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Wildlife Educator Completes Her Environmental Education Certification

Published:
2017-02-24

Kristin Frew, a wildlife education specialist for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission completed her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification this month. In her role with the commission, Frew teaches environmental programs to a wide variety of audiences and assist with staff training. In addition, she volunteers with the Piedmont Wildlife Center on their Raptor Team and serves as membership chair for Environmental Educators of North Carolina.

Frew says her favorite part of the certification program was participating in the instructional workshops. “I enjoyed traveling across the state meeting other educators and learning innovative ways to engage audiences.” She says the experience in the program that stands out the most for her was participating in the Sea Turtle Exploration Workshop at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. “It was my first time going to the aquarium and we got to watch the staff feed the animals at the top of one of the tanks. If it wasn’t for the certification program, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity.”

For her community partnership project, Frew developed a curriculum guide for the Piedmont Wildlife Center that addresses wildlife conservation and highlights impacts on wildlife and things people of all ages can do to benefit wildlife such as recycling, building nest boxes or creating backyard habitats. Educators at Piedmont Wildlife Center were trained to use the material in their education programs.

Frew says the certification program broadened her knowledge of effective ways to teach environmental education and skills for developing and implementing programs for a wide variety of audiences. “I feel more confident in my ability to engage audiences and the resources I received from workshops are invaluable.”

Although Frew, who has a background in wildlife, had an understanding of most environmental issues coming into the certification, she says the program helped her build on that knowledge and learn more about how to present those issues to audiences in an effective way. “I feel that I am more prepared to teach others about environmental issues and the ways in which people can help prevent or solve those issues,” says Frew. 


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Educator Spotlight: Sara English

Published:
2017-02-06

Sara English recently completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program and credits the program with helping her move her education career in a new direction. 

When English began the program, she was working as a high school biology teacher. She now works in nonformal education as a program specialist at the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia and as an adjunct biology teacher at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. “I started as the environmental educator at the Schiele, but have recently moved into aboriginal cultures specialist position focusing on Native Americans, specifically here in the Southeastern United States. It has been great to combine my new position with what I have learned as an environmental educator because the two topics are so interconnected.”

English says one of her favorite parts of the program was getting to travel to new parks and environmental education centers in North Carolina. She also enjoyed the workshops and getting to meet so many interesting people.

When asked about an experience that stands out for her, she is quick to say there are so many good experiences but recalled one workshop in particular. “Probably the best experience was the Project WILD workshop I took with Tanya Poole as one of my first workshops ever. It was then I realized that I really could have a career doing the things I loved like being outside, hiking and enjoying wildlife and not only that, but I could share it with others! It really opened by eyes to a new way of thinking and a new life for myself.”

English feels that the program influenced her approach to teaching. “It is the hands-on experiences that have really stuck with me. Getting up, going outside, doing things is so much more meaningful than sitting in a classroom and listening. They both have their perks but the hands-on experiences provide mental stimulation and it also provides you with a personal connection and stronger memory of the topic. I try to incorporate hands-on experiences with every program or workshop that I facilitate.”

When she isn’t working, English enjoys being outside anywhere with her dog and significant other. She loves science of all kinds, plays drums in a silly garage rock band called Solar Cat, and loves to read books, both fiction and nonfiction. 

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Educator Spotlight: Aaron Sebens

Published:
2017-01-24

Aaron Sebens, a teacher at Central Park School for Children in Durham just completed his N.C. Environmental Education Certification.

Sebens is a librarian and project specialist and also helps teacher begin environmental education projects.  His favorite part about the program was learning outside and about so many topics from landfills to raptors, watersheds to solar power.

For his community partnership project, Aaron’s fourth grade class launched a crowd-funding campaign to add solar electricity to their classroom. “It went viral and we ended up raising enough money to take our classroom completely off the grid. The U.S. Department of Energy made a video about the project  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lGjOtIQ1YQand President Obama tweeted about it,” said Sebens.

Fourth-grade teacher Aaron Sebens and some of his students - (from left) Ella Brown, Peter Mullen, Natalie Russell, Cassie Wells, and Ellen Broghausen, pose with the class' solar panels on the roof of the building at Central Park School. The class raised money and did the construction to convert their classroom to solar energy as a school project.
Sebens said that the project awareness and skills that citizens will need to solve the problems our society will face. “We are, for the most part, ignorant consumers of electricity. Students monitored the electricity we used in the classroom, at their house, and found out they can make do with a lot less. They learned the skills of organizing resources and developing a plan to make a big idea into a reality. This project is ongoing and last year we added a wind turbine to provide more and a different source of clean energy.

Sebens immersed his students in the process of planning the system, raising the funds, and working with community partners to make the project work. “Students need to become active participants in their understanding and consumption of electricity if we are going to have the innovators we will need to solve the problems that will arise in the next century.”

When asked if the certification program changed his approach to teaching Sebens said that he thinks about formal and informal educational experiences in different ways and considers ways to remove obstacles to environmental education not just for students but for teachers as well. 

The N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program is offered by the Department of Environmental Quality's Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. To learn more about the program, visit the office's website at www.eenorthcarolina.org 
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Educator Spotlight: Erin Harrison

Published:
2017-01-13



Erin Harrison, a former AmeriCorps member currently working as a Water Conservation and Efficiency Analyst for the City of Durham, recently completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification.

In addition to providing water use assessment for residents and maintaining the water supply status, Harrison educates school groups and other organizations about water conservation and water and wastewater treatment processes.

When asked about the certification experience, Harrison said she is a big fan of the wildlife-specific experiences and programming. “I learned about owls, spiders, beetles, reptiles, black bears and many more. It is always super interesting and I can really see the passion educators have for sharing their knowledge of something they really love.”

For her community partnership project Harrison planned and installed a Kids in Parks TRACK Trail at Eno River State Park. The .5-mile loop trail is a part of the network of family-friendly outdoor TRACK Trail adventures provided by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. The Eno trail includes four self-guided brochures including Animal Athletes, Nature's Hide and Seek, Need for Trees and Birds of the Piedmont. These brochures were carefully curated to fit Eno River State Park and its specific flora and fauna and visitor demographics. The brochures are placed at the trail head along with interpretive signage. Harrison says the Track Trail gave the community a new, interactive way to experience and enjoy their park and it gave park rangers a way to provide an educational experience for larger groups.

