Last week PEI consultant and Washington State Project Learning Tree Co-Coordinator Pat Otto visited Washington D.C. to chat with Washington Senators and Representatives. Here’s her story of the trip:
What a once in a lifetime experience! I never thought I would get to speak personally about my passion for environmental education and getting kids outside with our State Senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, but that is exactly what Jane Ulrich and I did in Washington DC on July 27th. The American Forest Foundation and National Project Learning Tree brought Jane (a fourth grade teacher from Issaquah) and me to Washington DC to inform our senators and representatives (Dave Reichert and Adam Smith) of the importance of environment and sustainability education and garner their support for the No Child Left Inside Act that has been recently reintroduced to the Congress.
We shared success stories about using Project Learning Tree lessons with students and how student engagement increases with outdoor instruction. Jane has seen how her students, interacting with the natural environment through science investigations in their school native garden and lower forest classrooms, have come to appreciate those natural spaces. She has seen that growing appreciation bring a desire to nurture and protect. Further, Jane does black and white photography with her students. She presented our senators and representatives with a gift of a 4th grader’s photograph with their Haiku. All were amazed at the talent and insight of the 4th grade students.
We got to meet with both senators during their constituent coffees and let them know our appreciation of their past support for the environment and our concerns. Patty Murray is a co-sponsor for the No Child Left Inside Act and both she and Maria Cantwell have been strong supporters of the environment. We also had scheduled appointments to talk with a legislative assistant from each senator’s office and each of our representative offices as well. The senators and all four legislative assistants were amazing people to talk with. They all had tremendous interest and asked great questions, making us feel welcomed and listened to.
The American Forest Foundation and Project Learning Tree staff provided us with wonderful support throughout. On Tuesday they helped us prep for Wednesday by providing information on each person we would be meeting with as well as points for successful story telling: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, and emotional. On Wednesday two very competent and warm staffers, Jackie Stallard and Melissa Harden joined us as we talked with the senators and legislative assistants.
This has been a definite highlight of my time as the PLT coordinator for Washington State!