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Fast Five with Eileen Boekestein, EGLE's new environmental education coordinator

Eileen Boekestein headshotEileen Boekestein recently joined the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) as its environmental education coordinator. She joins us for this Fast Five edition of MI Environment.

What's your background? How did you become interested in environmental education?

I've been an environmental educator for 15 years, working in formal and non-formal educational settings including nature centers, colleges, nonprofits, and local government positions. I earned my bachelor of science degree in Environmental Biology because it allowed me to be outside and follow my love of learning about everything in nature (my mom says my first word was "bird"). I later earned a master's degree in Environmental Studies because I became interested in how important the human social/economic/political dimensions are in environmental protection. I'm currently a Certified Environmental Educator through the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education and a Civics and Environmental Education - Change Fellow with the North American Association for Environmental Education.

Will your job focus on environmental education for kids or adults? Both?

My work focuses on environmental education for people of all ages! My position was established by law under the Part 25 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act of 1994. This directs me to facilitate education for all citizens of the state of Michigan around basic ecological and environmental sciences and the connections between human and environmental systems. The goal is to facilitate environmental literacy - an ability to understand environmental issues and have the skills and motivations needed to make responsible decisions around environmental use, protection, and conservation.

What is your favorite environmental topic to teach?

I've spent a lot of time teaching about water quality and watersheds, and it's still one of my favorite topics because water connects everything. Some of my other favorites to teach about include tree identification and anything about birds!

Have you had a memorable moment from seeing the result of your teaching?

In my previous position I spent a lot of time directly supporting K-12 teachers and classrooms as they implemented place-based education and stewardship projects. One of my favorite memories is when the parent of a student whose class I had been working with emailed me a photo of the rain garden their family had installed. She told me her son had come home and told the whole family about what he'd been learning and convinced them they should help protect the watershed at home. I also have lots of great stories around kids who got to hold a dragonfly larva or touch a live fish for the first time during one of my programs!

What are your goals as you start your new position?

I'm looking forward to both supporting the environmental education efforts already underway at EGLE as well as expanding the statewide reach of our educational programs. A few areas I'm particularly interested in working on are (1) expanding equitable access to environmental education and environmental careers for K-12 and college students, (2) providing additional programs and resources to support young people in developing stewardship action projects, and (3) increasing support for K-12 educators working to include environmental education in their classrooms.

Caption: Eileen Boekestein headshot.

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