Association for Environmental & Outdoor education
AEOE strengthens environmental education in California by connecting providers, building professional expertise, and championing environmental literacy and outdoor learning.
We recognize that California is on the stolen, unceded, ancestral lands of nearly 200 tribal groups with distinctive languages, customs, and cultures. We want to share our appreciation for the past and present stewardship of the places we call home and commit to shaping a future that is just. AEOE’s work is primarily conducted from Huchuin, in Lisjan territory, in what is now known as the San Francisco East Bay Area. We acknowledge that this area is the ancestral homeland of The Confederated Villages of Lisjan (Ohlone) since time immemorial and recognize the continued persistence and resilience of culture and community despite the adverse impacts of colonialism. Ohlone people have a lasting relationship with the land – one of deep respect and reciprocity to help maintain balance. AEOE acknowledges and supports Indigenous communities in solidarity and commitment to partnership, advocating for a more equitable and inclusive future. Please join us in recognizing and honoring the native peoples where you live and work, and commit to addressing Indigenous erasure and supporting native sovereignty and land reclamation.
We recommend the following resources to learn about land acknowledgments and connect with the native people where you live:
It’s encouraging to see how many people and organizations have embraced land acknowledgments as a first step. And, for those of us who are non-native or work for organizations that are not native-led, we must consider how we are doing the actual work of being better partners, listeners, and supporters of local tribal groups. This resource offers a number of helpful ways to move beyond land acknowledgements and take the necessary step towards acting on the commitment to center Indigenous knowledge and perspectives: https://nativegov.org/news/beyond-land-acknowledgment-guide/
Other ways to support:
Consider making an annual contribution to Indigenous groups in your area, directly supporting native sovereignty and land reclamation. If you also work or reside in Berkeley, Oakland, or nearby, join us in contributing to The Shuumi Land Tax, a voluntary financial contribution that non-Indigenous people living on the Confederated Villages of Lisjan’s territory can make to support the critical work of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust.
In addition to prioritizing inclusivity as an organizational value, AEOE's leadership team approved the statement below in March 2022 to publicly state our commitment to this work and affirm our organizational why to drive our efforts.
We work to center equity for a just and sustainable future for all
Just like environmental and outdoor educators have a responsibility to establish learning environments that are inclusive and welcoming for all learners, at AEOE we strive to create a community of environmental champions where everyone belongs. This work is critical to our mission and vision. If we truly believe that our planet needs environmental education (EE), and that every young person has the right to meaningful learning experiences outdoors, it will take ALL of us working in partnership to make that happen. As an organization, if we want to grow in our reach and capacity, we must be self-critical and thoughtful about ways we can do better to represent and serve the field of EE in our state. This includes the recognition of harmful practices and narratives perpetuated by white-led organizations and upheld by many of the early leaders of the modern conservation and environmental education movement. In order to achieve our mission and vision we must address systemic barriers across our field, promote cultural relevancy as a necessary component of high-quality EE, and acknowledge the interconnectedness of lived experiences of the members of our community and the participants they serve.
We believe that everyone has the right to the physical, social, emotional, and academic benefits of learning outdoors. Access to nature and EE must not be a matter of privilege, and yet many communities experience barriers to environmental and outdoor learning. EE can and should help to break down these barriers and ensure that everyone feels comfortable, safe, and welcome outside. We believe that EE is most effective when delivered in a culturally relevant manner that provides memorable lived experiences and promotes environmental literacy. Through connection and understanding of the natural world, individuals are more inclined to address challenging environmental issues. Cultural responsiveness and environmental literacy are intimately connected and more diverse voices and perspectives lead to greater ideas and solutions for the challenges of our times.
AEOE is listening, learning, and taking action to become more equitable and inclusive in order to support the transformation of the EE field in our state and beyond. We respect the individuality of each member of our community, and we are committed to establishing working and learning environments that are free of any kind of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sexuality, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, national or ethnic origin, politics, veteran status, or any other aspect of identity. We are working to increase the diversity of our staff, board, volunteers, members, and supporters, and fostering an inclusive network of EE providers across the state. We aim to provide learning opportunities and resources that will support our members and partners on their journeys toward becoming more equitable, inclusive, just, and diverse.
