Three Essential Steps Toward Nature Center DREAM Fulfillment

August 24, 2017 Dr. Cheryl Charles, Executive Director Nature Based Leadership Institute, and I presented a half-day workshop at the Magnolia Summit, the 23rd annual meeting of the Association of Nature Center Administrators. Our workshop: Three Essential Steps Toward Your Center’s DREAM Fulfillment. Twenty-six nature center directors from 18 states and Mexico participated. We posted this description in advance to Summit registrants, who self-selected to our session:

“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Our careers in forestry, leadership, and nature and environmental education have led us to proselytize that education matters most (and perhaps only) when it is purpose-driven, passion-fueled, and results-oriented. The wisdom applies richly to environmental education centers. This workshop will inspire, educate, and enable participants to identify, leverage, and enhance their capacity to inject passion and purpose into managing centers and spreading the gospel of Earth Stewardship and applying nature’s wisdom to life, living, and serving.

Cheryl and I split the duties and jointly facilitated discussions among the participants. We explained the workshop purpose: To help the choir sing a little more clearly; to deepen the faith of the already converted. And to explore applying the Wisdom and Power of Nature to:

  1. Leading your center
  2. Focusing your approach through a Nature-polished lens
  3. Recasting your vision
  4. Fulfilling your center’s DREAM

I oriented the group to Nature-Inspired Living and Learning via six examples of lessons indelibly written in or powerfully inspired by Nature. Six lessons for living, learning, serving, and leading that we drew from our own experiences in Nature:

  1. Nature is a force lever for humility and inspiration, complementary elements of effective leadership – try leading without deep humility and absolute inspiration. I offered my tale of climbing Mount Quigley and seeing Denali up close for the first time.
  2. Making the most of living and learning necessitates knowing, understanding, appreciating, anticipating, and acting in response to the seasons of life, enterprise, and every single thing! I reflected on the high latitude seasonal fluxes in Fairbanks, AK.
  3. We can effectively live, learn, serve, and lead only if we know our place in the world, and cling tenaciously to impermeable principles, value, and tenets, including personal integrity and professional ethics. I excerpted Robert Service’s “Security,” a limpet-themed parable for “Clinging Like Hell to Your Rock.”
  4. Longfellow once said, “The purpose of that tree is to add a little new wood each year.” Nature instructs that every organism, and for that matter every enterprise, must have purpose. What is yours?
  5. The eagle evokes different viewpoints in man (noble, regal, inspiration) and rabbit (peril, death, fear). Nature teaches the imperative of perspective among all enterprise participants.
  6. Our role as leaders involves revealing the magic, awe, beauty, and wonder that lies hidden within. I employed my orb weaver tale of hundreds of webs be-jeweled with dewdrops backlit by morning sun, as illustration of how the right conditions can reveal what lies within.

Again, these are six examples – not The Six Lessons, but merely six of many.

We then presented our three essential steps toward nature center fulfillment:

  1. Viewing your center as an organism within an ecosystem. I have written about this approach extensively in other GBH Blog posts. This is how I see any enterprise, individual, organization, or even educational institution. The same holds as the basis for my Forestland Legacy Stories. Any enterprise can be examined in such an ecosystem context.
  2. Learning to Look, See, Feel, and Act. Those four basic verbs are central to all that we at Great Blue Heron, LLC do. Again, so many of us suffer sensory deprivation, glued to our digital devices, unable, unwilling, and unfeeling to the glorious world around us. We are deprived by the tyranny of the digitally urgent.
  3. Defining and realizing your center’s DREAM. Some of my fundamental guidelines include:
    • Be aspirational
    • Reach beyond your immediate grasp
    • Understand your limitations
    • Know your strengths and weaknesses
    • Catalog your competition; identify your symbionts; carve your niche and exploit it
    • Distinguish DREAM from fantasy
    • Be specific in defining your center’s future desired condition
    • Dedicate your team to the DREAM
    • Develop Strategic, Business, and Operational Plans; remember that nature’s plans are embedded in DNA, complete with a full set of time-tested contingencies

We enjoyed discussing these topics and many more with our workshop participants. We are eager to see whether our precepts take root. We learned a great deal – we hope the nature center administrators did as well. We remain convinced that the emerging field of Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading will infect, enable, and motivate others.

I closed by offering how a mission statement for a nature center of my creation might read: To inspire, educate, and enable values-based Nature enthusiasts, committed to practicing Earth stewardship, applying Nature’s wisdom and power, and seeking a brighter tomorrow. After all, that is my mission as Great Blue Heron, CEO and author.


Featured Image: Great Blue Heron, LLC co-sponsored the ANCA Magnolia Summit