessons learned from the past decade and to propose future directions to advance the field. The last decade of the Journal featured a wide diversity of studies, including evaluations of interpretive programs and trainings, examinations of specific interpretive techniques, and various other related topics. We summarize the decade’s contributions and share lessons learned associated with interpretive techniques; organizational practices; professional development; diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice; visitor characteristics; and motivating attendance at interpretive programs. We then identify eight areas for future research, including: (1) measuring more ambitious outcomes; (2) identifying effective practices for diverse audiences; (3) studying innovations through adaptive management; (4) examining intergenerational learning; (5) evaluating professional development; (6) conducting organizational studies; (7) investigating the politics of interpretation and sensitive topics; and (8) partnering on research for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.
Full-text available
During the last 100 years, a major accomplishment of psychology has been the development of a science of learning aimed at understanding how people learn. In attempting to apply the science of learning, a central challenge of psychology and education is the development of a science of instruction aimed at understanding how to present material in ways that help people learn. The author provides an overview of how the design of multimedia instruction can be informed by the science of learning and the science of instruction, which yields 10 principles of multimedia instructional design that are grounded in theory and based on evidence. Overall, the relationship between the science of learning and the science of instruction is reciprocal.
Research into the effectiveness of video as a tool to educate students about environmental issues and cause a change in their attitudes toward them in a classroom setting is limited. We sought to add to this sparse body of research. We created three videos that showcased a species in a different stage of protection under the Endangered Species Act. Each video focused on a different species and employed different strategies to deliver content to the students who viewed them. The videos were screened to students in six classes. Data was collected via preassessments and postassessments from 140 students and analyzed using Wilcoxen Matched-Pairs Signed Ranks test. Each video significantly increased student content understanding and one video, “The Champion Chub,” improved student attitudes toward the Endangered Species Act. The study provides additional support for the effectiveness of video content as an environmental education tool.
Conserving nature through civic engagement. Directions
  • B Eldredge
Eldredge, B. (2019). Conserving nature through civic engagement. Directions, Summer Edition.
2012 Amplification of the English Language Development Standards, Kindergarten -Grade 12
  • Wida
WIDA. (2014). 2012 Amplification of the English Language Development Standards, Kindergarten -Grade 12. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.