K-12 Community of Practice for Land Trusts
FRLT’s Learning Landscapes program, designed to foster a deep connection to land among the children of the Feather River region, is also fostering a community of land trust K-12 educators beyond the ridges of our home watershed. Learning Landscapes is our nature-kid connection program that pairs conservation and outdoor classroom development with place-based education in partnership with teachers, school districts, and communities. While conceived and operated as a Feather River region program, the Learning Landscapes model and vision are inspiring others across the country.
K-12 Community of Practice
Raising up Young Land Stewards
Guided by Rob Wade, Learning Landscapes Coordinator, FRLT has supported the formation of a national Community of Practice, a type of peer-to-peer network among land trusts for K-12 outdoor education programs. This cohort of land trust folks are dedicated to raising up the next generation of earth stewards and building equitable, accessible, and community-driven programs for school-age kids where they live.
The goal of the K-12 Community of Practice is to support land trusts across the nation to establish high quality K-12 environmental education programs that reflect the nature and culture of their place and the capacity of their organizations. With this goal in mind, and with support from a generous family foundation, Learning Landscapes has hosted an annual meeting of leaders from 15–17 land trusts each of the last three years.
The Learning Landscapes Leadership Summit
Peer support for resilience and pivoting to change
In early March of 2020, before we fully understood how COVID-19 would change everyday life, FRLT and Rob Wade hosted the first ever Learning Landscapes K-12 Leadership Summit at the Nakoma Resort in Eastern Plumas County. The Summit convened 15 land trusts from Maine to California along with partner organizations at a four-day working retreat with facilitated program planning and professional development sessions.
By the end of the Summit 2020, land trust teams left with improved program plans, new evaluation metrics, and “elevator pitches” to garner support from donors and board members. Then the realities of the COVID pandemic played out…
But the beauty of the Community of Practice network allowed for program development to continue. Diligently nurtured by Rob, over the course of the last 26 months, FRLT has hosted monthly calls and continued to mentor other land trusts on their journey to develop exceptional kid and nature programs.
In March 2021, the Summit convened virtually. The theme of the 2021 Summit was resilience and pivoting to change. While most schools closed for in-person instruction, the value of time spent outdoors, and the need for land trust services that connect people to the land grew. Participants shared resources and best practices on how to connect to their constituency via Zoom, implement socially distanced activities, and how to assist teachers and schools with more outdoor instruction. One Learning Landscapes attribute that was adopted by many land trusts during the pandemic was proximity–using adjacent lands and the school campus itself to offer learning experiences.
Teaching kids in the outdoors, about the outdoors, is an investment in the land trust’s future.
—Sarah Mayhew, Little Traverse Conservancy
This year’s summit, Summit ’22, reconvened the Community of Practice back in Plumas County, which for many, was the first in-person professional gathering since the pandemic began. While each land trust team once again had dedicated time and facilitated activities to work on their specific kids in nature programs, it was the peer-to-peer mentoring and group comradery that emerged as the most valued outcome of the event. Rob Wade described this quality as, “we have worked hard to forge a community built upon respect, trust, and a commitment to share resources, including care and connection with our fellow colleagues.”
For their future
Help us connect kids to nature and grow the next generation of earth stewards
Perpetuity—A culture of care for future generations
In land conservation we’re committed to perpetuity, so that what we conserve is protected forever. K-12 outdoor education programs hold a similar promise by nurturing a connection to nearby nature and community that is valued and passed down through generations. In a session at the Leadership Summit, Sarah Mayhew of Little Traverse Conservancy shared “Teaching kids in the outdoors, about the outdoors, is an investment in the land trust’s future.”
Inspired by this concept, the Community of Practice’s next step is to define “perpetuity principles” and develop tangible actions toward these principles that can be used widely by land trusts across the country. The group has established that inclusivity and equity are key—programs designed with perpetuity in mind will only be successful if all children have equal access and opportunity.
At the Leadership Summit this March, each participant was asked what perpetuity meant to them personally and professionally. Junior Rodriguez of the Jackson Hole Land Trust shared, “Perpetuity means empowerment. I ask the question, who are we empowering? You can’t have forever if you aren’t inspiring the next generation, and then mentoring them and helping them succeed. You can’t have forever if you aren’t empowering kids.”
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K-12 Leadership Summit and Community of Practice
Feather River Land Trust
Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast
Little Traverse Land Trust
Kennebunkport Conservation Trust
Center for Conservation Renewal
Lemhi Regional Land Trust
Columbia Land Conservancy
Kenebec Land Trust
Jackson Hole Land Trust
Coastal Mountains Land Trust
Land Trust for Tennessee
Sierra County Land Trust
Solano Land Trust
Children & Nature Network (Green Schoolyards)
The Avarna Group
North Carolina State University (Evaluation)
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