Past Annual Conferences

2020 Annual Conference

Nurtured by Nature – November 5-7, 2020

Conference Program

WAEE is committed to the health, well-being and safety of all our members, friends and partner organizations.  In facing the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, the conference committee decided to create a fun, engaging virtual conference in 2020.  We are planning to host our 2021 fall conference in Green Bay in early November next year. 

While it’s difficult to give up our valuable in-person experience, we hope that a virtual format will open WAEE up to new participants and expand our community in Wisconsin. Who do you know that always wanted to come to a WAEE gathering? Now is the time to invite them!

Our annual conference is our major fundraiser each year.  We are currently seeking sponsors. You can enter sponsorship suggestions into the survey or contact us at [email protected]

We can’t wait to see you (virtually) in November.

Conference Theme: “Nurtured by Nature”

Time in nature supports our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. As environmental educators, we share those benefits in our diverse communities. This year, WAEE celebrates human connection to the natural world and works to expand our vision towards resilience and well-being.

Conference Strands:

1.)  Get into the Great Outdoors – Virtually

2.)  Environmental Justice through EE

Time in nature is not equally accessible to everyone in our communities, and the history of racism, sexism, classism and ableism has meant that environmental problems impact some people more directly than others. Share how your programs and staff are working to address this disparity and create a future where environmental and social responsibility drive individual and institutional choices.

3.)  Connecting to the Land and Each Other

Time in nature supports affiliation with the land and fosters strong bonds between participants. Share how you and your programs create, enhance and sustain these connections through activities, programs, and your site.

4.)  Resilient Systems in EE

Environmental education programs have adapted to many challenges in the past year, from changing program delivery and content to administration, fundraising and marketing. This strand helps EE practitioners learn from and support each other as we bounce back from these challenges. Share how you and your program adapted to COVID-19 or other challenges, or host a discussion for specific types of programs like nature centers, early childhood or K-12 programs

Keynote/Featured Speakers

WAEE 2020 Keynote: Robin Wall Kimmerer

Saturday November 7th, 2-3pm

Dr. Kimmerer is a mother, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. She serves as the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. Her research interests include the role of traditional ecological knowledge in ecological restoration and the ecology of mosses. In collaboration with tribal partners, she and her students have an active research program in the ecology and restoration of plants of cultural significance to Native people. She is active in efforts to broaden access to environmental science education for Native students, and to create new models for integration of indigenous philosophy and scientific tools on behalf of land and culture. She is engaged in programs which introduce the benefits of traditional ecological knowledge to the scientific community, in a way that respects and protects indigenous knowledge.

Dr. Kimmerer will be introduced by Gidigaa-bizhiw (Jerry Jondreau, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community).

To hear from Dr. Kimmerer,

TED talk TEDx Sitka: Reclaiming the Honorable Harvest

Featured Speaker: Trebbe Johnson

Author, Radical Joy for Hard Times

Saturday November 7th, 9:15-10:00 am

Trebbe Johnson is the author of Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty in Earth’s Broken Places, The World Is a Waiting Lover: Desire and the Quest for the Beloved, and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. She has written many articles that explore the relationship between people, nature, and myth.Trebbe is also the founder and director of Radical Joy for Hard Times, a global community of people dedicated to finding and making beauty in wounded places. A lifelong adventurer in inner and outer worlds, Trebbe speaks four languages; has camped alone in the Arctic; studied classical Indian dance; and worked as an artist’s model, a street sweeper in an English village, and an award-winning multimedia producer.

Read Trebbe Johnson’s work in Orion Magazine.

Featured Speaker:  Dr. Leah Prussia

Associate Professor of Social Work, College of St. Scholastica

Friday, November 6th, 9:15-10:00am

Leah Prussia is a self-described “tree hugging dirt worshiper.” She has worked with diverse populations throughout her years as a social worker and clinician to assist each person to find and actualize their definition of health and wellness. Dr. Prussia blends teachings from Nature, Peter Levine’s Somatic Experience work, Relational-Cultural Theory, and Cognitive-Behavioral approaches to address the biopsychosocial and spiritual aspects of individuals. Her background includes extensive knowledge and practice in mental health services, substance abuse, trauma, program administration, and grassroots advocacy.