Harrison says participating in the program changed her approach to teaching others. “My approach now involves ways to ensure that participants feel invested and have ownership of their resources. I also realize that teaching others actually means that you have to let them teach themselves. Ideas that come from your participants will actually stick. I have to remember to let them be a part of the inquiry because I can learn just as much from them as they learn from me.”

Harrison says she now has an understanding about the wide array of perspectives that exist when it comes to environmental issues. “It’s important to be aware that not everyone is coming from the same place, background or knowledge-base as you when they think about the environment. Being able to respect those differences is crucial to wider support of environmental causes."


Learn more about Eno River State Park on their website at http://www.ncparks.gov/eno-river-state-park

Information about the Conservation Trust for North Carolina's AmeriCorps Program, visit their site at http://www.ctnc.org/connect/ctnc-americorps/

The N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program is offered by the Department of Environmental Quality's Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. To learn more about the program, visit the office's website at www.eenorthcarolina.org 




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Teens & 20s Writer Plans to Earn Her N.C. Environmental Education Certification During Gap Year

Published:
2017-01-11

Chandler Holland in the Discovery Room at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences
Photograph by Michael Holland

Chandler Holland, a Teens & 20s writer for the Burlington Times-News is in her senior year of homeschooling and plans to complete the N.C. Environmental Education Certification during her gap year before attending Warren Wilson College with a merit-based scholarship.

"The fact that I will spend my “Gap Year” working toward obtaining my EE certification no doubt played a significant role in my acceptance at the school of my choice in their early decision process, as well as being awarded a merit scholarship.  Warren Wilson College has a strong program that will give me the real-world skills to begin a successful career committed to environmental education," Holland said.

In addition to writing a monthly article for the Teens & 20s column on a variety of topics including sustainability and the environment, Holland is a docent in the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Discovery Room. She plans to officially enroll in the program later this month when she turns 18 and will count her hours volunteering as a docent towards her certification.


Holland recently highlighted the certification program in her December 19 column, Environmental education: Certification program isn’t just for classroom teachers.To read Holland’s story on program go to 
http://teensandtwenties.com/environmental-education-certification-program-isnt-just-for-classroom-teachers/

The N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program is offered by the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. To learn more about the program, visit the office’s website at www.eenorthcarolina.org


Source for article:

Times-News
December 19, pg. A10
Environmental education: Certification program isn’t just for classroom teachershttp://teensandtwenties.com/environmental-education-certification-program-isnt-just-for-classroom-teachers/

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Collaboration Between Departments Attracts Record Number to 6th Annual Nonformal Educators Meeting

Published:
2016-12-14

Educators from all regions of North Carolina gathered at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences’ Nature Research Center last week for the 6thannual meeting for nonformal educators. The meeting reached its highest attendance to date with more than 90 nonformal educators representing a wide variety of nonprofit and city, county, state and federal agencies and facilities, including nature centers, science museums, gardens, arboretums, aquariums, state parks, the N.C. Forest Service, the Wildlife Resources Commission, 4-H, Soil and Water Conservation Districts and others.

The meeting is a collaboration between the Science Section of the Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs to support nonformal educators who provide environmental science to school-age children. This unique partnership encourages collaboration between schools, school districts, NCDPI and the nonformal education community to support science learning and environmental literacy.


The meeting provides an opportunity for educators to get updates on curriculum standards from NCDPI and resources to help align their educational programs and field trips with the state’s essential standards for science. Participants shared school program and teacher professional development success stories.

The highlight of this year’s meeting was a panel of classroom teachers that included Kerry Piper, an earth/environmental science teacher at Apex High School, Alexandra Shadroui, a middle school science teacher at Salisbury Academy, Terry Denny, a music teacher at Lacy Elementary School in Raleigh and Jennifer Fine, elementary science senior administrator with Wake County Public School System. Panel members addressed a variety of questions including how nonformal educators and can connect with teachers, what resources teachers need from nonformal educators, i.e., field trips, lesson plans, etc. and what professional development programs or opportunities teachers find most helpful.  

Lisa Tolley, program manager with the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs wasn’t surprised by the high numbers of attendees. “North Carolina has one of the strongest nonformal science communities in the country and these educators and facilities provide a wealth of programming to students and profession development to teachers across the state. These partnerships as a way to ensure students are exposed to hands-on, field-based learning that enhance student’s understanding of STEM subjects and meet environmental literacy goals, which are specifically noted in the new Every Student Succeeds Act.” 

The two departments plan to continue to build on this partnership and look forward to future collaborations. 

Check out the storify of the meeting. 

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Winter Lunchtime Speaker Series Kicks Off Next Week

Published:
2016-12-02

The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs kicks off its lunchtime speaker series next week with John Gerwin, research curator in ornithology with the NC Museum of Natural Sciences with a presentation on attracting and caring for backyard birds, December 7 at noon. 


The guest lecture series is hosted by the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and features professionals from a wide range of environmental and science backgrounds representing local and state agencies, colleges and universities and other organizations throughout the state.

John Gerwin, NC Museum of Natural Sciences
The lecture series is designed to provide professional development for employees and educators and to gives attendees the opportunity interact directly with some of the best experts in their respective fields. Some sessions even head outdoors to explore urban nature, local architecture and green rooftops!

Lectures are usually held on Wednesdays in the office’s Environmental Literacy Center located in the Nature Research Center from noon until 1:00 p.m. The upcoming series includes several interesting presentations, including Amy Comer with the Division of Marine Fisheries on artificial reefs in North Carolina, Dan Gottlieb and Rachel Woods with the NC Museum of Art on the NCMA Park’s new landscape and sustainability features and Alexandra Mash with NCSU talking about the Candid Critter citizen science program and its statewide camera trap survey.

On January 26 there will be two special presentations. DEQ has partnered with the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and the NC Aquariums to bring Chris Fischer, the Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader for OCEARCH to the Daily Planet Theatre to talk about his organization’s research and their work tracking sharks off the North Carolina coast and around the world. Fischer will also be speaking at a Science Café that evening in Daily Planet Restaurant in addition to the lunchtime lecture. 

Go herefor the full Lunchtime Discovery line up. 

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Educator Spotlight: Lindsey Purvis

Published:
2016-12-01

Lindsey Purvis recently completed her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification. Purvis works with N.C. State Parks, formerly at Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve and currently at William B. Umstead State Park.  Purvis has maintenance duties including trail upkeep and special projects. She staffs the visitor's center, teaches environmental programs and leads educational hikes for the public.

