•  CGEE's History

    CGEE's History

    Early History

    The Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) at Hamline University is celebrating a milestone anniversary.  Twenty-five years ago the seeds of the center began with the interest and excitement surrounding the 1989-90 Trans-Antarctica Expedition led by explorer Will Steger. During the expedition, twenty-five million people worldwide followed the expedition using written curriculum, TV news, newspapers, magazines, and daily updates sent via various computer linking systems in France, China, Australia, the US, England, Japan and the Soviet Union.

    As part of that effort, Antarctic Institutes were held at Hamline University in 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1991. The institutes were inspired by Diedre Kramer, then Director of Continuing  Studies at Hamline; they were developed by Jennifer Gasperini, Communications Director for Will Steger’s 1989-90 Trans-Antarctica Expedition, and Dave Chittenden, Education Director at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  During the 1989 institute, the expedition team, including members from six different countries, packed for the expedition in the ballroom of the Bush Center on Hamline’s campus. A Russian Illyusian aircraft, the first Soviet plane ever allowed in US airspace, came to Minneapolis/St. Paul to pick up the team.

    When the expedition ended in March 1990, teachers were begging the education team to continue developing adventure learning projects for their classrooms. Gasperini began discussing the creation of CGEE with Hamline at that time; in November of 1990, CGEE was born as part of the Graduate School of Continuing  Studies.

    CGEE went on to embrace learning inspired by expeditions and adventures.


    • The 1991 Antarctic Institute featured Trans-Antarctica team members as well as Colonel Norman Vaughan.  At 88 years old, Vaughan returned to climb Mt. Vaughan in Antarctica, sixty three years after traveling there with Admiral Byrd. CGEE developed a study guide, funded by Prodigy, and an online program for schools and adults to follow his trip. Teachers joined CGEE from around the world for the Institute.
    • Developed a written study guide for ESPN to accompany Earthwinds, a hot air balloon circumnavigation of the globe.
    • Created a study guide called SportsWorld, featuring sports and cultures around the world, that was distributed by cable stations nationally
    • Invented ways for teachers to follow Ann Bancroft's 1991-92 Antarctic Women’s Expedition
    • Designed the national Kids for Saving Earth curriculum for grades 4-6 for Target Stores (1992)
    • Collaborated with the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota Zoo to develop the Tropical Rainforest Institute funded by the National Science Foundation (July 1992)
    • Hosted the Peoples of the Rainforest Institute for K-12 teachers with a simultaneous Kids’ Rainforest Institute for students ages 6-12, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Summer 1993)
    • Worked with Dan Buettner to develop a study guide and video featuring Africatrek bicycle adventure funded by 3M (1993)
    • Developed a study guide and online program for MayaQuest, Buettner’s interactive expedition in the Maya world of Central America.
    • Ran the Urban Environment Institute for teachers of grades 4-6; centered on the theme Water in the City; funded by Higher Education Coordinating Board (July 1993)
    • Coordinated the Oceans Institute featuring NOAA Director and award-winning underwater explorer Sylvia Earle (1994)
    • Authored a curriculum to follow Will Steger’s Arctic Project expedition and Journey North, an interactive program tracking the migration of 8 species; funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1993)
    • Collaborated with the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota Zoo on the Oceans and Lakes Connections Institute (1994)
    • Established the Environmental Education Circle (renamed the Legislative Task Force) to set up a legislative agenda for the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education (MAEE) (1994)
    • Developed a curriculum guide for ESPN called Team Up to Clean Up and school tie-in with an on-air environmental awareness campaign, “You CAN Make a World of Difference!” (1994) 


