NZ Association for Environmental Education: A conversation with Sally Birdsall, Chair, National Executive Committee
Tell us a little about the New Zealand Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE).
The New Zealand Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE)’s mission is to promote and support lifelong learning and encourage behaviors that lead to sustainability. We are an independent voice for environmental education, empowering people to respect and nurture the environment, recognizing its link to cultural, economic, and social aspects of sustainability. NZAEE serves as an independent voice for environmental education, and works at both a national and regional level throughout the country. In terms of structure, we have six regional branches: Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Wellington, Christchurch and Southern.
What are some of NZAEE’s key initiatives?
NZAEE serves as the national coordinator for Seaweek, New Zealand’s annual national week dedicated to learning about the sea. It’s a time for all of us to get to know our ocean, its habitats, characteristics and inhabitants better. In New Zealand, you’re never more than three or four hours’ drive from the sea, so it’s a huge part of our culture.
NZAEE’s biennual conference brings together more than 200 delegates. Last year’s conference, held in April 2018, An Ecosystem for Environmental Education, was a huge success. Opened by Associate Minister of the Environment Nanaia Mahuta at Wellington Girls College, delegates were immersed in the strong community of environmental educators sharing the exceptional work they are doing throughout the country and beyond.
What is the most rewarding part of running an EE association?
The most rewarding part is talking with other environmental educators and listening to their stories about their programmes. We all experience this at our conferences and when we either attend or read the national report about Seaweek events.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start an EE association in their country or region?
Find a group of like-minded people, decide on one thing that you want to achieve together in terms of EE, and work towards that. With our busy lives, we find that focusing on one event/experience at a time means that we are more likely to experience success. Then you can plan the next one. Success with one event definitely inspires us to plan the next!