We recognize that this vital work is never finished. Our efforts will continue to evolve as we engage in dialogue and reflection. If you have feedback or would like to join us in centering equity within our organization, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an effort to promote transparency about our commitment to centering equity and inclusion, please see some of the actions taken by our organization below.
Actions undertaken by AEOE in 2023 to advance equity and inclusion within our work:
Offered scholarships for EECP and Statewide Conference, 50% of which were dedicated to BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ individuals to increase access and remove barriers to participation; discounted assisted level registration offered for Fall Regional Meet-ups for anyone needing financial assistance to attend
Supported participation of staff and board in Network for Network Leaders
Finalized organizational values, establishing inclusivity as a core principle for how we want to show up in the world
Conducted board recruitment with prioritization of individuals with lived and professional experience working with BIPOC communities
Featured the work of José G. González – the Founder of Latino Outdoors and Co-Founder of the Outdoorist Oath – as the 2023 Conference Keynote; José spoke about systems change, wayfinding, and the importance of modeling our organizations and communities on thriving meadows, calling on us to “Be with nature, as nature, in radical and revolutionary balance”
Offered mini grants to EECP participants (funded through CA Coastal Commission’s Whale Tail Grant) to support community action projects
Rewrote Communications & Relationships Manager job description and hiring process with equity lens
Collected awardee demographics for Environmental Educator of the Year and Lifetime Achievement (Howard Bell) to understand who we are celebrating with our annual awards – effort conducted retroactively through outreach to awardees from past ten years, and collected annually moving forward
Launched Universal Design for Learning in EE online course to support educators and program leaders to make programming more accessible and inclusive for all learners
Actions undertaken by AEOE in 2022 to advance equity and inclusion within our work:
Developed a resource bank of articles, videos, podcasts, consultants, etc.
Committed more than 20 hours of equity, inclusion, and anti-racism training for AEOE’s Executive Director and offered opportunities for additional training for board members
Continued convening of Equity & Inclusion Committee; brought new members and volunteers onto committee for additional perspectives and expertise
Implementation of a staff and board equity primer, developed by Candice Dickens-Russell, formerly with DoGoodery
Question added on statewide conference workshop application form that explicitly asks how the workshop supports equity and inclusion
Established collection of member demographics in the following areas: race/ethnicity, gender pronouns, EE experience and associated role, geographic location
Provided twelve scholarships for Environmental Educator Certification Program participants (out of 50 total enrolled), with a minimum of 50% set aside for those who identify as members of communities that have historically been marginalized within the field of EE (BIPOC and LGBTQIA+)
Hosted listening sessions with EE providers across the state, the aims of which included an assessment of the degree organizations were centering equity in their work
Program Leader retreat included professional development session titled “Envisioning and Creating Inclusive Teams and Advancing Equity within your Organization” - facilitated by Blanca Hernández, Director of Programs & Partnerships at YES Nature to Neighborhoods
Actions undertaken by AEOE in 2021 to advance equity and inclusion within our work:
Focused Board and volunteer recruitment to celebrate all forms of identity – including, but not limited to, race and ethnicity – with the explicit goal of our leadership team being more representative of the state of California
Provided scholarships for Environmental Educator Certification Program participants, with a minimum of 50% set aside for those who identify as members of communities that have historically been marginalized within the field of EE
Amplification of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-led organizations and the intersectionality of EE, climate justice, and racial justice through our social media platforms
Committed more than 40 hours of equity, inclusion, and anti-racism training for AEOE’s Executive Director and offered opportunities for additional training for board members
Established new membership tiers to support organizations with varying capacity and for individuals who need financial support to be a part of our network
Established annual collection of board member demographics in the following areas: race/ethnicity, gender pronouns, LGBTQIA+ affinity, EE experience, geographic location
Sought and secured funding directed towards consultants skilled in equity and inclusion to help us advance this work internally
Utilized virtual workshops for greater convenience to attendees, and selected topics of interest for more diverse audiences (e.g. work settings, roles).
Established common language for how AEOE commits to advancing this work: