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Missouri Environmental Education News
May/June 2020

Left to right: Chanterelles (photo by Jeff Cantrell), Bearded Tooth (photo by David Bruns), and Orange Bracket Fungi (photo by Jeff Cantrell)

Table of Contents: Article: Co-Creating a New Normal, Lesson : Finding Forest Fungi, Things to Look Out for Right Now, Kudos, MEEA News, Grants, Contests and Awards, Conferences, Workshops, Jobs

Dear MEEA Members,

I hope this edition of the MEEA newsletter finds you healthy. I also hope you enjoyed a wonderful Mother's Day weekend, and that it included some time reveling in the life-giving wonders of the natural world. During these uncertain times, MEEA remains committed to being a connector and providing high quality environmental education resources througout the state. If you have the capacity right now to assist in realizing that vision, please let us know. We can always use your help! If you'd like to let us know how you're doing right now and how we might best serve your needs, please take this member survey by May 17.

A big thank you this month goes to MEEA Board Member, Hannah Hemmelgarn, for contributing the EE lesson on fungi (with its wealth of resources!) and co-writing the article with me. Last spring, right after attending a mushroom cultivation workshop led by Hannah, my family had to unexpectedly remove a sugar maple from our yard. Although the timber presented to me wasn't exactly healthy and not ideal for mushroom cultivation, I decided to try it anyway. Fast forward one year and, as suspected, several mushroom species are competing with the shitake that we introduced. However, this actually is only increasing the joy and wonder I experience as I check on the life emerging from and honoring my old friend Sugar Maple. Don't be afraid to try your hand at mushroom farming--whatever happens, you will be learning something interesting!

Thank you for reading, and thank you for the love of Nature and respect for education that you bring to your work.

Lesli Moylan, Executive Director

Connecting to Co-Create a "New Normal"

by Hannah Hemmelgarn and Lesli Moylan

“Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth “you owe me”. Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky” --Rumi

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” --Lilla Watson, Indigenous Murri artist and activist


There’s a lot of talk right now about what things will be like ‘when this is all over’. A teacher friend asked his students to consider what they think will happen ‘after’, and what they want to happen. He then asked how they might start to lay the groundwork now for what they want to happen when some semblance of normal returns. A lot of us are thinking about that very thing--what do we want the new normal to be and how can we cultivate that reality?

The pandemic’s toll in the U.S. certainly sheds light on the inequities in our culture that so many of us want to change--the long history of disparity based on race and poverty are revealed in the digital education divide, access to safe work spaces and child care, and ultimately who contracts and dies from COVID-19.

As environmental educators, visioning the post-COVID future likely involves ecological healing, and as an interconnected piece of that ecological puzzle, we as humans have an opportunity to grow our impact together. In the midst of uncertainty, we have an opportunity to consider our work (both inner and outer) in terms of reciprocity and inclusion. We can learn from and stand with those communities who are most at-risk in these trying times. It takes a good deal of time and effort to create the connections that allow us to learn from people we don’t bump into in daily life, just as it takes time and effort to listen to and learn from Nature. But the potential benefit for all of us is great.

We’ve been taught for so long that nature is driven by competition for resources and survival of the fittest, that the dichotomy of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ is inevitable. But new research shows us (begs us to see?) that pervasive cooperation is actually the norm. Suzanne Simard, leader of The Mother Tree Project at the University of British Columbia, has confirmed that in contrast to the dominant competition narrative in post-colonial forestry studies, trees, by way of mycorrhizal networks, actually support one another as a living whole community being.

As we each face unique challenges in this uncertain time of tenuous collective health, may the resilience of the forest remind us of our power to connect. Like those mother trees who store and share the greatest wealth of resources, those of us who rest comfortably in our privilege have the capacity and the responsibility to open our minds and hearts, to learn from and be led by those whose needs are not met in the rocky soil of disparity. The path of healing may be long and arduous, but this unusual time opens a door to that mycelium-like reconnection for mutual support (even the smallest fungal threads contribute to the connective whole). Thank you for your work as an educator, as a lifelong learner, as one who listens and considers what our shared Mother (Nature) can teach us.

For more about The Mother Tree Project:

Finding Forest Fungi: A Lesson in Careful Observation

contributed by Hannah Hemmelgarn

Photo by David Stonner, from

Springtime in Missouri is a particularly abundant season for fungal fruits, whose life cycle is facilitated by rain and warming temperatures. Morels (Morchella spp.) are among the most widely known and loved by those who “hunt” mushrooms this time of year, with their notable appearance, smell, and cooked flavor. But foraging for mushrooms of all kinds (I prefer to think of the mushrooms finding me, rather than the other way around) is also an opportunity to slow down, notice your surroundings, and enjoy the beauty of the forest. During these times of social distancing, getting off the trail to look for mushrooms is also a great way to maintain safe space. Missouri state parks and many city trails remain open, with recommendations to respect fellow trail users. Whether or not you intend to harvest, cook and eat wild mushrooms, now is a great time to learn more about the diversity of fungal life in the forest, their important role, unique structures, shapes, and habits.

