March 30, 2010

Touch of Nature to host environmental conference

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An event for environmental educators and anyone with an interest in the world around them is coming to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center April 15-18.

The Environmental Education Association of Illinois (EEAI) holds its annual meeting and conference downstate just once every five years, and it is an opportunity to participate in a conference that brings together field experiences and hands-on learning. The setting is the environmental educational facility located on a 3,100-acre plot bordered by Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, the Shawnee National Forest and Giant City State Park.

A wide variety of activities and eco-excursions will give conference participants the chance to discover the flora, fauna and natural features of the region while exchanging ideas and information with one another. Sessions include: “Flying WILD,” an interactive study of migratory birds and conservation; “Shawnee Talking Wands,” a study of Native American art and culture along with the Shawnee and the mystery of “magic wands”; and “The World According to John Muir,” offering the chance to “meet” the late American wilderness expert who helped conceive the national park idea.

There’s early morning bird watching, yoga at dawn, an excursion on the Cache River, rock climbing and forest plant study at Giant City State Park, and an exploration of local sustainability facilities. Participants can study spring birds and wildflowers, explore Spring Kerr Canyon and Rich’s Cave, hunt for morel mushrooms, practice nature photography, “track” the mammoth, learn the lessons of mud daubers, and study dreamcatchers and other symbols. A twilight canoe ride and a beach campfire are also on tap, along with special music and more.

Educators can earn Continuing Professional Development Units for participation in the conference. The conference will also include the annual meeting of the Environmental Education Association of Illinois as well as a silent auction with proceeds going to the EEAI Educator Mini-Grant Program, which provides financial assistance to educators for the purchase of educational tools and assistance. In addition, the EEAI will present a pair of awards recognizing excellence in environmental education.

Pre-registration is necessary and the registration deadline is April 9. Find registration forms and the conference schedule Space is limited, with registration on a first-come basis. You can attend the entire conference or selected portions and the price varies accordingly.

The EEAI is an organization comprised of conservationists, environmentalists and those who either formally or informally educate others about the environment and its protection. For more information, contact Kate Hellgren at 618/453-1122, ext. 250, or by e-mail at

Find out more about Touch of Nature Environmental Center at