Purvis said that attending workshops and getting valuable resources to take back to the park, such as program ideas, lesson plans and increased knowledge of citizen science projects was her favorite part of the certification.

When asked about an experience that stands out for her, Purvis mentions a workshop at Raven Rock State Park. “The herpetology workshops were my favorite. I had one day for herps at Raven Rock State Park where we learned about the various snakes, lizards, turtles and frogs in North Carolina. The educators had 21 more different herp species that we then had to identify through our notes and ID books. It was awesome and very hands-on! They really went the extra mile and you could tell they all loved their jobs.”

For her community partnership project, Purvis built a wildlife garden at Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve which is in her hometown of Southern Pines. The garden includes bird feeders for hummingbirds and year-round, migrating species and a variety of native plants to provide habitat and nectar for pollinators. “It brought together the community by way of the various volunteers and donations received towards completing the project from individuals and businesses. The garden will continue to grow outside of the Weymouth Woods museum which is being renovated and will give park visitors a close-up view of the native wildlife of the Sandhills to foster a more intimate experience with nature.”

When asked how participating in the certification program changed her approach to teaching, Purvis said that it influenced her teaching techniques and approach. “I learned a lot about teaching techniques in terms of little things I didn’t think about before which can be as simple as not wearing sunglasses during outdoor presentations because eye contact is important. And how the teachable moment is better than a strict schedule for hiking. It was also useful to be reminded you should “dip-stick” with your group to know what they are learning and whether you should adjust your approach to keeping them engaged. I learned that there are citizen science projects and way to get involved in any natural history subject you could want to teach! The EE resources out there are boundless and I’m thrilled that the certification program exposed me to so many of them by offering diverse workshops in locations all across the state.”

Purvis feels that education is a much more valuable tool for helping to address environmental issues than people realize. “Even when you’re not outright changing a person’s behavior by telling them about the effects of X and Y on the environment, you’re changing their attitude towards nature by giving them a positive educational experience. What feels like a simple lesson to you might inspire a child to pursue a career in the natural sciences – you never know if that future environmental scientist, ecologist or engineer may go on to do great things for the world. Those special moments in teaching matter. Going the extra mile as an educator to excite your audience matters.”

For more information about Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve, visit their website . To learn more about William B. Umstead State Park, visit their website. To find out more about the NC Environmental Education Certification Program visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website.
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Educator Spotlight: Erica Connery

Published:
2016-11-28


Erica Connery recently earned her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification. Connery is a Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) AmeriCorps member at the N.C. Coastal Federation’s Northeast office in Wanchese.

As an CTNC AmeriCorps member serving with N.C. Coastal Federation, Connery does education and outreach visiting local schools and presenting coastal science programs to groups of all ages. She also helps with the federation’s restoration projects. “I love living at the beach and exploring North Carolina’s coastal environments and being able to teach others about the coast.”

Connery says that the instructional workshops were her favorite part of the certification program. “They were a fun way to learn new teaching methods and get lots of program ideas, and I also got to meet a great network of fellow environmental educators in Eastern North Carolina. I was able to travel to several different environmental centers and sites for the workshops and it was interesting to learn from a variety of instructors.”

Connery’s community partnership project involved organizing field experiences at Jockey’s Ridge State Park for children in the Mano al Hermano family literacy program. Connery notes that not all of the children in the program get to the beach or sound during the summer. “By providing transportation for the field trip, the children had an opportunity to interact with other kids during a fun day outside their homes and it allowed them to explore the environments that they learned about in the books they read this summer.”

Connery liked that the certification program requires you to visit sites outside your own region. “I think it is important to see different parts of the state and learn how different environmental subjects are taught. Even though my focus is on coastal environmental education, I learned from all my workshop experiences by observing different teaching styles and the ways that people connect to the environment no matter where they live.”

Connery said that participating in the certification taught her to be more thoughtful about what she wanted people to get from her program.  “This program introduced me to more teaching techniques and methods to reach a broader audience. The workshops make you think about different learning styles and the different backgrounds that people may bring to your program and how to connect with them.”


For more information about CTNC AmeriCorps program, visit http://www.ctnc.org/connect/ctnc-americorps. To learn more about the NC Coastal Federation, visit http://www.nccoast.org. For more information on the Environmental Education Certification, visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website at www.eenorthcarolina.org 
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Educator Spotlight: Lindsey Baker

Published:
2016-11-21

Lindsey Baker recently completed the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. Baker works with K-12 STEM teachers at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CESTEM). Baker coordinates professional development workshops and runs a technology library with equipment that is available to regional teachers for free.

Baker developed the N.C. State Park Photo Scavenger Hunt Challenge for her community partnership project, a requirement for environmental education certification. Baker started the program hoping it would be a way to use technology to help get her peers outdoors and into state parks. What began as a small grant and project in 2013 grew into a statewide initiative with the help of Friends of State Parks. The program has been implemented in every state park and recreation area in North Carolina. Baker says the challenge was designed to be a zero-impact, self-guided activity that encourages park visitors of all ages and backgrounds to get outside and engage with nature. “This is a project that utilizes the spirit of competition with a sense of adventure. Anyone can use any kind of camera and in any one park, you must take photos of 12 out of 15 categories which include flora, fauna, a selfie with a Ranger, and a beautiful overlook, etc.”

Baker says that the certification program changed her approach to teaching. “Being able to participate and observe the environmental education workshop instructors was very valuable to me. I learn from others and by watching others. Seeing all of the different instructors and how they taught a variety of subjects was very interesting to me. This has helped show me better ways to teach and things to avoid when teaching.”

In addition to the workshops being one of her favorite things about the program, Baker enjoyed being able to visit new parks and other environmental education centers. She says earning her certification changed the way she thinks about environmental issues. “I think there are many sides to each environmental issue and going through this certification process helps you to be able to understand the science content behind the issue and then gives you the people-skills to be able to talk about the varying viewpoints. If we are going to help solve the environmental issues we face, then as educators, we better have a strong sense and skill of environmental communication.”


For more information about CESTEM, visit their website at http://uncw.edu/cestem. For more information about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification, visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs site at www.eenorthcarolina.org
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Educator Spotlight: Jessica Stitt

Published:
2016-11-09

Jessica Stitt recently completed the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. Stitt works at Wilmington Water Tours, a boat company in downtown Wilmington that specializes in eco-history tours on the Cape Fear River. She has been helping the company develop an education program. Stitt also works with Carolina Ocean Studies, a company that takes school groups out to a barrier island to teach them about the ecology of the island.


