Tuesday, September 6, 2016

5 Things I’ve learned from Working at CGEE

CGEE Student Voice
by Steven Beardsley

Being a Storm Drain Goalie with other CGEE staff
At Solstice River 2014
I have been working at the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) since the summer of my first year at Hamline University. While working at the center, I have had multiple opportunities to represent CGEE at its many teacher institutes (the St. Croix River, the Mississippi River, and the WaterWorks! institutes) and through outreach at other events (like the unveiling of the light rail Green Line and the Solstice River dance performance along the Mississippi).

I have also had the chance to work on significant projects, such as helping to create this blog - which includes a place for CGEE student employees and other Hamline students to share their insights. When I did my semester abroad in Spain, I took the opportunity to learn about environmental awareness and education initiatives and share that information through a blog post.

As I leave CGEE to teach English as a foreign language in Cuenca, Ecuador this fall (which I am very excited about), I would like to share 5 takeaways from working at the center. They are:

1. Environmental education, literacy, science, and writing are all interconnected:
Cinda reading a story with Cara as the talking lobster
at Mississippi Rivers Institute 2015
A major takeaway from helping out at the different Rivers Institutes that CGEE hosts for teacher professional development is that scientific inquiry and literacy are interconnected. As a creative writer and lover of the environment, I enjoyed using my five senses to capture what it was like to ride the Magnolia Blossom riverboat down the Mississippi River. From the eagles nesting in the trees, to the gurgling of the steamboat engine and even the smell of exhaust fumes (that made me feel a little dizzy but still did not take away from the wonders of the river), I learned a lot about the river. I also came to enjoy one of the Mississippi River Institute's instructors, Ed Pembleton, who talked about Fibonacci numbers and the significance of mathematical patterns in nature. Though people may often think that science and poetry are separate, I’ve realized from working with CGEE and going to school at Hamline that this is far from the case. If a teacher can bring in a hand puppet of a lobster and write a story about macroinvertebrates and the river, for example, then science, environmental education, literacy, and writing can all be interconnected.

2. Environmental awareness follows you everywhere
Battery recycling stand in Murcia, Spain
When I mean everywhere I literally mean everywhere. Since working at CGEE, I've consciously taken the time to look for signs of environmental initiatives in the places I visit: the battery recycling stands in Murcia, Spain; the stenciled storm drains encouraging “Adopt-a-drain” in California; and even thinking about whether my neighbors or friends know that what goes down their storm drains ends up in our lakes and rivers. I have also gained a lot from posting content to our Facebook page and reading about environmental education on the blog. It only takes a few minutes of my time, but taking the time to be environmentally aware has really enriched me. I now know a lot about the different initiatives taking place in Murcia, Spain through their public university there: Campus Sostenible.

3. Being new to a job is a good thing
At graduation ceremony with
supervisor Brinkley Prescott
When I started at CGEE, it was my first time having a part-time job that involved putting together binders, data entry, and other administrative tasks. I learned to embrace and enjoy the myriad of work I was assigned - even washing the dishes after WaterShed Partners meetings. I learned to do a mail-merge and use Excel to manage contacts -  practical things that can act as job experience on a resume. I learned the importance of asking questions and getting oriented to where everything is found This could be said about any job, but I was lucky to learn this at CGEE. I am happy with my BA in English (with a Concentration in Creative Writing and Spanish) and my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, though I could definitely be a good administrative assistant in another job.

4. People care and do want to talk about the environment
Helping a guest with CGEE
interactive media at the
24th Anniversary Celebration
Sometimes this job could be difficult, when a lot of the articles and posts talk about current and future water scarcity and/or environmental degradation. But I have learned from working for CGEE in the Eco-Experience building at the State Fair that people care and want to talk about the environment. Sometimes it’s just talking about initiatives that I hadn’t heard of or wanting to be involved on a governmental level. But it shows that there are people who do care and want to make a difference. I've also learned that I can make a difference in my everyday life when it comes to being environmentally conscious. I now take 5 minute showers and am aware of the kinds of pollution impacting our waterways, which has been important for me.

5. The environment affects everyone and relates to every facet of society
By lumaxart (3D Full Spectrum Unity Holding Hands Concept)
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or
CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons
I have posted much about going outside or doing work in the environment on the Facebook page; Some posts on the blog have been in this same vein. I have learned that issues of food scarcity and water pollution affect everyone, including and especially low-income communities and communities of color. I have learned a great deal about my different social identities at Hamline; I think working at CGEE has added the environment as another important aspect of who I am. Regardless of who we are, we all live somewhere on this planet with other creatures. We all need food and water to survive and we all need to be responsible for not only how we treat each other but how what we do impacts our environment and the rest of us collectively. So when it comes to social justice, I think environmental stewardship and justice are also quintessential.

Those are the main things I have gained from working at CGEE. For me, it has meant a whole lot more than simply working another part-time job. It has been a valuable experience that I have had the privilege to enjoy.

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