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Missouri Environmental Education News
September 2019

Table of Contents: Article/Lesson: Learning From Nature, Remembering Jenna Rhodes, Things to Look Out for in September, Kudos, MEEA News, Grants, Contests and Awards, Conferences, Workshops, Jobs

Dear MEEA Members,

This month brought sad news of the sudden passing of a former MEEA member and Board President, Jenna Rhodes. I never had the privilege of meeting Jenna, but have been so moved by the stories I've been hearing about her. As I learned about Jenna's gift of service to the world, what stood out most to me was her genuineness and her fearlessness--qualities of someone who wasn't afraid to be vulnerable, who went all-out for her passions. These qualities helped propel MEEA to some important milestones, as Jan Weaver outlines in her remembrance of Jenna in this month's newsletter, and offer an inspiring legacy to all of us. Hannah Hemmelgarn's article this month on learning from nature is also a great example of fearlessness. Hannah's passion for plants and her commitment to respectfully sharing indigenous voices and practices inspires me personally and professionally. Thanks for reading, and thank you for bringing your diverse passions to this organization. May we fearlessly work together to realize the audacious MEEA vision of a Missouri citizenry that loves nature, has the skills to care for our ecosystems, and has compassion and empathy for their fellow humans.

Lesli Moylan, Executive Director

Learning FROM Nature

by Hannah Hemmelgarn, Education Program Coordinator,
University of MO Center for Agroforestry

Photo credit: Polina Malikin, Wild Folk

Western science has dominated our classroom content and approaches for generations, but as place-based education becomes more widely recognized, diverse worldviews can be useful entry points for learning from the environment (as opposed to about the environment).  In this context, we recognize ourselves as part of the natural world, and able to connect in ways otherwise difficult when plants and animals are objectified simply as “natural resources” (hint: they’re also our companions and collaborators on this planet).  

Here are some tips, activities, and resources to start embodying a relational worldview:

We often refer to plants and animals as “it”; this is a language of objectification that keeps us farther from relationship.  To facilitate finding connection and inherent value, practice referring to these fellow living beings as “they / them/ their” (gender neutral language, unless a gender is known).    Robin Wall Kimmerer, PhD scientist and member of the Potawatomi Nation, has authored wonderful articles and books on the importance of a “language of animacy” for bringing nature to life.  Her books include Braiding Sweetgrass (2014) and Gathering Moss (2003). If you prefer sound media, check out this interview from Orion Magazine

Whether indoors or out, we can practice listening to plant teachings by spending time observing them without judgment.  Authors of Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature (2010) and many others inspired by Indigenous ways of learning, suggest a regular “sit spot” to make space for observation.  Our ecological community members are telling us stories about who they are, what they offer and experience. They do not exist in isolation, so take in all that you witness around them. Each day or week, take 5 or 10 minutes for learners to revisit their “sit spot” (ideally outdoors where plants and animals may be in view).  This meditative practice can include guidance to notice what or who you see, hear, smell, to notice changes over time and your own inner feelings. Journaling can be complementary to this regular activity, and an effective way to assess students’ observations.

Photo credit: Polina Malikin, Wild Folk

Mother Nature offers us many gifts.  If you are fortunate to have a school garden space, this can be an ideal place to practice being in relationship with plants, soil, water, insects and birds.  Native perennial plants that offer food, medicine, fibers, and habitat that are easy to grow and maintain include elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), willow (Salix spp.), pawpaw (Asimina triloba), mints (Lamiacea family), sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus), and many others.  When harvesting, ask permission of the plants (Are they abundant? Are they ready to be harvested? Are they healthy?), and express your gratitude.  Get to know the fruits, roots, and fibers intimately by creating delicious food together. Many of these plants are available from the Missouri Dept. of Conservation nursery, or free for schools from MO Forest ReLeaf.

Photo by: Rebecca Desnos,

Post Script from Lesli: The picture above (depicting making watercolor paint from coreopsis, hot water, lemon juice, and baking soda) is from a lovely magazine blog I ran across. Something as simple as this develops children's sense of wonder about nature, while opening the door for required topics in art and science (i.e. understanding the color wheel and exploring pH). And I couldn't agree more with Hannah's recommendation to practice a "sit spot". A school garden is an ideal place to encourage children to adopt a spot, any spot, away from others to be quiet and just be part of nature for a few minutes. My copy of Coyote's Guide arrived the same day Hannah sent me her article. The Sit Spot is THE core practice the authors recommend (for anyone), and this book has inspired me to return to the personal practice of designating a spot and visiting it as often as possible. Thanks for sharing, Hannah!

Remembering Jenna Rhodes

by Jan Weaver

Jenna Rhodes, former MEEA board member and officer died suddenly from complications due to a stroke on July 31, 2019. She was attended by her family in death. Afterwards, her organs were donated to help others. She was 39. 

Jenna began her association with MEEA while she was a high school science teacher at Grandview School District. She served for two years as a board member, 2006 to 2007, and then began a three year term as President Elect, President, and Past President from 2008 to 2010. During her tenure in MEEA, the organization was able to step away from state support and survive on its own fundraising efforts, hire part-time staff, develop a strategic planning initiative, and finalize a State Environmental Literacy Plan. This plan laid the ground work for other initiatives, including a major revision of our environmental educator certification program, development of our mini-grant program, and creation of a Missouri Green Schools program. 

