Gould League Scholarship report 2016

by Simone Blom

In 2016 I was fortunate to attend my first Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) Conference with the support of the Gould League Scholarship. Not only was it my first AAEE conference, but it was also the first opportunity I had to present the findings of my two-year research project into Parent(ing) ChildhoodNature.

A fellow postgraduate student from Southern Cross University and I flew into Adelaide on the Sunday night preceding the conference. We found an affordable little 2-bedroom inner city apartment to stay in for the duration of the conference. This allowed us to cook our own meals and walk to the conference each day. Moreover, it gave us a real feel for inner city living, which is a far cry from our rural home.

The AAEE conference kicked off with the research symposium. This was a lovely opportunity to connect with other people attending the conference and also to hear an update about the latest research in environmental education. I enjoyed hearing from Dr Aidan Davison from the University of Tasmania from his geography and environmental studies perspective. He also gave accolade to a group of early researchers, #aaeer, and their collaborative paper in a recent issue of the Australian Journal of Environmental Education. A commendation which was well deserved. There were panel discussions and interesting interactive sessions which provided the opportunity for greater participation and collaboration.

The following day, the official conference was opened. One big stand out for me was the keynote speech by Paul Clarke. He offered a different perspective on how we are currently viewing environmental education. I enjoyed his passion, his enthusiasm and his want for another way of looking at how we approach education. I liked how it questioned the way things currently are and looked at another way things could be. I also enjoyed how he shared a ‘home movie’ about his bees and the magic of watching them move and work together. I resonated a lot with this: the lessons that nature is constantly offering us.

The experience enhanced my work by providing the inspiration of hearing from the work of others. I had not previously had the opportunity to learn about what other people were doing in their work in such an intensive space of time. Moreover, it enabled me to connect with the people and form networks – rather than reading papers in isolation on my computer. I enjoy collaboration and this conference provided the perfect opportunity for this.

The experience also provided me the space to gain confidence in presenting about my research. Through attending the conference I was able to enhance my skills in preparing and delivering a presentation.  The conference offered a supportive setting where I was able to share with fellow educators and researchers about my project. This was significant being my first research presentation as it gave me the opportunity for reflection and to identify areas for growth and improvement. The session was also very successful in that I left feeling empowered. The participants enjoyed the session and asked some insightful questions afterwards. I was also placed before another presentation on a similar theme which provided a great platform to meet another researcher/educator in the field for future collaboration.

Through the preparation and delivery of my presentation, I achieved greater clarity on completing my research project. The thesis was submitted not long after the conference and having the opportunity to present gave me the impetus and understanding on what needed to be included (and omitted!) from my final submission. The research project has recently been awarded first class honours and I look forward to sharing this research through published papers. Moreover, with semester about to begin at University, I am looking forward to sharing the resources available through AAEE with the pre-service teachers.

An interesting part of the conference for me was that I left two days after I got married! You might say a very unique honeymoon experience – except that my husband was not with me! Fear not however as we did get to celebrate our honeymoon the following month.

I extend my appreciation to the Gould League for making the experience possible and to the Australian Association for Environmental Education for hosting such a powerful and supportive conference.

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