Partners in Sustainability: National Foundation for Environmental Education

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A lot of sustainability the challenges we prioritize at Samsung – whether it’s achieving a circular economy or optimizing energy efficiency – are enhanced through partnerships and collaborative initiatives with brands, environmental organizations and credible, competent and innovative industrial groups. With these like-minded, eco-friendly allies, we are leveraging our scale, global presence and pioneering spirit to help build a more sustainable and equitable future. As part of our “Partners in Sustainability” series, esteemed Samsung partners share their insights on how addressing environmental challenges requires unprecedented cooperation.

Last name Amy Skalmusky
Title Vice President of Marketing and Communications
Partner National Foundation for Environmental Education (NEEF)
Years of working together More than a decade
Relationship orientation Environmental education for K-12 students; Inspiring future climate problem solvers and environmental stewards

1. What does sustainability mean to NEEF?

Drawing on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) definition, sustainability means creating and maintaining the conditions in which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations. Learning to protect biodiversity and ecosystems is essential because we depend on them for our survival. At NEEF, our vision is that people’s daily actions are guided by an understanding and concern for the well-being of people and the planet. Our organization works across K-12 education, health, and conservation to provide the public with information and opportunities to make this a reality.

2. What are some of the many ways the nonprofit cultivates lifelong environmental learning among Americans?

Because NEEF’s work spans K-12 education, health, and conservation, we strive to reach people throughout their lives in ways that are relevant to them. For example, if you have a child in school, it is possible that he is part of a Greening STEM project that sparks an interest in science and, more specifically, water quality in their community. Let’s say you start planting more native species in your garden after volunteering and hearing about it at one of NEEF’s National Public Lands Day events. Perhaps your child has asthma and their school nurse has taken the NEEF Pediatric Asthma Course which helps identify and mitigate environmental triggers of asthma. These touchpoints are important in helping the public understand how the environment affects them and how they affect the environment.

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3. How Do you work with companies like Samsung that are “walking the talk” on corporate sustainability and climate action?

Working with companies committed to sustainability and improving their communities is inspiring. NEEF has partnered with Samsung for over 10 years on environmental education and Greening STEM projects. I have personally worked with Mark Newton since 2019 on the Climate Superstars Challenge and each year he brings genuine care and enthusiasm to working on the online assignments, thinking about prizes that would be useful for educators, and thinking about how students will benefit and learn from the material.

This is the fourth year that we have worked on the Climate Superstars Challenge, our environmental literacy challenge – produced with our partners, the EPA and Samsung. Middle school classes (grades 6-8) compete in completing climate-focused tasks, giving them the knowledge to take direct action to protect the planet. We have increased the number of participating classes every year. We work to keep things fresh and interesting. For example, last year’s grand prize winner received a $5,000 voucher for Samsung products, but also got a private concert from AY Young, singer, songwriter, clean energy advocate, United Nations Youth Ambassador and leader of Samsung and UNDP Generation17. It was amazing how excited the kids were (and fun to see most of them recording the event on their phones)! It was the first live concert for many of them.

4. Can NEEF share their perspective on the importance of E-STEM i.e. integrating environmental literacy into STEM education?

We believe that the key to solving the climate issues we face depends on everyone having the knowledge, skills and motivation to make responsible sustainability decisions. Our Greening STEM initiative is based on the belief that today’s students must be able to look at real-world problems and think critically about the relationship between humans and the environment in order to develop real-world solutions. . Using the environment as a context for STEM education provides students with hands-on, mind-focused learning activities. Therefore, NEEF funds educational projects that extend classroom learning by engaging students in the real work of data collection and analysis, just as scientists and researchers do. Students who participate in Greening STEM projects recognize the authenticity of their work in making sense of the world and climate change.

5. Why do you think collaboration is one of the keys to finding solutions to the climate crisis?

NEEF was chartered by Congress in 1990 with many goals, one of which was to bring together public and private entities to leverage public funds and government expertise, with private resources, an entrepreneurial spirit and creativity to produce a higher level of environmental knowledge. This accusation is still relevant, and it goes without saying that finding effective solutions to the climate crisis will require that we all work together.

6. Finally, we know that access to the environment is not equal from one community to another. How does NEEF work with institutions, organizations and other partners to help address equity related to this issue?

NEEF’s mission is to make the environment more accessible, relatable, relevant, and connected to the daily lives of all Americans. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) is central to this mission and our approach to our work.

For example, NEEF’s Greening STEM initiative engages underserved and underrepresented students in hands-on, thoughtful environmental inquiries in their communities, making STEM relevant and connected to students’ daily lives. Our Greening STEM partners share NEEF’s goal of exposing all students to environmental challenges, STEM-trained professionals and environmental career paths so that the next generation of workers, business leaders and elected officials reflect the demographics of our nation.

We have also worked to increase the participation of Title I schools in the Climate Superstars program, and the number has grown year over year. We also expanded program eligibility to include after-school programs to provide science-based climate education to students in a fun and easily accessible format for educators in and out of school.

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