As I feature my friend Jen as the March expert, I realize that educational programming is truly ending at the Prairie Research Institute.
This is a sad reality because the job of the Survey educators was to disseminate and promote the work of the research scientists to the public, especially school teachers and children. We worked in the non-formal arena creating and implementing programs so that students could see what real scientists do. Our job was to inspire the next generation of scientists.
Now, one could say, “Well, they have a communications team to inform the public.” Here is the problem with that. Communications falls within the 3rd form of education, informal education. Here is the difference: Formal education is information that you receive that you will be tested on and received some sort of diploma, degree, or certificate for completing the required work. Non-formal education is information you receive at a conference, nature center, museum, or other chosen venue where you learn about a topic through a presentation but may or may not be quizzed on the learned information. Informal education is information received by choosing to read a newsletter, listserv, journal or by talking with an expert. The Survey educators fell into the non-formal education category with programming.
My point is that the Survey educators were of value because they provided a larger outreach to the public. If a research scientist publishes a paper on an exciting breakthrough, they reach their colleagues through publications like journals, but then what? Will Johnny Q. Public know about it? Not likely because there is no one to translate the science jargon and data for them. Communications teams speak in short blog posts or journal-lite articles. There is no “what does this mean for me” or critical thinking exercises involved. That was the value of the Survey educators. Those who are currently in charge of PRI have killed the education program.
However, the one thing the “kill education" plan has not done is kill the bond of the survey educators . As one of us put it, we are loyal to each other, like dogs.
Hello, My name is Kirsten Hope Walker. I have been an environmental educator for over 20 years. My passion is talking to the public about how to coexist with wildlife. It's my hope that you will ask questions and find my features and blogs interesting. Thanks for your support.