Stitt says her favorite part about earning her certification was traveling to different state parks and recreation areas to attend workshops. “I have enjoyed gaining more experience as an educator, I have already used the materials from each and every one of the workshops.” She plans to visit more parks while working on her continuing education requirement for the program.

For her community partnership project, Stitt working with state park rangers and office staff to create signage for the new Carolina Beach State Park Fitness Trail. As part of the project, she incorporated QR codes on signage at each station – one with information about the proper exercise and the other with information about an animal that does a similar exercise. This created a fun and educational way to tie the trail to animals found in the region.

Stitt says the certification program changed the way she approached teaching. “It allowed me to expand my knowledge of different lesson plans but also allowed me to meet other educators and learn about their experiences. It also helped me network and learn from others as well, which allows me to use more resources to teach.”

She also notes changes in how she views environmental issues after completing the program. “After participating in the certification program, my passion for teaching and sharing my knowledge with others increased and showed me the importance in instilling stewardship in those around me to keep our environment safe for future generations.”

In her personal time, Stitt enjoys going to the beach, surfing, volunteering with Cape Fear River Watch and with Friends of Pleasure Island State Parks group of which she currently serves as secretary.

To learn more about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website at www.eenorthcarolina.org

To find out more about Wilmington Water Tours, visit their website at http://www.wilmingtonwatertours.netor Carolina Ocean Studies at http://www.carolinaoceanstudies.com
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Paid Summer Internships Available with DEQ and DNCR: Many EE and Public Outreach Opportunities

Published:
2016-11-04

It's that time of year again...North Carolina college students have a great opportunity to gain experience in the environmental, natural and cultural resources fields with the North Carolina Department of Administration's Council for Women and Youth Involvement State Internship Program. Applications are due by January 13, 2017. 

Permanent North Carolina residents attending a college, university, law school, community college or technical institute in North Carolina or a North Carolina resident attending an equivalent institution out of state are eligible to apply for these internships.

Interns work 40 hours a week for a 10-week period, earning $8.25 an hour. They participate in meetings, educational tours and other activities designed to broaden their perspective of public service and state government. There are up to 80 internship positions available during the summer at various state agencies located throughout North Carolina.

The Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ)  and Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) have many internships available. Many of these internships involve elements of environmental education or public outreach.

Divisions within DEQ with internship opportunities include Coastal Management, Waste Management, Marine Fisheries, Water Resources, and Energy, Mineral and Land Resources. Divisions within DNCR with opportunities include the Wildlife Resources Commission, the Maritime Museum, the Museum of the Cape Fear, all three N.C. Aquariums, various State Parks, the Museum of Natural Sciences, and the N.C. Zoo. 

The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs has hosted several state interns in the past and encourages you to share these great opportunities with college students you know. 

The online program booklet has a list and description of all the internships as well as the application information and program requirements. 

https://ncdoa.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/cfw/documents/PROGRAM%20BOOK%202017.pdf 
 
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Educator Spotlight: Michael Wood

Published:
2016-11-02



Michael Wood, a park ranger at Stone Mountain State Park in Roaring Gap, North Carolina recently completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. 

Wood oversees resource management at the park and provides educational programs to the public and to school groups. This is in addition to his law enforcement duties.

One of Wood’s favorite parts of the program was gaining experience and resources for providing children’s programs from workshops such as Growing Up WILD and Aquatic WILD which are provided through the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

Another experience that stood out for Wood was the Civilian Conservation Corps workshop he participated in at Hanging Rock. “We listened to experiences from workers who worked in the area building dams, bridges and other facilities. There is a lot of history and heritage to be gained by these types of workshops."

For his community partnership project, Wood developed a beginner’s fly fishing program in which participants were given the opportunity to learn about rules and regulations, knot tying, casting, fly selection and given the opportunity to gain actual fishing experience at no charge. All of the equipment was provided including rods, reels, and flies to stimulate interest in the sport and to help aid financial constraints. The project was a partnership with Trout Unlimited and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “This program was a great success. All the participants successfully learned to tie knots and cast as well as several of the participants catching trout in the delayed harvest stream that runs through the park.”

Wood said that participating in the program changed his approach to teaching others. “The program allowed me to focus more on offering diverse programs to the public to further facilitate their learning and understanding. My awareness of the importance of identifying environmental issues has changed significantly and I try to design programs to stimulate or foster a sense of stewardship for my participants."

To learn more about Stone Mountain State Park, visit the park’s website at http://www.ncparks.gov/stone-mountain-state-park. For more information about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, visit the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs’ website at www.eenorthcarolina.org  
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Emilee Mroz - Educator Spotlight

Published:
2016-10-31


Emilee Mroz, a marine science educator and outdoor instructor at the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores recently completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. Mroz leads camps, school programs and kayaking and paddle board programs at the aquarium. She also works with aquatic animals including alligators and sea turtles.

For her community partnership project component of the certification program, Mroz worked with the Bogue Banks Chapter of Surfrider Foundation, a local non-profit, and a Boy Scout troop to install cigarette “cannons” on some of the beaches near her home. “The town of Emerald Isle is a popular tourist destination. The Surfrider Foundation and other local environmental groups conduct beach cleanups regularly and cigarette butts are the most common type of trash found littered on the beaches. I decided to find a way to encourage people to not to leave their cigarette butts on the beach,” said Mroz.

Members of the Boy Scout troop and Surfrider Foundation worked together to assemble and paint cigarette receptacles to be placed on local beaches and a local hardware store in the area donated most of the materials.  The finished cannons were installed next to the trash cans on the beach at a major access points. The Town of Emerald Isle’s Public Works and Solid Waste Department will empty the cigarette cannons along with the trash cans. Mroz hopes that this project not only raised awareness of the litter problem but will help make the beaches cleaner for everyone, including the wildlife.

When asked how participating in the program has changed her teaching or perspective on the environment, Mroz said, “I have used a number of the activities from the workshops in my teaching. I have also learned a lot about different flora and fauna which has helped me be a more thoughtful educator. I have deepened my appreciation for the natural world, especially the diversity here in North Carolina.”

