A letter from Diane Wood,
Helping Americans Make Connections
During an event last year at George Mason Elementary School in a Northern Virginia suburb, a bright and well-spoken second grader asked a question that has stuck with me.
The school was holding a carbon footprint exercise as part of National Environmental Education Week in which students were learning the impact of many of their everyday choices, from how they got to school to the amount of television they watched and how much time they spent on computers.
The student raised her hand and asked “I understand my footprint, but how does it connect to the polar bear?”
Despite being only eight, the student nonetheless identified a critical question, one that drives us at the National Environmental Education Foundation. She wanted to know how one person connects to the larger world – how the actions of one person, whether turning off the television, using less water, spending more time in nature – can have a larger positive impact far beyond their home and even their city.
NEEF seeks to help Americans of all ages understand their connections to the natural environment, the importance of conservation and appreciation of the natural world, the health impact of the environment and the importance of environmental and sustainable behavior, at home, at school or at work.
People often are amazed to hear that some of our most influential and successful programs are run by three, four sometimes just two staff members. Those staff members, however, work through leaders in their respective fields – the teachers, business managers, medical professionals and public land managers who the public trusts. They, in turn, take critical environmental messages and convey them to a larger audience.
This “trusted professional” model serves us very well. We can amplify our impact to educate the public and to encourage Americans of all ages to acquire the knowledge they need to make choices to engage in environmentally responsible behavior.
In the annual report that follows, you’ll see the phrase “leveraging change” quite a bit. That theme could be considered our mantra here at NEEF – change happens through our trusted professionals, through the power of our partnerships and through the connections that we help people make, from the second grader at a Virginia elementary school to tens of thousands of employees at large corporations.
I urge you to explore the pages that follow and learn more about NEEF’s programming, our partners, our donors and our staff and see how we’re leveraging change every day to give Americans knowledge to live by.
Diane Wood, president
National Environmental Education Foundation
||A letter from Art Gibson, chairman:
In 2008, the National Environmental Education Foundation was in the right place at the right time. And with the right people, programming and message.
Tough economic times challenged nonprofits across the country. Financial discipline, strong fiscal management, a focused strategic plan and programming aligned with need in the American public helped NEEF remain resilient – and grow – during this period.
A new administration took over in Washington with an emphasis on expanding the green economy and green jobs as well as a growing emphasis on the environment. The transition placed a greater emphasis on public engagement in environmental policy thus creating new opportunities for program growth.
The Foundation, which has been educating Americans of all ages about the natural world, conservation and sustainability, was uniquely positioned to be a leader. In fact, NEEF has been at the forefront of environmental education since 1991. Green jobs, environmental and sustainability education, integrating environmental education into core K-12 subject areas and doing it all in a science-based, nonpartisan and non-advocacy way have been hallmarks of the organization for two decades.
To highlight just a few of the exciting developments:
Earth Gauge, in partnership with COMET, created a course for broadcast meteorologists, “Weather and the Built Environment” that was launched in March of 2008.
National Public Lands Day continued to show phenomenal growth, with over 1,900 sites served by 120,000 volunteers in 2008 and a goal of 2,000 sites and 130,000 volunteers for this fall.
Classroom Earth was launchedas a new program providing new learning opportunities and Web resources for high school teachers seeking to integrate environmental education into core subject areas.
These are just a few examples of the accomplishments NEEF can boast about in 2008. This report will detail many more. I invite you to explore and learn for yourself how NEEF’s wide variety of programming – and perfect timing – is giving Americans knowledge to live by.
Arthur Gibson, chairman
National Environmental Education Foundation Board of Trustee