The Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network (CBEEN) celebrated 10 years of existence and a growing profile in the area, province and country with an inaugural Soiree and Expo, held Friday at the Royal Alexandra Hall in Cranbrook.
The non-profit organization serves as the regional network for environmental education professionals — 17 of whom hosted displays as part of the event.
The purpose of the event was to raise awareness of the value of environmental education, as well as the opportunities available in East Kootenay communities, said Duncan Whittick, CBEEN Executive Director.
“To achieve this, we invited a variety of community leaders such as government officials, School District 5 and College of the Rockies representatives, business owners, funding agencies and media,” Whittick said.
In total, 75 people were in attendance, including representatives from 17 local environmental education organizations who participated in an Environmental Education Expo event to showcase their programs.
“We were thrilled to have such a wonderful turnout, and we hope this will have sparked many conversations that will help to further the goals of each organization, and environmental education in general,” Whittick said.
“We also hope that this will help to clarify the role of CBEEN as an umbrella network, and the value of some of our initiatives such as Wild Voices for Kids.”
The event heard from several guest speakers who talked about the importance and significance of environmental education. Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski talked about his experiences as a former environmental educator himself.
Dave Quinn mentioned the importance — indeed, the spiritual significance — of local geography and how “everyone in this room lives lives dedicated to creating wonder.”
Jenna Gunn, of Scouts Canada, spoke of environmental education’s growing resonance with residents — “people really, really want (environmental education),” she said. But there are always challenges, Gunn added: getting families outside into their geography, competition for time and volunteers, and of course, funding issues. “There are real costs involved for environmental education,” she said.
CBEEN is looking at hosting similar events, twice per year in local communities.
“We are also working hard to host a National Environmental Education Leadership Clinic to the Kootenays in the spring of 2014,” Whittick said, “which would be the scaffolding to host a National Environmental Education Conference here in 2017, and would bring hundreds of practitioners and researchers to the area.”