For more information about the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, visit the aquarium’s website. For more information about the Office of Environmental Education or the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, visit www.eenorthcarolina.org
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USDE Releases Guidance on ESSA Grant Program: Environmental Education is Part of a Well-Rounded Education

Published:
2016-10-21


October 21, 2016
Contact: Press Office, (202) 401-1576, press@ed.gov
The U.S. Department of Education today released non-regulatory guidance to help states, districts and schools provide students with a more well-rounded education under Title IV, Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAE). The new grant program in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) focuses on safe and healthy students, and how technology can be integrated into schools to improve teaching and learning in addition to emphasizing access to a well-rounded education that includes a wide variety of disciplines – such as music, the arts, social studies, environmental education, computer science and civics.
"As a social studies teacher, I know the value of a well-rounded education for students," said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. "For me and for so many students, a wide range of possible subjects in school, powerfully and creatively taught, can be exactly what it takes to make the difference between disengagement and a lifelong passion for learning. Literacy and math skills are necessary but not sufficient for success in college, careers, and life. The world our children will be working, leading and succeeding in will be one of constant innovation and connection from across the globe. In order to fully maximize the potential of this world of ideas and cultures, it's vital that we redefine a well-rounded education for all students that includes access to learning new languages, in addition to science, social studies and the arts. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, we have an opportunity to broaden the definition of an excellent education to strike the right balance in our nation's classrooms and expand opportunities to learn for all students to build a strong foundation for college and career."
The guidance – which serves as a resource to help support effective implementation of the new grant program – provides examples of allowable uses of funds, discusses the role of state education agencies, details fiscal responsibilities, and identifies local application requirements.
Under the new program, states, districts and schools have the flexibility to tailor investments based on the needs of their unique student populations.
As, King said earlier this year, while strong literacy and math skills are essential for success in college, career and life, they are not sufficient. King told the audience at Las Vegas Academy of theArts that varied disciplines – including music and the arts, social studies and civics, science and technology – "aren't luxuries that are just nice to have. They're what it means to be ready for today's world."
One recent survey found, though, that elementary school students spend just 21 minutes a day on socialstudies, and just a little bit more on science. With the passage of ESSA, states, districts and schools can refocus on the characteristics of a comprehensive, well-rounded education—and do so in ways that and ensure access and equity for all students.
Too often, students from low-income families and students of color do not have access to arts, science, social studies or advanced coursework. Likewise, gender gaps persist in many disciplines. Science achievement gaps can show up as early askindergarten. Further, there is evidence that students get better at math when they take classes that make the connection between STEM and the arts. Students can also grow in self-confidence, in linguistic skills, and in creativity when they have certain courses in the arts.
Through this guidance, the Department provides resources, tools and examples of innovative strategies to support the effective implementation of the SSAE grant program. Areas of focus include:
·        Strategies to leverage federal, state, and local funds as well as develop partnerships to maximize the impact of the programs and services;
·        Steps to guide districts in examining their needs and investing in areas that will have the greatest impact on their communities;
·        Tactics to improve school conditions for student learning so students are healthy and feel safe and supported;
·        Effective practices to carefully design and thoughtfully apply technology to accelerate, amplify, and support student learning;
·        Approaches to engage students in educational opportunities across multiple subjects and domains.

Importantly, the guidance highlights that SSAE funds may not be sufficient to independently fund many of these innovative activities. This guidance discusses leveraging other state and local resources in combination with the SSAE grant funds to achieve the goals of SSAE programs and activities. For the full guidance released today, click here.

(Environmental education emphasis added by N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and is not in the original press release) 


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Colburn Earth Science Museum Rebranded as "Asheville Museum of Science": Soft Opening November 11th

Published:
2016-10-21

Many of our readers have probably visited the Colburn Earth Science Museum in Asheville. This museum has existed in some form since 1960! The legacy of engineer and bank president Burnham Standish Colburn, the founder of the museum, will continue in the Colburn Hall of Minerals as a part of the new Asheville Museum of Science. This is an exciting addition to North Carolina's nonformal science and environmental education center community. Please watch the video below for a virtual tour with Executive Director Anna Priest. This place looks amazing! 


AMOS has many events planned in advance of their opening. For updates, follow them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Asheville.Science and for now they are still using the colburnmuseum.org website. 

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Educator Spotlight: Crissy Neville

Published:
2016-10-17



Crissy Neville, an elementary teacher in Cumberland County, recently completed the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program.

Neville works with K-2 Gifted Education in Cumberland County Schools. She has been teaching 17 years and prior to her current position, she taught Pre-K, grades 2-5 and community college. Neville also owns a farm in Linden, NC and is a 5th generation farmer living in the same home as her great grandfather, grandfather and father.

Neville says the certification program will help her start an “encore” or retirement career after she leaves public school teaching in a few more years. “I have been a formal elementary education educator for many years and until recently, never led or taught environmental education lessons. I now incorporate EE lessons into my curriculum and use it as a summer camp theme. “ After retirement, she hopes to work as an informal educator at a park or the local botanical garden where she now volunteers. “This certification has helped me have confidence and knowledge in environmental education topics and has created a deeper passion for using the outdoors as a classroom.”

Neville enjoyed visiting parks and other environmental education centers and regions of the state she never had been. She said the outdoor instructor-led experiences stood out for her. She especially enjoyed the creek paddle at Carver's Creek State Park in Cumberland County. “I love being on the water. I enjoy kayaking and canoeing every chance I can get.”

For her community partnership project, a component of the certification, Neville began the Century Farm and Garden Club in her community. “The club is a popular thing in my community now and I already feel like an informal educator as I lead programs and facilitate programming.  The club helps community members become lifelong learners and community service participants.”

When she isn’t teaching, Neville enjoys gardening, canning and preserving food, working in her greenhouse, running and doing things with her three daughters. She also has a new hobby. “I loved all of the Criteria II (outdoor instructor-led) classes and I now love bird watching as a result – my newest hobby! I especially enjoyed going on a bird watching trip to Durante Nature Preserve this past April during the spring migration period.”

For more information about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, visit the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website at www.eenorthcarolina.org


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Educator Spotlight: Lauren Lampley

Published:
2016-10-11


Lauren Lampley, a Naturalist with Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, recently completed the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. Lauren earned credit towards her Master’s in Environmental Education through the certification program.

Lampley began the certification program while just starting her masters in environmental education. Lampley says the program helped her meet people and learn how to apply environmental education in her field. “The Criteria I workshops were my favorite (part of the program) because they helped me to get my feet wet in the EE world in fun activities.”

Lampley has lots of opportunity to educate the public in her role as a naturalist. “My favorite thing to educate about are birds and other wildlife. I love helping people make connections between existing knowledge and how the information affects them.”

