MEEA unites voices, provides support, and connects educators
to promote environmental literacy across Montana.
MEEA provides professional development opportunities for educators, both formal and nonformal. MEEA facilitates communication, cooperation, collaboration, and coordination among the varied environmental education programs in the state. It is a neutral and objective source of information related to environmental education in Montana, as well as a voice for EE’s important role in the balance between societal needs and environmental quality.
MEEA HISTORY, 1990-2001
As told by Kari Gunderson, MEEA Tribal Elder:
During the spring of 1990, Lee Metzgar held a gathering in Missoula of as many environmental educators as he could round up by mail and word of mouth. One of the topics of that meeting was whether there was a need for a statewide environmental education (EE) group. Somewhere during the discussions, the idea came up to present a proposal for a statewide EE association at the EE conference at Big Sky in April 1991.
Two dozen school and university teachers, natural resource professionals, and students met January 23, 1991 in Helena to organize the Montana Environmental Education Association. The new non-profit group sought to bring educators and resource people together to foster education in and about Montana’s incomparable outdoor environment. The group appointed Jack de Golia, as interim president, who later became the first elected MEEA president. In April of 1991, MEEA held their first EE conference at Big Sky, MT. One hundred and twenty dedicated environmental educators and natural resource professionals from across Montana braved a blizzard and treacherous roads to attend the conference.
Another significant milestone for MEEA was when the governor of Montana proclaimed “Environmental Education Week” in the fall of 1993 when MEEA hosted the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) at Big Sky. Montana has been an NAAEE affiliate since the early 1990’s and suddenly MEEA was placed in the national limelight. Educators from across North America came to the Big Sky country and left with a deep appreciation for Montana and our natural treasures.
In spring 1997, Jane Goodall was our guest at the MEEA annual conference in Billings. This was a rare opportunity for Montanans to hear from an internationally respected biologist and inspirational educator. She also visited local classrooms and talked with students about her EE program, “Roots and Shoots.” Jane Goodall brought record-breaking attendance for the MEEA conference in 1997. Other leaders in the field of EE who have been keynote speakers include Joseph Cornell, Robert Michael Pyle, Dr. James C. Halfpenny, Dr. Gerald Lieberman and Dan Chiras.
A great challenge for MEEA is trying to assist educators across such a large geographic area. The discussion over where to hold the annual conference, board meetings, and other events always caused someone a “long drive” to get there. MEEA’s 2000 conference was held in Wolf Point, MT, hosted by MEEA board member, Vina Smith, on the Fort Peck Reservation. A prize was awarded to an educator from Whitefish, MT for traveling the farthest to attend the conference. As we settle into the 21st century MEEA remains a strong voice for formal and nonformal educators across our vast state.