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Environmental education meeting tonight at MSU

BY GENEVIEVE POSTLETHWAIT gpostlethwait@paducahsun.com

The Kentucky Environmental Education Council and Murray State University's Center for Environmental Education will host a public meeting tonight seeking input for the state's new five-year environmental education master plan.

The meeting will be held in MSU's Alexander Hall Auditorium, Room 240 from 4 to 7 p.m., and it is the second to last such meeting in the KEEC's tour of town hall meetings across the state. This the first time the council has traveled across the state for these town hall-style public forums.

"It's been going really well," said Elizabeth Schmitz, KEEC executive director. "I think getting out into local communities has helped us to see new faces and interact with folks we may not have heard from in the past."

Schmitz said they've designed these public meetings to make people feel comfortable sharing their ideas and to facilitate collaboration.

After a short presentation outlining the KEEC's findings from previous public surveys and the goals of the 2009-2014 plan, attendees will briefly brainstorm on their own before breaking into small groups to discuss goals. Each group will then choose a representative to share the group's thoughts on what goals should stay, which should go and which should be tweaked. Once that's done, the floor will be open for discussion of new ideas and goals.

This collaborative planning process will guide the direction and coordination of environmental education delivery throughout the commonwealth for the next five years.

So far, Schmitz said they've gotten very positive feedback from the public.

"For example, we've found that most Kentuckians believe that it is possible to have a healthy environment and a healthy economy," she said. "In the past there seemed to be a public sentiment that it was one or the other, but it seems like Kentuckians believe it is possible to have both. We find that very encouraging."

They've also found that about 95 percent of Kentuckians agree that environmental education and literacy should be taught in Kentucky schools. Environmental literacy as defined by the Kentucky Board of Education is the ability to recognize the components of healthy natural and man-made systems and the actions necessary to maintain, restore or improve them.

"It's going to be exciting to see what comes up," said David Allen, MSU CEE director. Allen will assist Ashley Hoffman, Kentucky Association for Environmental Education executive director, in moderating the meeting.

Allen has arranged for Boulders Smokehouse Deli to cater the event. Last minute attendees are welcome, but Allen encourages anyone interested to RSVP as soon as possible to ensure they get their share of the barbecue.

RSVP to Michelle Shane at 502-564-5937 or michelle.shane@ky.gov. Those who cannot make tonight's meeting but would like to give their input can submit a survey to the KEEC at www.surveymonkey.com/s/RCC7XBM. The survey will remain open until Friday.

Contact Genevieve Postlethwait, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or at gpostlethwait@paducahsun.com.

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