Every year we jump on the Amtrak in Elkhart and take our Merry Lea environmental education graduate students on a “field trip” to our nation’s capitol. This past week we visited with Rep. Marlin Stutzman, Rep. Jackie Walorski, Sen. Joe Donnelly, Sen. Debbie Stabenow from Michigan, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island and Rep. John Sarbanes from Maryland, to ask them about what they think of environmental education, their opinions of climate change action plans, what they feel are the benefits of wind and solar vs. coal and oil, and if they can help support small family farms grow our food.
We also met a variety of environmental organizations, including:
• the Natural Resource Defense Council, to find out what they defend;
• the National Family Farm Coalition and their successes of helping family farms;
• WE ACT that works on environmental justice in the D.C. area;
• the Climate Reality Project that is working on educating the public about the strongly-debated-yet-confirmed reality of climate change, and
• the North American Association of Environmental Education that is working on networking and unifying the environmental educators around the world.
We also met with the Environmental Education office of the Environmental Protection Agency to hear their frustration of the lack of systemic change of the pressing issues, the Secretary of the Interior’s staff to find out how they lead 70,000 employees, the Council on Environmental Quality to discuss what the CEQ does, as well as the first lady’s office to hear about the success of the first lady’s Let’s Move campaign and how they get kids outdoors.
The goal of the field trip is to integrate the classes the grad students take and their knowledge they’ve acquired while at Merry Lea to discover why environmental education is so political.