    • Tracy Fredin became the director of CGEE in 1995.
    • CGEE was a founding member and administrator of the Metro WaterShed Partners in 1995. This partnership of over 60 public, private, and non-profit organizations grew out of the McKnight-funded Mississippi River Initiative. The Metro WaterShed Partners addresses the need for coordinated education and outreach efforts about water quality. 
    • The first Rivers Institute in 1996 began CGEE’s engagement with the Mississippi River. The Rivers Institute modeled a hands-on approach to teacher professional development, and the institute focused on inquiry-based learning. The Mississippi Rivers Institute is CGEE’s longest-running institute and is still offered every summer.
    • Thousand Friends of Frogs (1996) started when a group of eighth grade students found deformed frogs in Henderson, MN, and reached out to the MPCA. The MPCA partnered with CGEE because of its expertise in environmental education in order to create the Friends of Frogs program. This included a national summit, curriculum and teacher workshops, and the Minnesota Frog & Toad Survey. The survey allowed students and citizens to study frog populations in their own backyards and share data with scientists. CGEE helped develop the national Frog & Toad Survey.
    • Solstice River (1997-2015) celebrated the Mississippi River through an annual site-specific public dance performance by Hamline Artist in Residence, choreographer Marylee Hardenbergh. 
    • Rivers of Life, starting in 1997, used an extensive website to examine issues facing the Mississippi River, while engaging students and teachers worldwide in learning about streams in their own backyards. This program acted as a platform to help teachers incorporate the information and active learning into the curriculum.
    • In 1997, CGEE completed the first comprehensive redesign of Hamline’s website.
    • Rivers of Life Expeditions (1999-2001): An annual student expedition aboard a hand-built 50-foot sternwheeler on the Mississippi River. Students around the globe followed the expeditions in an application of the internet, cutting-edge for its time.
    • John Shepard joined CGEE in 1999, bringing his multimedia expertise. Since then, CGEE has developed over 100 educational multimedia programs in a variety of formats, including videos, games, interactives, websites, documentaries, and online curriculum.
    • Waters to the Sea: Rivers of the Upper Mississippi (1999) was the first of many versions of the Waters to the Sea multimedia program. This educational program has been customized to other areas of the country including Georgia, Texas, Alabama and Southern California. 


    • Starting in 2002, continuing studies in science and environmental education could be taken for graduate credit. CGEE was a proponent of having continuing studies at Hamline. Existing teacher institutes offered graduate credit, and new courses were created.
    • CGEE created Hamline University’s Masters of Arts in Education: Natural Science and Environmental Education program, and began accepting students in 2002. This was one of the first programs of its kind. The program continues to attract both classroom and nonformal educators. 
    • The WaterShed Partners began their media campaign in 2003, focused on educating the public about protecting water quality. This included billboards and announcements at Twins baseball games.
    • CGEE wins a Wildscreen Panda Award for Waters to the Sea: Chattahoochee (2004). This award recognizes exceptional storytelling about the natural world. CGEE’s Director/Executive Producer, Tracy Fredin, and Assistant Director/Producer traveled to London to accept the award at the ceremony for what is considered the “Green Oscars.” 
    • The Grand Excursion (2004) commemorated the 150th anniversary of the original excursion up the Mississippi River from the Delta. CGEE created and distributed 800 educational trunks for schools along the river. These trunks contained place-based materials such as maps and photos to help students learn about the river.


    • The Eco Experience began at the Minnesota State Fair in 2005. The Eco Experience, managed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, showcases sustainable products and practices in energy, food, transportation, water, and more. CGEE provided an interactive exhibit for the kids’ area. CGEE was involved at the beginning, and continues to participate in the Eco Experience every year by creating and coordinating an exhibit in the building. 
    • CGEE’s work in Texas began in 2005 when a Texas environmental educator saw Waters to the Sea: Chattahoochee River and wanted a version for the Trinity River watershed, which starts in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. CGEE began creating Waters to the Sea: Trinity RiverThis led to other connections and opportunities for CGEE to produce educational programs for water-based organizations in Texas. 
    • CGEE worked with well-known Minnesota nature photographer Jim Brandenberg on two films: Chased by the Light in 2006, followed by Courage & Light in 2009. A campus event accompanied the second film’s release. 
    • Minnesota Department of Education awarded CGEE a $3 million grant over 3 years (2007-2009) for the Minnesota Science Teacher Education Project (MnSTEP) to provide teacher training to science teachers around the state. This led CGEE to begin other programs including ChemCAL, PhASE, Chem4All, Physics4All, and BioTIC (BioTechnology for Teachers in the Classroom). CGEE partnered with Hamline biology faculty on BioTIC in order to improve teacher content around microbiology and biotechnology.
    • The St. Croix Rivers Institute began in 2008. After over ten years of the Mississippi Rivers Institute, the St. Croix was the second Rivers Institute offered by CGEE. The St. Croix Institute continued the emphasis on investigation, water knowledge, and science literacy, plus it utilized the unique geography of the region to teach geology and forestry. 
    • In 2008, the WaterShed Partners began to incorporate behavior change science into its outreach and multimedia production.
    • In 2009, the School of Education was reorganized, and the Master’s program in Environmental Education moved out of CGEE to other departments. Professional development was one of CGEE’s biggest areas of work, but now CGEE had the opportunity to focus more strongly on educational multimedia production.