For her community partnership project, a requirement of the certification, Lampley developed a bear safety program at Lees-McRae College. She developed the program as a pilot and plans to offer the program through other organizations in the community. Many of the local private communities have frequent bear encounters as a result of residents lack of awareness of how to live in areas with wild black bears. Lampley hopes the program will result in a drop in the number of dangerous and negative bear encounters as residents become educated about black bears.

Lampley says the Environmental Education Certification Program provided her with new approaches to teaching. “I have learned how to educate others about the local environment and how to use different activities to get audiences involved.”

For more information about the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program, visit the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education’s website at www.eenorthcarolina.org. For more information about Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, visit their site at http://www.grandfathermountain.org


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Lasting Legacies – Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence in Environmental Education

Published:
2016-09-29

More than 150 educators from across the state turned out for the Environmental Educators of North Carolina’s 25th anniversary conference this year at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain. EENC, a non-profit organization that supports professional development in the field of environmental education, holds this annual networking opportunity to encourage educators to learn more about new programs and practices in the field.


The event featured a pre-conference evening with Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, who provided audience members with a glimpse into his new book, Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life. Louv reflected on his connections to North Carolina such as meeting North Carolina native and theologian Thomas Berry and told some intriguing stories of encounters between people and animals for a new book he is writing.


Conference speakers included Pepe Chavez, Southeastern Regional Coordinator for the National Association for Interpretation, and Judy Braus, President of the North American Association for Environmental Education.

The conference offered participants more than 45 sessions that focused on best practices, building content knowledge, career paths, lessons learned and current research.

Friday featured professional development workshops and field experiences including excursions to Chimney Rock State Park, Mt. Mitchell State Park, the WNC Nature Center and a Bio-Tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Michelle Pearce, EENC President and School and Public Programs Coordinator with The North Carolina Arboretum, was pleased with the number of educators who turned out representing a wide diversity of organizations and agencies across the state. “The theme for this year's conference was Lasting Legacies and we really wanted the focus to be on keeping our connections strong, between each other as friends and professionals, other like-minded agencies and our love for environmental education.”

If you haven’t already, mark your calendars because next year’s conference will be held September 29 through October 1 at Agape Center for Environmental Education in Fuquay-Varina. For more information about EENC, visit their website at eenc.org

For more photos from the conference, visit EENC's Facebook page
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Certified Environmental Educator Baker Recognized by DEQ Secretary for Contributions to The North Carolina Arboretum’s ecoExplore Program

Published:
2016-09-06

Department of Environmental Quality Secretary van der Vaart presenting Meghan Baker with her Environmental Educator Certificate at The North Carolina Arboretum

N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Donald van der Vaart made a special visit to the North Carolina Arboretum on Thursday to award Meghan Baker with a certificate for completing her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification.


Baker is an Extension Agent with Buncombe County Cooperative Extension Service and provides educational outreach to small farmers, youth, and community members in Buncombe County through field-based workshops during the growing season and trainings in the winter.

She is among several certified environmental educators who chose to partner with The North Carolina Arboretum to create ecoEXPLORE Hotspots at public libraries in Buncombe County. The development of the hotspots served as the required community partnership project for the program.   

The North Carolina Arboretum developed the ecoEXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education) program that includes many county and state partners. EcoEXPLORE is an incentive-driven science enrichment program that engages third through eighth-grade students in both guided and self-directed citizen science activities. The arboretum partnered with the Buncombe County Public Library System to install an ecoExplore “Citizen Science HotSpot” at each of the 12 public libraries in the county. Baker served as the lead coordinator for the ecoExplore Hotspot at the West Asheville Library. 

As part of her hotspot, Baker created a pollinator garden and developed educational materials to encourage library patrons, particularly youth, to observe and record the diversity of living organisms right outside the library doors. “This project not only connected me to my local library branch, but also connected me to the larger community through interactions with people as I was tending the garden - it's amazing how interested people can be if you allow them the opportunity to ask questions!”

The project also helps the arboretum expand its mission to cultivate connections between people and plants. Baker’s educational display at the library and plant list were tailored for library patrons who are interested in creating similar “hotspots” in their yards. She also worked with library staff to lead a summer youth program that directly educated participants about the topic of biodiversity.  “The West Asheville community is a very urban environment that is highly walkable and includes a mixed population of young families, millennials, and retirees. The library is located on a main road through the heart of West Asheville, and as such, is extremely visible. Due to the site’s walkability and visibility and the larger community interest in environmental awareness, it would be expected that this site should attract a good deal of interest in the ecoEXPLORE Hotspot,” said Baker.


When asked about her experience in the certification program, Baker said she enjoyed networking with environmental educators across the state. “We have so many talented and humble naturalists involved in this program and it’s a great way to widen the community of passionate educators. The exposure to resources, particularly curriculum guides, has helped me many times as I’ve created programming for varied audiences.”

Baker said that the program taught her many different methods for developing effective, hands-on and interactive lessons. “The program helped expand my creativity, exposing me to lesson plans, games, and artistic ways to convey environmental awareness and observations.”

Jonathan Marchal, youth education manager with the arboretum said, “Meghan is an example of the type of outstanding educator and community leader that we are fortunate to have found through our partnership with the DEQ Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs.”

Baker enjoys experiencing the ecology of agricultural systems, and is continually working to maximize the potential of balancing production demands with conserving biodiversity. She is particularly interested in pollinators and the conservation of farm and wild lands.

Baker says the certification program has changed the way she looks at environmental issues. “I would say that this certification program helped me to present a more balanced view of environmental issues, providing me with tools that broadened my environmental ethic beyond a personal experience to a more holistic and approachable way of connecting to others.”

For more information about The North Carolina Arboretum’s ecoEXPLORE program, visit the website at http://www.ncarboretum.org/education-programs/youth-family-programs/citizen-science/ecoexplore. For more information about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, visit http://www.eenorthcarolina.org





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Certified Environmental Educator Baker Recognized by DEQ Secretary for Contributions to The North Carolina Arboretum’s ecoExplore Program

Published:
2016-09-06

Department of Environmental Quality Secretary van der Vaart presenting Meghan Baker with her Environmental Educator Certificate at The North Carolina Arboretum

N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Donald van der Vaart made a special visit to the North Carolina Arboretum on Thursday to award Meghan Baker with a certificate for completing her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification.


