San Diego – Helping people think and talk about what they value most on complex environmental issues requires more than facts or science.
This was one of hundreds of topics examined Oct 15-18 at the annual conference and symposium of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) at the Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel and Marina, averaging 1000 attendees.
San Diego Deliberation Network members Martha Cox and Mary Thompson attended one workshop which captured the conference’s theme: building a stronger and more inclusive movement. At the Saturday morning workshop, Engaging People in Civic Deliberations: NAAEE’s New Environmental Issues Forums,” presenters Bora Simmons (National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education), Amy Lee (Kettering Foundation), and Michele Archie (The Harbinger Consulting Group) spoke about NAAEE’s partnership with the Kettering Foundation to promote public and classroom deliberation on important issues such as climate change.
The building blocks of issue framing, discussion guides, and the role of trained moderators can lead to reflection and possibly common ground for community action. As Amy stated, “What makes the deliberation process critical is that unless people’s lived experiences are part of the discussion, communities may struggle with the tradeoffs necessary in finding common ground.” According to Michele, “forums allow people to practice their voice” in being heard on how the community moves forward.
The partnership between NAAEE and Kettering is leading to innovation in framing issues, forum materials and forum events, including online deliberations. Other workshops at the conference demonstrated Common Ground for Action (CGA), an online deliberation and strategy platform. Bora reported that “online moderator preparation will be part of the NAAEE training.”
The San Diego Deliberation Network is working with Bora, Amy, Michele, and others in framing a discussion guide on the serious water situation in California. This discussion guide will be used in local community conversations.
For more than four decades, NAAEE has been a leader in promoting excellence in environmental education throughout North America. 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, non-formal education, early childhood education, science education and STEM, and other sectors of society.