Environmental educators from Alabama colleges and universities will gather at Samford University May 6 and 7 for the first-ever Alabama Academic Environmental Summit. Delegates are expected from most of Alabama's 36 four-year schools and some two-year colleges.
The event is sponsored by Samford's Vulcan Materials Center for Environmental Stewardship and Education in partnership with the Washington, D.C.,-based Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD) and National Council for Science and the Environment.
The gathering is the first of its kind involving educational institutions, and will be looked at by the national CEDD group as a possible template for meetings in other states.
By bringing the educators together, organizers hope to build community, share information and set the stage for future collaborations.
A major purpose of the meeting is to identify environmental leaders in Alabama's academic community, according to Summit coordinator Ginny Brown, administrator of Samford's Vulcan Materials Center.
"Alabama is a state that's working hard to improve its environment," notes Samford biology professor Dr. Paul Blanchard. "If we are organized and networked, we can help promote that process."
"As educators, we want to tell the younger generation what they need to know and what mistakes we've made in working toward sustainability. We want to make sure we're a healthy state," said Blanchard, who co-directs the Vulcan Materials Center with Samford professor Dr. Ron Hunsinger.
Participants hope to create working discussion among environmental educators, identify common challenges and solutions, foster collaborations with environmental leaders at colleges in other states, and identify funding and partnership opportunities for environmental research and education.
Blanchard notes that while existing environmental interest groups mainly engage teachers and volunteers, the educators' group will promote "bringing all the stakeholders together, including government, industry, higher education and the public."
Speakers include CEDD president Brad Smith, who is also president of the World Conservation Learning Network; and CEDD executive secretary David Blockstein, senior scientist, National Council for Science and the Environment.
Topics on Saturday morning include discussion of common issues and challenges related to environmental curriculum, program administration and campus sustainability. At 1 p.m., the coordinator of a partnership of New York colleges and universities will discuss collaborative environmental education efforts being made in that state.
Most events will be held in the Samford Sciencenter on Satuarday. Some events, including a Friday reception and a 6:30 a.m. bird walk on Saturday, will be held at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.