    • Waters to the Sea: Trinity River, released in 2010, was funded by 17 organizations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The program won a Watermark Award for excellence in communication about water. The award was given by the Water Environment Association of Texas (WEAT) and the American Waterworks Association (AWA) Texas Chapter.
    • The Trinity River Institute began in 2011 and has continued each year, building an ongoing relationship between CGEE and Texas educators. The Trinity River Institute focuses on hands-on learning and content specific to Texas water. 
    • In 2012 the Storm Drain Goalie photo booth and Eco-Arcade were incorporated into CGEE's annual exhibit in the State Fair Eco Experience building. This expanded CGEE’s exhibit from a area for kids to an interactive exhibit for all ages. The Photo booth has been used for other events, including a Minnesota Wild game and Hamline Homecoming. The Eco-Arcade provides education about non-point source water pollution through fun, interactive games, including Foosball and Air Hockey tables retrofitted as streets with storm drains.
    • The Adopt-a-Drain community outreach program began in St. Paul in 2013, and has since expanded to other cities including Minneapolis, Roseville, and Bloomington - thanks to partnerships with the cities and watershed districts.
    • Waters to the Sea: Guadalupe River (2013) was CGEE’s first module produced in HTML5. CGEE continued to adapt to the most widely used and up-to-date technology by moving from disc to web-based modules. This made the program more compatible with internet-enabled devices. 
    • CGEE received a grant from Capitol Region Watershed District in 2014 to create portable, lightweight exhibits. CGEE developed three exhibits in a box that focused on eutrophication, the Twin Cities watershed, and pollution from storm drains. These exhibits have been displayed at the Minnesota State Fair and other venues for public education.


    • The Mississippi Multimedia Gallery program was developed in 2015 and 2016 for a 55" touch screen table. This innovative approach to place-based storytelling allows up to four people to interact at once with the content - videos, photos, 360 panoramas and games focused on the Mississippi River through the lenses of the arts, environment, navigation and people. Much of the media featured in the gallery was produced by CGEE. The gallery table is well suited to different settings from visitor centers to airports, and CGEE plans to adapt this technology for other projects in the future. 
    • The Mobile Bay kiosks, funded by an EPA Grant, featured a Water Down the Drain module customized for the state of Alabama and called Too Rich for Gulf Waters. The kiosks were placed at environmental learning and science centers around the state. Users were offered an opportunity to pledge to protect water; then educators in Alabama could follow up with them. 
    • CGEE’s Sustainable Commons blog launched in 2015. The blog expands CGEE’s online presence and social media engagement, and acts as a platform for sharing stories related to the environment and sustainability, both from people within CGEE and from various guest bloggers.
    • Science and Engineering Practices in Action (SEPA) started in 2016 with a $1 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Education in two phases. This program combines two of CGEE’s cornerstones: teacher professional development and multimedia expertise. SEPA includes an in-person institute as well as a series of online teacher professional development modules.
    • The Mississippi Delta Rivers Institute took place for the first tine in 2016. CGEE’s engagement in New Orleans began with CGEE Assistant Director John Shepard’s sabbatical in the Gulf region, where he met Chris and Bill Haines of the Meraux Foundation. This connection led to multimedia production opportunities, and the Mississippi Delta Rivers Institute
    • CGEE’s director Tracy Fredin developed connections with environmental educators in Hawaii after several years of accompanying his wife, a St. Thomas professor, on month-long study abroad trips there. This led to CGEE forming partnerships to work on projects including an exhibit in a box for Kauai birds and a multimedia gallery table for the Kauai History Museum.