Baker is an Extension Agent with Buncombe County Cooperative Extension Service and provides educational outreach to small farmers, youth, and community members in Buncombe County through field-based workshops during the growing season and trainings in the winter.

She is among several certified environmental educators who chose to partner with The North Carolina Arboretum to create ecoEXPLORE Hotspots at public libraries in Buncombe County. The development of the hotspots served as the required community partnership project for the program.   

The North Carolina Arboretum developed the ecoEXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education) program that includes many county and state partners. EcoEXPLORE is an incentive-driven science enrichment program that engages third through eighth-grade students in both guided and self-directed citizen science activities. The arboretum partnered with the Buncombe County Public Library System to install an ecoExplore “Citizen Science HotSpot” at each of the 12 public libraries in the county. Baker served as the lead coordinator for the ecoExplore Hotspot at the West Asheville Library. 

As part of her hotspot, Baker created a pollinator garden and developed educational materials to encourage library patrons, particularly youth, to observe and record the diversity of living organisms right outside the library doors. “This project not only connected me to my local library branch, but also connected me to the larger community through interactions with people as I was tending the garden - it's amazing how interested people can be if you allow them the opportunity to ask questions!”

The project also helps the arboretum expand its mission to cultivate connections between people and plants. Baker’s educational display at the library and plant list were tailored for library patrons who are interested in creating similar “hotspots” in their yards. She also worked with library staff to lead a summer youth program that directly educated participants about the topic of biodiversity.  “The West Asheville community is a very urban environment that is highly walkable and includes a mixed population of young families, millennials, and retirees. The library is located on a main road through the heart of West Asheville, and as such, is extremely visible. Due to the site’s walkability and visibility and the larger community interest in environmental awareness, it would be expected that this site should attract a good deal of interest in the ecoEXPLORE Hotspot,” said Baker.


When asked about her experience in the certification program, Baker said she enjoyed networking with environmental educators across the state. “We have so many talented and humble naturalists involved in this program and it’s a great way to widen the community of passionate educators. The exposure to resources, particularly curriculum guides, has helped me many times as I’ve created programming for varied audiences.”

Baker said that the program taught her many different methods for developing effective, hands-on and interactive lessons. “The program helped expand my creativity, exposing me to lesson plans, games, and artistic ways to convey environmental awareness and observations.”

Jonathan Marchal, youth education manager with the arboretum said, “Meghan is an example of the type of outstanding educator and community leader that we are fortunate to have found through our partnership with the DEQ Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs.”

Baker enjoys experiencing the ecology of agricultural systems, and is continually working to maximize the potential of balancing production demands with conserving biodiversity. She is particularly interested in pollinators and the conservation of farm and wild lands.

Baker says the certification program has changed the way she looks at environmental issues. “I would say that this certification program helped me to present a more balanced view of environmental issues, providing me with tools that broadened my environmental ethic beyond a personal experience to a more holistic and approachable way of connecting to others.”

For more information about The North Carolina Arboretum’s ecoEXPLORE program, visit the website at http://www.ncarboretum.org/education-programs/youth-family-programs/citizen-science/ecoexplore. For more information about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, visit http://www.eenorthcarolina.org





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Joann Blumenfeld – A Catalyst for Improving STEM Opportunities for High School Students with Disabilities

Published:
2016-08-31

North Carolina Secretary of Department of Environmental Quality Donald van der Vaart, left, offers an award of recognition to Joann Blumenfeld, right, a science and OCS teacher at Broughton High School, on Tuesday, August 30, 2016 in Raleigh. Madeline Gray | North State Journal
Joann Blumenfeld, a Science and Special Education Teacher at Broughton High School in Raleigh received a visit from Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Donald van der Vaart Tuesday. Secretary van der Vaart presented Ms. Blumenfeld with her certificate from completing the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program and spoke to her class of 10th grade biology students. Read more about this visit in the North State Journal.

Blumenfeld is a North Carolina Science Leadership Fellow, a Kenan Fellow, a Dow Fellow and she serves on the National Science Teachers Association Special Education Advisory Board. She recently completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification, a program offered through the DEQ Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs.

While earning her environmental education certification, Blumenfeld attended a workshop that inspired her to begin a new program called “Catalyst: Creating Opportunities in STEM for High School Students with Disabilities” through the Science House at North Carolina State University. “While I was attending a NCSU Sustainable Forestry Teacher’s Academy trip for teachers two summers ago, I was visiting a veneer factory near New Bern. The factory tour guide was explaining to us they brought in staff from Canada because they didn’t have local people who were industrial mechanics. The job required a particular two-year degree. It dawned on me that my students can do this and we as educators are not doing enough to align our curriculum and experiences for students for needed STEM jobs right here in North Carolina.” 

Blumenfeld went back home and wrote a grant to begin Catalyst which is now in its second year. “We have so many students here with so many skills and so many STEM job opportunities we have a hard time filling. We need more STEM and vocational programs to help support students to reach their goals, as well as allowing them to consider a wide range of STEM Career opportunities and educational pathways.”

The program involves one week-long training and eight Saturday sessions that include topics such as sustainable energy, forestry and pasture ecology. She currently has 22 students participating from 20 high schools. Her Catalyst students are finalists for the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam, which awards high school students, teachers and mentors to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. 

When asked about her experience in the environmental education certification program, Blumenfeld said, “The classes are best high quality science content with engaging lessons that have hands on affordable labs and activities I have attended. I was able to meet many enthusiastic educators whom I learned from in each session and also were very supportive who give me extra "energy" to go back to the classroom and do even a better job. The classes were almost all free which is important due to a teacher’s budget. I use the materials I learned daily in my classroom to provide engaging lessons where the students really understand the content. It has also helped them learn more about the environment and how and why it is important for them to be good stewards of it.”

Blumenfeld tries to encourage her students to look at all sides of environmental issues. “We need to be good stewards of the earth but also provide jobs and products." So it’s important for students to understand that it does not always need to be an either/or but rather ‘how can we do this and be good stewards of the earth.’ We also have done global projects with other schools. One was a school in Singapore on water usage. It allowed students to look through the global stakeholder's lens on their values and environmental solutions and compare and contrast them to their own. It also allowed the students to look at what is ‘needed’ in life and the environmental consequence of their choices. I think I have instilled in my students it is important to be good stewards of the earth through these engaging lessons and activities.”

