For the third decade in a row, Web of Life Field (WOLF) School participated in the California Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (AEOE) Statewide Spring Conference, this year held March 24-27, 2017 at Camp Jones Gulch in La Honda, CA, with eight naturalists in attendance and one WOLF School naturalist-led workshop.
Working as the California state affiliate for the North American Association of Environmental Educators (or NAAEE), AEOE’s mission it is to “support and inspire educators in their quest for the knowledge, skills, and attitudes essential to help all learners understand, appreciate, and care for their environment.” Their annual statewide conferences are one of the pinnacle networking and educational opportunities for California’s naturalists and educators working in environmental and outdoor education, and over the years, WOLF School’s connections to AEOE have run deep.
Homebased in the Santa Cruz Mountains, WOLF School is a nonprofit organization providing outdoor education at camps throughout California. Their involvement with AEOE dates back to their early 1990 beginnings, when WOLF School founder Randy Widera attended the conference to participate in AEOE’s environmental education workshops, exhibits, and keynote addresses, before serving as a board member for a number of years during the 1990’s while director of WOLF School. In the early 2000's, WOLF School Program Directors Dan Allison and Rikki Shackelford each served as AEOE Chair of the State, followed by Program Director Aaron Rich and new WOLF School Director Heather Butler, who served as Co-Chairs of the State. Their connection to AEOE has continued into the current decade with WOLF School Associate Director Desiree Gant serving on the board, including as Northern Council Chair in 2014. In addition to the myriad leadership roles, which have included hosting the conferences, WOLF School has consistently been represented at AEOE’s annual conferences by naturalists attending workshops, and by naturalists leading their own workshops in their areas of expertise.
WOLF School’s involvement in AEOE’s 2017 Statewide Spring Conference was no different, with eight naturalists in attendance, including Halley Finkel who led a workshop titled “Inspiring Wonder with Astronomy.” This was Finkel’s fifth year in a row attending AEOE on behalf of WOLF School, and her first year leading a workshop. Her presentation educated naturalists from all over California on astronomy facts, how to improve their connection between science, history, and mythology, and how to engage their student's curiosity and encourage deeper thought into the cosmos.
“There is so much to learn about this fascinating topic and students respond with enthusiasm to the epic nature of outer space,” said Halley Finkel of her AEOE astronomy workshop. “I wanted to empower naturalists to engage in and explore a topic they don't know much about. I encouraged flexibility in listening to what the students know, offering some facts, but also, being open to learning along with them. One of the best responses I got from one of my participants was that I'd gotten them "all fired up" about teaching. Yay!”
Learn more about the California Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education at aeoe.org.