Fostering Healthy Communities 

through Connection with Nature

Community Ecology Mapping (CEM) is a multi-layered approach to locally identifying: ecological resources and natural areas; the owners and managers of these physical places; and the organizations and entities working to connect people with the natural environment. This locally specific (typically county-level) ecological and social "map" is then integrated with a "path" along the human lifespan of research-based best practices for connecting people with the natural world, from infants to the elderly. Combined, the CEM helps local organizations identify gaps in what is available to their citizens and work together to "pass the baton" as people transition through life phases to ensure robust and continuous opportunities for connecting people and the natural environment.

CEI is in the process of piloting the CEM process  in Maryland and creating a toolkit for broad use. 

The Community Supported Education (CSE) model takes inspiration from Community Supported Agriculture, where members make a commitment to the viability of local farms by paying into the season's crop and also helping with the work of farming in exchange for a share of the harvest.  With CSE, all members of the education community are engaged, active participants that make contributions of both time and money to create a strong and flourishing learning ecosystem.  It is important for CSE programs to be place-based and offer a curriculum rooted in nature-based experiential learning.

Family Nature Clubs (FNCs) are community-based organizations that regularly bring families together to enjoy the benefits of time spent in nature. FNCs can essentially be created by anyone in any community. What FNCs have in common in their structure is that the events occur outdoors, are geared toward full family participation, and are designed to develop positive connections with nature through direct experience and informal learning opportunities.                                                                                                  One of CEI's flagship programs is Columbia Families in Nature.

Current Program and Project Areas

Civic Ecology Awards

Community Ecology Mapping

The first annual Community Ecology Institute awards celebrate local environmental leaders for significant achievements in fostering healthy communities through connections with the natural world.  Our purpose in offering these awards is to: Promote sustainable community initiatives in each of the categories recognized; Support and recognize leaders whose efforts match CEI’s mission; Inform and inspire members of the community to undertake their own efforts at fostering connections with nature. Awards for 2017 were conferred in five categories: The Youth Leadership Award; The Ecosystem Restoration Award; The Community Outreach Award; The Experiential Education Award; and the The Lifetime Achievement Award.

​Community Supported Education