Building an EC Education Community of Practice

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EC Education Notes from the Field

Intro: Building an EC Education Community of Practice

Steve Depoe, Facilitator, IECA Educator Fellows Program

In the Fall of 2019, the IECA board authorized the launch of an “Educator Fellows” program (add hot link to to focus attention on the importance of environmental communication (EC) education within our professional organization and in wider communities and contexts.

Five IECA members were named as fellows for 2020-21:

  • Michaeleen Gallagher, Director of Education and Environmental Programs, Annenberg Foundation Trust @ Sunnylands
  • Jill Hopke, Assistant Professor, Journalism, DePaul University
  • Jason Ludden, Teaching Assistant Professor, English, University of Nevada - Reno
  • Maggie Siebert, Adjunct Faculty, Community Engaged Learning and Research, University of New Mexico
  • Kenneth C. C. Yang, Professor, Communication, University of Texas at El Paso

Beginning in January, the Fellows have shared ideas about how we implement EC education in our own local settings. For example, in undergraduate EC courses I offer at the University of Cincinnati, I have used the IECA student membership as a vehicle for introducing my students to the professional world of EC. At DePaul University, Jill Hopke is teaching a Climate Change Communication course in Spring 2021. Jason Ludden incorporates environmental themes into core writing courses he teaches for the English Department at University of Nevada-Reno. Kenneth C. C. Yang teaches ICT and advertising courses in the Department of Communication at the University of Texas at El Paso and is always searching for environmental case studies to share. Maggie Siebert, a doctoral candidate at the University of Mexico, has implemented experiential learning approaches in courses she has offered pertaining to gardening and sustainability through the Community Engaged Learning and Research Program. And Michaeleen Gallagher (newly elected member of the IECA board!) employs and assesses various community-based programs as the Director of Education and Environmental Programs for Sunnylands, a cultural venue supported by the Annenberg Trust in southern California.

Since we started meeting, two things happened—

*First, and obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly through much of the world, now entering a third wave of positive infections, hospitalizations, and fatalities in the United States and beyond. The pandemic has impacted every aspect of our personal and professional lives, with significant and long-term ramifications for community-based organizations and higher education systems where EC courses and programs are offered.

*Second, on a more positive note, in September the IECA rolled out its strategic plan that will guide our professional organization for the next several years. The plan lifted up the IECA Educator Fellows program as part of Goal One (Create new and strengthen existing connections among practitioners, artists, and academics), specifically pertaining to the first objective (Enhance networking opportunities among practitioners, artists, and academics).

So, as we end 2020 and get ready for 2021, still reeling from and adapting to the COVID-shaped world around us while starting to live into the IECA strategic plan, we asked: what can the IECA Educator Fellows do to promote valuable conversations about EC education in our various local settings?

We decided to start a blog.

Over the next several months, we will offer monthly posts under the “IECA Educator Fellows—Notes from the Field” banner to express ways that we are delivering EC education in our particular locales and to stimulate broader discussion about how IECA as an organization can promote EC education in more sustainable ways moving forward in alignment with our strategic plan.

Topics will include:

  • December 2020--Overview--Why is EC Education important now? (Depoe)
  • January 2021--EC Education in the Institutional/Community Setting (Siebert & Gallagher)
  • February 2021--Using Case Studies in the EC Classroom (Yang)
  • March 2021--Climate Change Communication in the Classroom (Hopke)
  • April 2021--Transnational EC Education (Ludden)

We encourage you to read and comment on the posts as they come out as a way of prompting broader conversations and collaborations.

The Educator Fellows plan to organize a panel at our upcoming virtual COCE 2021 to share more about our experiences as individual educators and as a cohort, with the hope of stimulating interest in continuing the Fellows program in the 2021-23 time period.

Finally, and most importantly, we hope that the blog posts and subsequent interactions leads to the creation of a EC education community of practice within IECA, an affinity group of EC educators who work in K-12, higher education, or community-based settings who decide to form an ongoing collaborative network via platforms provided and shared within the IECA web site environment or elsewhere. We want to keep the conversation going, especially sharing innovations in how EC topics are delivered in the classroom and in local community settings, from gardens to alleys to back yards via modes from podcasts to toxic tours to documentaries to poetry to street theater to . . . whatever the future holds.



About the Author: 

Steve Depoe is the Facilitator of the IECA Educator Fellows Program.