Featured Speaker: Crystal Gail Welcome

Experiential educator specializing in restorative adventures

Thursday, November 5, 6:00-6:45pm

Crystal Gail Welcome is an experiential educator, author, story teller, activist, and Black outdoor leader. She chooses to speak out against racial injustice in the United States by hiking and giving voice to her experiences. Crystal emphasizes the need for social and environmental justice, and explains how discrepancies in both have led to a gap between BIPOC and nature. She also explores how sharing one’s experiences while in nature can create a unique space for healing from trauma or other negative life experiences. Crystal Gail leads by example, and has inspired other BIPOC people to foster a positive relationship with the natural world.

Read about Crystal’s trek across the North country.

Schedule at a Glance


2019 Annual Conference

Connect, Explore, Engage!

November 14-16, 2019 *  UW-Madison Union South, Madison, WI 

The Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education invites you to join a community of environmental educators who push the leading edge of the profession, engage in proven practices, advocate for their field and motivate the pursuit of EE excellence.

Connect, explore and engage with us this November!

View Conference Program PDF Here!


    2019 Conference Theme & Tracks

    This year’s conference will focus on proven practices, pushing the leading edge of the profession, and motivating the pursuit of excellence. The theme is Connect, Explore, Engage!

    Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

    How can EE empower diverse perspectives?

    Empowering diverse perspectives to enhance environmental education and creating opportunities for cross-cultural understanding and exchange; illuminating sense-of-place through diverse conservation and environmental perspectives, building accessibility and equity in programs. We also seek proposals related to Act 31, which requires schools to public provide instruction on the history, culture, and tribal sovereignty of Wisconsin’s eleven federally-recognized American Indian nations and tribal communities.

    Creating Strong EE Programs and Centers

    How can we be effective EE leaders?

    Developing leadership and administration in environmental and outdoor learning programs, including staff recruitment and training, program marketing, organizational finances and grants, volunteer recruitment and management, development strategies, visioning and risk management. Promoting innovation and the effective use of technology.

    Wisconsin Waters and Coasts

    How can we use EE to protect water?

    Addressing the need for clean water, healthy aquatic ecosystems and resilient watersheds and Great Lakes through environmental education and outdoor learning programs. WAEE especially seeks presentations that use water as a means of illuminating the Wisconsin Standards for Environmental Literacy and Sustainability as well as Next Generation Science Standards.

    Advocating for EE

    How do we use advocacy to strengthen the impact of environmental education?

    These presentations promote civic engagement, environmental justice, conservation action, active stewardship, community discourse, collaboration with diverse partners and advocacy for environmental education in communities, schools, early childhood programs, universities, farm programs, non-profit organizations and the state of Wisconsin.


    2018 Annual Conference


    WAEE is pleased to announce that the 2018 Annual Conference will take place Friday, October 19th thru Saturday the 20th with workshops and field trips on Thursday October 18th, in the heart of the real Wisconsin Dells at Upham Woods. This year’s theme is Equity in Environmental Education: #NatureForAll.

    Conference Theme

    The 2018 WAEE Annual Conference is focused on Equity in Environmental Education: #NatureForAll. How are we and the field of EE as a whole creating a safe and welcoming space for all people? Are we advocating for EE issues with a focus on environmental justice? How are we promoting and communicating the EE story? How does early education fit into this picture? Does the universal need for food and the story of farm culture also tell an EE story? And to those ends, how do we create programming and run our businesses to support an inclusive, well-rounded, and resilient platform for EE? Together, we will explore, learn and share our experiences regarding these topics and more!

