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Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center advances sustainability in rural Minnesota

sprig by Posted in Community Leadership, Grants

Colleen Foehrenbacher is the executive director at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center near Lanesboro, Minn. Eagle Bluff is an outdoor learning center that connects people with the earth and each other. Each year, their main program brings over 12,000 students for overnight trips involving hands-on learning and adventure experiences in nature. 

Blandin Foundation has awarded five grants to Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center. 

 

 

Written by Colleen Foehrenbacher

When I think about what it means to “lead courageously,” I can’t help but reflect on this past year. I stepped into the Executive Director role at Eagle Bluff on April 1, 2020…right as COVID-19 began to deeply impact this country and Minnesota. Since then, Eagle Bluff has only hosted 5 of the 200 schools and other groups we normally have on campus each year. This amounted to a revenue loss of over 1 million dollars. With this disruption, we had to severely reduce expenses including staff hours.
For me, leading courageously during this time meant not not shying away from making difficult decisions, communicating information (especially regarding staffing) in a timely manner, and working collaboratively. I also had to make a conscious effort not to get bogged down in the difficulty of our situation but focus on remaining positive, looking towards the future, and pivoting our organization to try new things during this situation. This experience, and the resiliency we’ve embraced, will likely shape who I am as a leader for years to come.

Minnesota has a deep tradition of outdoor recreation; it’s one of my favorite parts about our state!

However, studies show that people are spending more time indoors than ever before. Environmental education, especially overnight, multi-day experiences, allow students to deeply immerse themselves in learning about, and having fun in, the outdoor world. Providing youth with positive outdoor experiences can lead to lifelong enjoyment of the outdoors.

Not only is this healthy for the individual (fresh air, exercise, reduced stress, etc.) but also is healthy for our communities. Here in southeast Minnesota, we have lots of towns and businesses that revolve around outdoor recreation.

A great examle is the town closest to Eagle Bluff, Lanesboro. It is popular for the bike trail and a plethora of activities that can be done on the Root River.

Ultimately, we as humans derive many resources from the natural world so learning more about our environment can have long term benefits for how to use these resources wisely.

For more about Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, visit their website

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