By Candice Abinanti
Last week, over 100 district employees from throughout the southeast gathered in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., for the 2019 Southeast Conservation District Employees Association’s (SECDEA) Annual Conference. Presided over by SECDEA President Hope Daley from Mississippi, the two-day conference provided the opportunity for conservation district employees to gather, share ideas, and hear updates from partners, including the National Conservation District Employees Association (NCDEA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and NACD.
Throughout the conference, district employees across the southeast region showcased a variety of conservation education programs and outreach activities:
• Alabama provided a hands-on demonstration about teaching youth how litter impacts groundwater.
• Kentucky talked about Farm Inc., an education program for high school students, developed by the University of Kentucky 4-H Development Program, in partnership with the Harrison County Conservation District. The program engages juniors and seniors in real-life farming scenarios, teaching them budgeting, how to review soil, slope and topographic maps to select a farming operation and apply for an agricultural loan and more.
• Mississippi’s Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District shared tips for putting on a fun and successful teacher workshop that keeps teachers coming back each year to learn about conservation and earn continuing education credits.
• In North Carolina, host of the 2019 NCF-Envirothon, Gaston County Soil and Water Conservation District employee Erin Hines spoke about the impact the international environmental education competition has had on her education and career.
• South Carolina’s York County Soil and Water Conservation District highlighted its school garden program, an eight-lesson series for first-graders, conducted both in and out of the classroom.
• Tennessee put on a puppet performance with “Ernie the Earthworm” to teach young children about soil health.
• Virginia shared highlights from its week-long summer Youth Conservation Camp. Sponsored by the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the camp has annually brought together high school students for hands-on and outdoor instruction for the past 43 years.
The conference also engaged participants in a hands-on gyotaku or fish printing activity, and featured sessions on the Bee Cause Project and soil health before culminating in an evening banquet. During the banquet, Celia Miller of Mississippi, received the SECDEA Employee Award and Anita Cowan, also of Mississippi, was recognized with the SECDEA Official Award.
Candice Abinanti is the Southeast Region Representative for the National Association of Conservation Districts. She can be reached at candice-abinanti[at]nacdnet.org or 803-579-7230.