Jenna continued at Grandview for two more years, and several students have attested to her life-changing advice and example in their Facebook tributes. In 2012 Jenna moved to Arkansas to earn a Master of Public Service degree at the Clinton School of Public Service, and then a Master of Public Health degree at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. At the time of her death, she was the Manager for the Arkansas Farm to School program, the Arkansas GardenCorps and North Little Rock Jump Start Coalition.

This celebration of her life in Arkansas as a National Farm to School Network Partner captures everything she was when a member of MEEA’s board.

Her obituary lists scholarships set up in her name for the Clinton School of Public Service, the University of Central Arkansas Community Development Institute, and the Grandview Education Foundation.!/Obituary

Things to Look for (or Look Out for) in September!

(check out all the green holidays)

What to Look for Right Now - MDC's list of What's Out There in September!


Kudos to the Environmental Educators of North Carolina for their new online resource page about Equity and Inclusion in Environmental Education. From resources for the classroom to Bias Interruptors for the hiring process, this is an excellent compilation of resources. Please check it out!

Kudos to Parkway School District for their district-wide Sustainabilty Challenge, a year-long contest that includes monthly mini-challenges related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at

Kudos to the teen volunteers in the St. Louis Zoo's Zoo ALIVE program, who reintroduced the endangered American Burying Beetles into southwest prairies of Missouri for the 6th summer in a row.

Kudos to the St. Louis Community College-Meramec campus for their efforts to remove invasive Euonymus fortunei 'Coloratus' (Wintercreeper) from 33 trees on their campus, and to Missouri Prairie Foundation for helping get the word out about STLCC's efforts. Wintercreeper is an invasive plant that's tricky. When it grows horizontally as a groundcover, it doesn't present a problem because it never flowers and sets fruit. But when it finds something to climb and grow vertically on, it produces copious berries that get spread by birds. Euonymus fortunei 'Coloratus' can grow quickly and in a wide variety of conditions. Visit to learn more.


  • People Team
    • Memberships - Welcome new members Tillman Elementary, Kerry Arens, Amber Bortner, Fredericks Brandt, Megan Fox, Judith Heartsong, Kirsten Mathis, Ari Moore, R. Eric Staley, and Doug Wolter!
    • Outreach - Laura Seger (St. Louis Zoo, Education Department) presented "Assessment: It's Not a Dirty Word, but It Can Be a Muddy One" at the Natural Start Alliance's Early Learning Conference. Lesli Moylan attended EdHubSTL's fall equity in education event at the Cortex in St. Louis, and met with Litzsinger Road Ecology Center educators and the owners of new St. Louis-based business Outside360.
    • Surveys - Thanks to the 3-dozen MEEA members who participated in the educator surveys!
    • Partnerships - See Outreach above.
    • MELAB - Mark your calendars for December 12, 10 am to 3 pm in Jefferson City for the next MELAB meeting. We will be diving into the creation of a partnership network to support green schools for all Missouri kids.
  • Purpose
    • Conference - Registration for the MEEA conference will open on September 15! The conference committee reviewed session proposals during the last week of August and had the hard job of selecting from more high-caliber hour-long presentations than we have spots for. We look forward to a jam-packed day of learning on Nov. 2!
    • Missouri Green Schools - Enrollment open, sign up at If your school is interested in applying for the US Dept of Ed's Green Ribbon School award, the deadline is Jan. 6. See In talks with IT folks to develop a plan and budget to create a more user-friendly, digital version of the assessment and tracking spreadsheet we currently have.
    • Grants - MEEA mini-grants 2019 application online, deadline is Oct. 1
  • Resources
    • Accounting - The Board approved the July Treasurer's Report at the August meeting.
    • Fund Development - MEEA and partner Think About Tables submitted a proposal to the L-A-D Foundation to develop and promote invasive species curriculum that utilizes a mock trial format. MEEA submitted an inquiry to the Pisces Foundation for a capacity building grant for the Missouri Green Schools program.
  • Governance Team
    • Board of Directors - Next board meeting will be Tuesday, September 24 @ 4 pm, join by zoom link August meeting was held on August 30, so minutes will be uploaded to the website this month.
    • Administration - We are working on segmenting our membership list so we can share regional opportunities as they come up.

Coming Up in the Next Two Months

  • Workshops and Events around Missouri details here
    • Climate change online education opportunity through Cornell University: 5 weeks (Sept 3 – Oct 15, 2019) “Climate Change Science, Communication, and Action” Register: This course covers the basics of climate change, from science to action. We delve into the subtleties of climate change communication and explore climate action from the standpoint of policy and through the lens of growing climate social movements. Using Drawdown’s comprehensive list of climate change solutions, we help you focus on a climate action that you can achieve during the course, and then provide a framework to help you plan post-course climate engagement. Cost: $60.

(These count for Environmental Educator Certification categories 1, 2 or 3. Visit the EE Certification page here)

EE Jobs details here