On April 23rd, 28 environmental educators from the
greater Southwest Minnesota region converged on the Jeffers
Petroglyphs Historic Site for a meeting sponsored by the site,
Association for Environmental Education, and the Center for
Rural and Regional Studies at Southwest State University. The
night before the meeting, rainfall amounts throughout parts of
the region reached four inches. These dedicated educators were
not stopped by road detours and were not about to be kept inside
due to typical cool weather and steady winds.
They began in the interpretive center by sharing
ideas and resources over supper. As participants introduced themselves,
they gave testimony to the varied, creative examples of what environmental
education (EE) means in this corner of the state. Those who teach
about agriculture and rural culture explained their ties to the
environment. Naturalists offered to convey their outdoor enthusiasm
to classes and community groups. Agency educators and teachers
exchanged activity ideas. Professors learned about potential research
and field trip sites. Students were given an introduction to EE
as a career.
After gathering bags full of handouts, books, and
posters, the participants headed out into the stiff prairie wind
to witness the famed Native American rock carvings, etched over
the past 5000 years. They examined a patch of unplowed prairie
and a rock outcrop make glass-like by the rubbing of buffalo.
As the sun set on the prairie horizon, each participant left with
new contacts, a renewed pride in the region, and a commitment
to teaching about its heritage.