Bruner appointed president of Environmental Education Association of Alabama
Toni Bruner, education and outreach coordinator for the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, or AUMNH, was nominated and unanimously appointed as president of the Environmental Education Association of Alabama, or EEAA, at its annual conference held February 24-27 at the Gulf State Learning Center in Gulf Shores.
Bruner will serve in the leadership role over the next two years. At the start of her career in environmental education 18 years ago, Bruner initially became involved with EEAA as a conference participant and has served as an EEAA board member for the past 16 years.
“I am thrilled to serve as president of EEAA and lead the amazing group of educators that we have,” said Bruner. “Any time you are asked to lead an organization, it is a huge honor and is very humbling. I am excited to see how we can continue to help the organization grow.”
Formed in 1994, EEAA is a non-profit association comprised of educators from around Alabama who share a passion for educating the citizenry, especially young people, on the diverse natural resources our state enjoys. Its mission is to enhance the abilities of formal and informal educators to connect people to the natural world in order to foster responsible stewardship. EEAA is an affiliate of the North American Association for Environmental Education.
EEAA is involved in various types of outreach initiatives throughout the state. The association publishes a newsletter that highlights environmental news, events and announcements, and it also annually recognizes the best environmental education programs in Alabama by presenting the BEEP awards, as well as the Jeffrey Scott Hughes Lifetime Achievement Education Award named after EEAA’s founder, Jeff Hughes.
Additionally, the association partnered with the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance, the Center for Diversity in the Environment, EcoInclusive, and Youth Outside to create an online, self-paced Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, or JEDI, course for educators that provides a strong foundation in the language, concepts and principles of equity work.
EEAA currently has 119 active members and maintains a database of approximately 690 educators – some who teach in school systems and some who are nonformal educators, such as those who teach at nature centers, state park naturalists, or retired educators.
“Having both formal and informal educators working together allows our organization to have a broader impact,” said Bruner. “Formal educators attend our workshops to gain new skills and resources that they then take back into their school systems. Informal educators attending the same workshops and have an opportunity to reach a completely different group of citizens in the community - it’s a great balance.”
Twenty-four of EEAA’s members currently serve on the board in various committees, and there are regional coordinators throughout the state who organize educational workshops and field days.
“When you have 24 superstar board members like we have, you can’t go wrong. It’s phenomenal to see what comes from those brilliant minds when they work together,” said Bruner.
Bruner’s upcoming goals for EEAA are focused on getting back to outdoor, in-person educational activities and expanding offerings to include EEAA members family events. Most recently discussed was the possibility of creating a junior education outreach program.
“We are eager to get back into the community and offer member programs such as outdoor field trips that we had prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bruner. “We were able to adjust our outreach efforts during the pandemic, like dropping off brown bag experiments at schools and conducting online learning sessions, but we are really excited to get back out there face to face.”
EEAA’s outreach goals and efforts directly tie into Bruner’s role at Auburn University.
Bruner oversees a broad scope of education and outreach activities for AUMNH. She coordinates field day education programs at Wehle Nature Center for children in underrepresented areas of Bullock, Butler and Macon counties. She coordinates hands-on workshops for teachers called educator expeditions. Bruner also utilizes the museum’s outreach van, or mobile museum, to travel to communities and school programs and set up mini educational exhibits that include live animals.
“At Auburn, whether I’m working with faculty, students or the community, the goal aligns with our mission at EEAA – to enhance formal and informal education and teach people about our natural world and why they should respect and care for it,” said Bruner.
Bruner encourages educators and students to visit EEAA’s website for more information on upcoming events throughout the year.
“We have so many amazing workshops and different activities throughout the year that highlight our state’s natural resources,” said Bruner. “Whether you are a current educator in a school system, a nonformal educator, or a student, please check out what EEAA has to offer!”
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