As I mentioned a few days ago, I had a chance to visit the staffers of my elected representatives yesterday. Despite the stomach butterflies at the start, it turned out to be an incredible experience. Not only did I meet a bunch of wonderful environmental educators from around the country, I met some new people from Northern Virginia as well.

We spent Tuesday, learning how to tell a good story at our meetings. Turned out that it wasn't so difficult. Wednesday morning, we got up and out early, and hit the ground running. 

Our groups' schedule looked like this:

Jim Moran at 9:30. We had a really cordial meeting with Tim Aiken, the Environment Legislative aide. 

Bobby Scott 10:30. We met with Evan Chapman, his agricultural legislative aide. Representative Scott Represents the Richmond and Williamsburg area. 
Quick update: As of this afternoon, Bobby Scott has signed onto the No Child Left Inside legislation as a co-sponsor. Thanks to Evan for his quick work and carefully shepherding of our message.

Gerry Connolly (my Congressional representative) at 11:30. We met with Dominic Bonaiuto. He asked about my certification in environmental education. I got to fit in the North Carolina connection.

Senator Jim Webb at 1:00. Met with Maribel Ramos, his education legislative aide.

Senator Mark Warner at 2:30. Elizabeth Falcone, his education legislative aide.

Representative Rob Wittman at 3:15. His agricultural aide met with us.

We had a final appointment, with the educators from Washington State, at the Department of Agriculture with Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Agriculture and Environment, who kindly listened to all our stories again, and spoke about the opportunities for students available through some of the job corps programs.

Many thanks to Karen Frick, the director of Epiphany preschool here in Vienna, for providing wonderful stories about how her little kids have benefitted from the Project Learning Tree training their teachers have taken. 

Peter Mecca from George Mason High School in the Falls Church City School district, for his compelling stories about how environmental education helped  his special needs and ESL students pass science. His kids are doing water quality tests on a creek near their school and submitting their results to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Nothing like the authentic research to bring the message home.

Of course, the leadership of Paul Howe, of the Virginia Forestry Association, and Lisa Deaton, our wonderful PLT Coordinator in Virginia were extremely helpful in making all of us feel comfortable in the meetings. 

Finally, a shout-out to Diane Brown-Tapia, from the PLT office, for joining us in our walk-about.

A last thought about the experience. While I've been signing all of those online letters asking my representatives to consider the No Child Left Inside Legislation, it seems that no one has actually asked our Senators to support the legislation. 

Well, a last last thought. Being on the board of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina over the past 6 years, we ask our members to invite their elected officials to events when they are home in their districts. One of the take away messages yesterday was that our elected officials really do want to be invited to events, they really do want to have the photo ops with constituents (including future voters), and they do want to meet with us. It seems that the best way to go about this is to connect with the staff in your district, well in advance of an event, and garner their support in getting your event on your representatives' or senators' schedule. 

They really do work for us, so get your money's worth!


 


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