Member Highlight: Upstream Alliance

Photo Credit: Upstream Alliance

Photo Credit: Upstream Alliance

We all love getting out on the water and enjoying this incredible Chesapeake Bay watershed that we are working so hard to protect, so why not have an organization dedicated to doing just that! Meet the Upstream Alliance, and their Program Director Erica Baugh. The name may sound familiar, and that's because environmental education is in her blood. Don Baugh, president and founder of the Upstream Alliance, spent 38 years directing environmental education programs at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. We asked Erica to tell us a little more about the organization and how they hope to work with Choose Clean Water in the future.

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

Upstream Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people to nature. We dream of a healthy relationship between people and the environment, where people understand and care for nature, making the world a healthier place for all inhabitants. Upstream Alliance’s mission is to provide significant outdoor environmental education experiences to prepare the next generation to be leaders and stewards of a sustainable environment.

What is one of your current projects that you are the most excited about?

One of our current programs, Conservation Expeditions, has recently been gaining a lot of traction and has successfully been expanding to our target audience. This expedition centered program is based on an existing network of distinguished Chesapeake Bay conservation leaders. The network will grow to include emerging leaders and ecosystems beyond the Chesapeake Bay region. Conservation Expeditions provide first-person experiences in an outdoor setting, as well as professional development and networking opportunities. We hope they will lead to advances in environmental education, and policy initiatives to help preserve the Bay and other coastal ecosystems.

Within the network, participants will become increasingly engaged over time. This will be achieved with emerging leaders growing and developing through professional relationships, eventually becoming distinguished leaders able to mentor and coach new leaders.

We have begun by seeking emerging leaders from environmental and conservation groups, philanthropic organizations, government agencies, and private corporations. We anticipate focusing our audience over time, as well as broadening the geographic locales where we work. We will pursue ethnic and racial diversity—traditionally a challenge in environmental work. 

Upstream Alliance led three highly successful spring trips:

1)      April 21-23, Delaware River, Theme: Celebrating the Clean Water Act on Earth Day Weekend (28 participants)

2)      May 5-7, Potomac River, Theme: Political Leadership, Looking Back and Forward (27 participants)

3)      June 9-11, Delaware Bay, Theme: Horseshoe Crabs (31 participants)

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

Photo Credit: Upstream Alliance

Photo Credit: Upstream Alliance

Upstream Alliance is gearing up to put a significant amount of energy into the Superintendents’ Environmental Education Collaborative (SEEC). SEEC was developed to take advantage of the interest in environmental education fostered by many school systems, and by the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Upstream Alliance launched the collaborative to help school superintendents advance environmental education and leverage opportunities provided by ESSA.

The purpose of SEEC is to create model environmental education programs that can be replicated across the nation. School superintendents learn about grant opportunities through ESSA, best practices for environmental education, and strategies for implementing plans. Superintendents network with each other through conference calls, webinars, and short wilderness outings during the annual conference of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).

At the last conference in March 2017, 93 education leaders attended an immersion field trip and 60 superintendents attended a conference session that SEEC sponsored. These education leaders learned about model programs, partnerships and opportunities to advance environmental education in school systems. During the conference, 19 superintendents agreed to be state champions, leading and disseminating information to their respective states. In the next year, Upstream Alliance hopes to gain interest and action from additional superintendents that are invested in advancing environmental education in their community.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

Upstream Alliance is delighted to be a member of the Clean Water Coalition in order to help support clean and healthy waterways. We see tremendous value in collaboration around shared goals. The Clean Water Coalition does a great job of uniting and advocating for healthy water through coordinated messaging. We appreciate the information dispersed on how we can participate, collaborate, and support the restoration of Chesapeake Bay waterways.

For more information on the Upstream Alliance, please contact Erica Baugh.