Population Education in “The Natural State”

Arkansas’ Winthrop Rockefeller Institute Hosts Leadership Institute

“Every citizen has the duty to be informed, to be thoughtfully concerned, and to participate in the search for solutions.”

– Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller (Arkansas 1967-1971)

These words grace the foyer of the Show Barn Hall, part of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute (WRI) in Morrilton, Arkansas, and site of our 26th Annual Summer Population Education Leadership Institute (July 14-16, 2017). Once the governor’s cattle farm, WRI is now a gathering place for groups of educators and thought leaders. The pastoral setting atop Petit Jean Mountain was an excellent venue for our group of PopEd facilitators-in-training to engage in hands-on activities, share classroom experiences, and discuss the importance of preparing young people for a sustainable future.

While participants traveled from as far as Puerto Rico and Phoenix to join us in central Arkansas, most of the participants represented campuses, school districts, and county governments in the southeast and south-central states (Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas).

Two-thirds of the attendees were teacher educators at colleges and universities, large (University of Arkansas and Ole Miss) and small (Point University, a Christian college in Georgia, and Texas A&M University-Texarkana). The others were committed middle and high school science and social studies teachers, administrators, and non-formal educators.

By way of introduction, we asked each person to share a “fun fact” about themselves. We soon learned that our 28 participants brought a wealth of experience from within and out of the classroom: Samantha teaches at a university that was once her grandmother’s alma mater when it was the Cherokee National Female Seminary. Eliezer worked in national parks from Alaska to the Caribbean. Robert is a Ugandan prince. Mike is certified to operate a cotton gin. What they all shared was the enthusiasm of life-long learners and the desire to help their students search for solutions to big global challenges.

These new trainers will now join our network of over 600 PopEd facilitators across the United States and Canada. Volunteer trainers present three-quarters of all PopEd workshops and serve as important local resources for their communities and state associations. Last year, network members gave $327,600 in contributed services of their time and expertise. More information about our trainers’ network, workshops, and upcoming Leadership Institutes is available at PopulationEducation.org.

Participants work through a forest supply and demand simulation

Brian Shmaefsky and Robert Kagumba “pollute” a river

Sheliah Durham “pollutes” a river

Kate Anderson (staff) introduces the activity “Population Circle”

Cherry Watts, Robin Koerber, and Rachel Askew in a break-out discussion

Isabelle Rios (staff) introduces an ice-breaker activity

“Words cannot express how energizing and inspiring the weekend was for me! Thank you for the opportunity.”

– Anita Lewis, 6th grade social studies teacher, Friendswood, TX

“I thoroughly enjoyed getting to be a part of the training, and I look forward to sharing the knowledge I gained by hosting Population Education workshops in Northwest Arkansas and beyond.”

– Leah Saffian, Washington County Environmental Affairs, Fayetteville, AR

“I am looking forward to working with Population Education. The people your organization attracts are truly inspiring.”

– Cherry Watts, Ph.D., The University of Tennessee at Martin


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