    Conference Tracks

    • Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Innovations in the Field
    • Farm to School
    • Nature Center Administration

    Conference Program

    Opening Blessing

    Gordon Thunder, Ho-Chunk Elder, will commence the conference with a Native American blessing and welcome to Upham Woods. Learn about Upham Woods’ connection to the Ho-Chunk Nation history and find out how critical the conference theme of Equity in Environmental Education is to others in our community. Mr. Thunder will also offer a closing blessing on Saturday afternoon as we part ways to carry on the vision of #NatureForAll.

    Keynote Address: Dudley Edmondson, Author & Photographer

    Dudley Edmondson is an established Photographer, Author, Filmmaker, and Presenter. His photography has been featured in galleries and nearly 100 publications around the world. He is also interested in working with school kids and getting them involved in the outdoors through birding, photography, and nature hikes. He was one of the first to highlight the involvement of African Americans in the public lands system.

    Unsatisfied with the numbers of people who looked like him among those he encountered in his outdoor pursuits, Mr. Edmondson set out to create a set of outdoor role models for the African American community by writing his landmark book, “Black & Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places” (AdventureKeen Publications 2006) featuring luminaries in the environmental and outdoor recreation fields. Mr. Edmondson has also been immersed in the effort to help the conservation sector become more inclusive.

    Location: Fire Pit Amphitheater (rain option: Upham Central Lodge


    2017 Annual Conference

    Get ready for the 2017 WAEE annual conference on October 19-21 at Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin. We have a dynamic lineup of field trips, workshops, concurrent sessions, networking opportunities and an evening gala. Registration is now open!

    2017 Keynote speaker James Edward Mills!

    The Path of Convergence: Navigating the Flow of Synergy Through The Adventure Gap

    As the United States  population grows to become more urban and disconnected from the natural world there is an expanding divide between those who spend time in the outdoors and those who do not. With rising disparities of economic opportunity and political influence that still fall along racial lines, people of color are disproportionately under represented among citizens for whom outdoor recreation and environmental protection are personal imperatives.  This fissure, described by journalist and photographer James Edward Mills as The Adventure Gap, is spreading to include disenfranchised white people as well. Anyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity, who lacks the privileges of social mobility, disposable income and leisure time to enjoy the so-called “Great Outdoors” will find it difficult to invest what few resources they have to protect and preserve it.
     Modern organizations charged with the mission of environmental conservation must shift their priorities to equitably include the diverse interests of an emerging population of citizens who are increasingly people of color, urban and economically challenged. In order to become more culturally and socially relevant throughout a broad cross-section of the American public these agencies are working to shrink the Adventure Gap by engaging a new audience of potential allies.  As groups like the Sierra Club, the Trust For Public Land, the National Park Foundation and many others recognize the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in their efforts to build communities of environmental stewardship, there are a growing number of opportunities to create synergy toward a national movement. Read more

    Conference Schedule at a Glance  New! Conference Mobile App

    Conference Strands

    • The Rising Tide –  Stewardship, advocacy and community engagement. Waters may be rising, but so are our communities. How is your organization engaging local communities in environmental education? Did you have great success with a specific stewardship campaign? Who are your partners?  Share your successes to help inspire us all.
    • Immersed – Innovative best practices in environmental education. Surround yourself with the best of the best. Share the latest classroom technology. Explore recent trends in curriculum. Examine up and coming research in the field. Share the projects and efforts that continue to make environmental education excellent.
    • Watershed Connections – Diversity, equity and inclusion. Water connects us all. How is your organization ensuring a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment?  How are you delivering culturally relevant education? Where are you struggling?  How can the field of environmental education be more inclusive when it comes to all types of diversity – race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
    • At the Water’s Edge – hands-on environmental education and recreation. Share your best water-based recreation and hands-on education projects. How are you integrating water in the field and the classroom to make learning fun and experiential?
    • Water Droplets – Early childhood environmental education. Have you developed an outdoor program for young children? Are you working with unexpected partners? Have you found successful strategies to engage families? From nature centers to day care centers we can all learn from developments in early childhood environmental experiences.