Wendell Berry, Kentucky’s most eloquent environmentalist, once stated that caring for the Earth “is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility.” Guided by these words, Northern Kentucky University’s Center for Environmental Education
is achieving growing success in improving the environmental literacy of citizens, both young and old, on both sides of the Ohio River.
The Center is one of eight in the Kentucky University Partnership for Environmental Education. All provide professional development for working teachers and teachers-in-training through courses, curriculum training and other programs, like activity trunks that schools can use in the classroom.
From humble beginnings in 2002, the NKU Center has seen a marked increase in attention and funding under its current director, Steve Kerlin, including a recent $22,000 grant from AT&T to support recycling education in the classroom. Kerlin credits this growth to fostering strong coalitions with local businesses like AT&T and other area organizations. Through a partnership with NASA, Kerlin and his staff designed and implemented an energy education graduate course for teachers, the first of its kind in the country. By allowing the Center to organize field trips on their property, Northern Kentucky Boy Scout camps have introduced school children to their facilities and the fun of scouting.
NKU is the only school in the northern region of Kentucky where a teacher completing the Center’s twelve credit program can add environmental education to their license. This summer, Kerlin and biology professor Miriam Kannan co-taught a course on service learning in environmental education. “We’re currently exploring that course as a model because of its service learning component. We had fourteen [students] and were very happy and surprised at how involved they got…most students did way more than [the required] 21 hours.”
Perhaps these students realized, like Wendell Berry, what a “most pleasing responsibility” nurturing our environment can be.
: Earning an environmental education certification as a K-12 educator through the NKU Center for Environmental Education.
Look: For various public learning programs that the Center offers, often through the Boone County parks
Support: the Center through donations, since federal and state funding has been cut in recent years
By Becky Johnson