This lesson plan is intended for a classroom setting, but for now, consider the forest your classroom. Once you’re familiar with the mushroom-producing fungi life cycle (from spore to hyphae to mycelium to mushroom), apply your new knowledge with observation. Bring along a camera or notebook to record who you find in the forest, and make use of those resources that might be available to you (MOMS network, MDC field guides and books on fungi). If you harvest a mushroom, consider making a spore print and sharing your observations with other mycologists. The Center for Agroforestry also has educational resources for growing your own mushrooms; access a lesson plan on outdoor mushroom cultivation here.

If mushrooms have piqued your interest, The Missouri Mycological Society (MOMS, another incidental nod to Mother’s Day!) offers workshops throughout the year on edible and poisonous mushrooms. Their members also maintain an active facebook page where you can post a photo of your finds for feedback about a positive identification. Remember, never consume a mushroom without a 100% positive ID; wild mushrooms must be cooked to enjoy them safely; and always practice honorable harvest. Slowing down to notice your surroundings, including those wonderful mushrooms, spring ephemeral plants, budding and flowering trees, insects and birds, the musical sounds and sweet smells of the forest, you may also find yourself more attentive to some of the best plant and animal teachers I know: poison ivy and ticks! They remind us to avoid trampling mindlessly, and to return from the woods with an avid care for our continued health (i.e. tick check!). Be well, fellow foragers!

Things to Look for (or Look Out for) in May and June!

(check out all the green holidays)

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


Kudos to all the teachers who are providing EE opportunities for their students from afar. Traci Jansen, 1st grade teacher in St. Louis, incorporates outdoor observations into her students' daily A-Z end-of-year countdown activities. And Sarah Holmes, 7th grade science teacher in Kansas City, welcomes all students at her school to join her virtually when she suits up to take care of the Barstow School bees. What a gift teachers like these are to their students!

Kudos to MU Extension for creating the Missouri Food Finder. This online tool helps Missourians access local food in their region and find out delivery models used by each business during social distancing. Missouri farmers, ranchers, and local suppliers can register at the site as well.

Kudos to the St. Louis County Health Department for grantng funds to the City of Kirkwood to develop the new "Kirkwood Recycles" mobile app. Users can search items and learn how to recycle them properly, and play a game to test their recycling knowledge.

Kudos to earthday365 for including MEEA's Climate Communication webinar in their Earth Day Virtual Event. You can view the webinar at:

Kudos to the James River Basin Partnership for the video they created for the Springfield area 50th Earth Day Celebration. They demo how to do macroinvertebrate inventory of a stream using a kick net, and it is clear that this type of citizen science would be fun and enlightening for students of all ages! You can see the video here, and the kick net demo starts around minute 11.

Congratulations to the Summit School in Springfield for being 1 of 9 schools across the country selected for a Seeds for Education grant from Wild Ones for native plants on school campuses. And kudos to Wild Ones for providing these school grants to support kids and wildlife!

Kudos to Parkway School District for the launch of their new webpage all about sustainability. What a great model that other school districts could follow!

Missouri Foundation for Health, which supports the Missouri Green Schools expansion project as a funder and thought partner, has committed $15 million to a public health response to COVID-19. Kudos to this amazing organization with such diverse and strong partnerships throughout the state! We applaud all that MFH does to bring about a healthier Missouri.

Kudos to Operation Food Search and St. Louis County Libraries for teaming up to provide free drive-thru meal pickups at 9 library branches since the end of March. This week, books were added to the resources provided at these drive-thrus. Kudos to St. Louis County Library Foundation, The Opportunity Trust, Gateway Regional YMCA, Literacy Initiative, Missouri Humanities and Ready Readers for donating books to make this happen.

Kudos to the Kansas City Star and the St. Louis Post Dispatch for running John Flesher's Associated Press article about US river communities and some new responses to repeated flooding. Flesher shares how some river towns, like Arnold, MO, are starting to convert frequently flooded land into wetlands rather than continuing to rebuild for commercial and residential use. It's great to see a shift in thinking about floodplain management and to see it highlighted in the news!

Kudos to MU Extension and the Missouri Star Quilt Company, and hundreds of volunteers in NW Missouri for partnering to create 15,000 masks to help keep nurses and other healthcare workers safe and healthy on the job. One group provided group provided the materials, one provided the communication and outreach, and the other provided their time and skill. There are so many stories of people stepping up like this, kudos!


Coming Up in the Next Two Months

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

EE Jobs details here