A few years ago, my husband and I left our traditional jobs to pursue a dream - connecting the wonders of national parks with the inquisitive minds in schools across the country. It began with a simple idea: filming in parks to create free educational content. Starting with just 10 parks in the first year, we've expanded to over 150 national park sites by year four, positively affecting 3.5 million students and educators.
Yesterday, a friend posed a question on LinkedIn, "Are online communities still a thing?" It made me think. How DO we build a community of educators who depend on, learn from, and support each other? Where do these connections come alive? Is it merely about a shared product or technology, or is there something more profound?
Our journey brought us to Facebook, a platform we selected to cultivate a safe, spam-free space for genuine conversation and deep sharing. Since launching our "STEAM in the PARK" initiative in 2021, our modest group of 32 has flourished to over 500 members. We've broadened our reach with monthly passion PLCs and WhatsApp, fostering a family of learners filled with love and positivity. During the summer, these community members meet up in national parks for summer camp.
"The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team." – Phil Jackson
This quote truly reflects our experience. Although in-person interaction is unparalleled, our online platforms have become an essential space for educators and park rangers to connect, build trust, and advance their journeys with us. In three years, our Facebook community has grown to 558 members. It may not be enormous, but it's authentic, purposeful, and significant. This number doesn’t even include our extensive email community.
As we aim for "til the whole world knows," we celebrate every step in cultivating this community. It's a path of shared passions, continuous learning, and collectively embracing the classroom that nature offers.
PS- thanks Dean for teaching me about community years ago.
#EducatorsOfNature #CommunityBuilding #NationalParksEducation #STEAMInThePark #JourneyTogether