Willow Bend Environmental Education Center’s mission is to provide educational outreach services that build environmental awareness and an ethic of responsible stewardship of our natural and cultural resources. Over the past 40 years we have been serving Coconino County’s diverse population: students, teachers, residents, and visitors.
Violence and discrimination in communities across the country, as well as in our own, remind us that we, as environmental professionals, have a duty to address this humanitarian issue. We cannot be silent.
We recognize that social, environmental and racial injustices are a daily reality for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and systemic racism, prejudice, violence and unequal access to resources and transportation have prevented, and continue to prevent, communities that have been marginalized from enjoying outdoor privileges. We believe that access to education, environmental programs and outdoor spaces must be inclusive, welcoming and safe for all who wish to participate in nature focused activities.
As an organization, and as environmental and outdoor professionals, we need to reflect on how to increase diversity within the environmental education field, seek representation that reflects the population we serve, expand our work to reach more diverse populations and stand against practices that harm BIPOC in outdoor activities and daily life.
In order to ensure inclusive and safe spaces for all who wish to learn about and participate in outdoor activities we commit to critically analyzing our behaviors, practices and programs.
Specifically, for starters, we are reviewing and revising our program content, adapting our outreach services, investing in diversifying our community program presenters, seeking expansion for our Title 1 school programs, expanding partnerships with organizations that serve a diverse population base, examining and adapting our Strategic Plan and taking guidance from the Equality and Inclusion in Environmental Education action items and goals put forth by the Arizona Association for Environmental Education (AAEE).
We welcome any input, suggestions, or ideas as we go through this process. This is only a start.
We are committed to putting in the work to realize a future that is anti-racist, respects and celebrates the diverse ways people engage with outdoor activities, and ensures that everyone has equal access to outdoor and cultural places of their choice.
Our board has open spots for anyone passionate and interested in taking on the important work of providing environmental educational outreach services that truly serve our entire community and ensure access and opportunities for all.
(Willow Bend is following the leadership of the AAEE and other state, national and international voices in Environmental Education. This statement is adapted from and inspired by the AAEE Equality and Inclusion in Environmental Education statement)