Blumenfeld hopes to engage more students in the Catalyst program so that they can be successful in their current science classes, improve their science content and skills and be exposed to a variety of STEM careers. “We help them to consider different fields and educational pathways for their future,” she said.

Blumenfeld is a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar. She is also part of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Education Forum and she serves on the North Carolina Science Leadership Association Advocacy Committee. In addition, she is a club advisor for STEM Cafe' at Broughton High School which meets weekly and students learn about the STEM Content and Career opportunities.

If you have high school students with disabilities either in Occupational Course of Study(OCS) or the Regular Education Classes who are interested in STEM Careers, Catalyst is a week long program with monthly Saturday Sessions during the school year, located at the Science House at North Carolina State University. The cost of the program is $50 for the summer session and the Saturday Sessions. For more information, please contact Ms. Blumenfeld at: jblumenfeld@wcpss.net 

To learn more about the Catalyst program, read Catalyst: Creating opportunities in STEM for students with disabilities. For more information about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs’ website at www.eenorthcarolina.org
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CTNC AmeriCorps Member Larissa Lopez Making A Different through Education

Published:
2016-07-28

By Reilly Henson  Source: Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC)

Larissa Lopez is serving with AmeriCorps, a ten-month national service program with positions offered by community and non-profit organizations. CTNC manages an AmeriCorps program that has placed 18 members with conservation and environmental groups throughout North Carolina.  The program’s goals are to connect thousands of people to the outdoors and to develop future leaders in conservation. To learn more about CTNC’s AmeriCorps program, click here.

Larissa Lopez is serving as Educational Outreach Coordinator for Balsam Mountain Trust, a non-profit that manages and protects the Balsam Mountain Preserve in Sylva, NC. Through the Adopt-A-School program, the Trust is able to provide educational programming to local elementary school students.

Larissa teaches kids about wild animals and pollinators. What makes her programs special is that her students get to see live animals, and participate in real citizen science. Her younger students in the 1st and 2nd grades get to learn about pollinators, especially monarch butterflies, while her older students in the 4th and 5th grades get to see snakes and hawks.

“We visit classrooms multiple times during the year and at different grade levels,” says Larissa. “This format allows for deep student engagement with Balsam Mountain Trust staff and our animal ambassadors. It is a unique opportunity to observe the students’ change in knowledge and behavior over time.”

 Although teaching hasn’t always been one of her primary interests, Larissa has come to realize how important outreach and education are for environmental non-profits. She already had plenty of experience in land management and resource stewardship, so she sought to use her AmeriCorps service term as an opportunity to round out her knowledge in an educational capacity. “Working in the non-profit sector often means being a ‘Jack-of-all-trades,’ so I feel strongly about assuming a variety of responsibilities.”

Education may be only one of many components of environmental work, but it does have its own rewards. “Being an informal educator allows me to engage directly with the public, spark a curiosity and passion for conservation in children, further my knowledge of the natural world, and polish my attentiveness to detail in planning, all important and rewarding experiences.”

After she completes her service term, Larissa hopes to find a career that combines her interests in land management and public engagement. “I am passionate about sustainable and ethically derived foods, so I have been looking to get involved with community gardens and school garden projects. These projects get students outside to observe nature and learn about the importance of caring for our natural resources.”


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Gonna Catch EE? Augmented Reality Games and Environmental Education

Published:
2016-07-22

Pokemon Go has really taken off, but how are North Carolina's parks, gardens, forests, trails, zoos, aquariums, nature centers, museums and other outdoor sites for exploration reacting to this new phenomenon?

Probably like many others in environmental education and related fields, we had not heard that much about Pokemon Go until a few weeks ago. Then suddenly we were scrambling to learn more about it and how it may affect educational facilities and programs.
It all started on July 8th with a #NCNatureFriday tweet about the N.C. Museum of Art Park. We had no idea what a Pokestop was...So we looked it up and thought, "Hmmm, what effect will this game have on nature centers, parks, science museums and environmental education programs?" Will it be the next geocaching?" We had no idea it would catch on so quickly.

The following Monday, probably half or more of the Tweets in our feed were about Pokemon Go. And it didn't take parks, museums, gardens, nature centers and other sites associated with environmental education and outdoor exploration to recognize the potential of, or at least the need to address, the new phenomenon.

Many sites are trying to work with the Pokemon Go craze in positive ways - keeping within their mission and combining the interest in the game with connections to real nature. But of course, there are the obvious concerns of even more technology coming between individuals and the natural world. Also, what will be the impact of visitors coming to parks, nature centers, and other outdoor educational venues to play the game?

We wanted some perspectives on the game from some North Carolina venues, so we did an informal survey of North Carolina environmental education centers (which includes parks, museums, botanical gardens, etc).

Read our storify to find out more about how the Pokemon Go phenomenon emerged in North Carolina (from an environmental education perspective), to learn more about how it and other augmented reality games may impact environmental education and to see how environmental education centers feel about this new reality. 

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Educator Spotlight - Erin Apple

Published:
2016-07-14

Erin Apple recently completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification. Apple works as a park technician of programs at Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail designing, marketing and leading a full calendar of public and group programs, outreach efforts and special events in Wake County.

In addition to her programming, Apple works with volunteers and assists with park operation, customer service and natural resource management such as removal of invasive species and prescribed burning. When she isn’t working, Apple enjoys hiking, kayaking, yoga, writing and gardening.

For her community partnership project, Apple designed, built and narrated an interactive public display on plant photorespiration for the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Natural World Investigation Lab. The project, which is still on rotating display in the museum, added to their archive of public displays and educates museum visitors (homeschoolers, school groups and the general public) about the botany and the complexity of plants on both a cellular and environmental level.

Apple had many valuable experiences during her certification process. “Traveling to workshops was always such a rewarding experience, it's hard to pick just one favorite part, but I would have to say I enjoyed the Advanced WILD (offered through the Wildlife Resources Commission) workshops and especially the Rare Plants of North Carolina workshop (offered through NCSU) the most," noted Apple. While I teach kids more than any other group, I thoroughly enjoy working with adults, and I most enjoy attending workshops that teach more advanced scientific material - it's refreshing and important to continually expand my ecological knowledge after completing my degree.”

Apple also mentioned the Methods of Teaching Environmental Education workshop, which is required for all enrollees. “I really felt like I was going somewhere with my certification after completing the Methods workshop and that I had gained a lot of the valuable insight this certification aims to provide. I brought what I learned into my teaching,” she said.


In addition to the benefits from instructional workshops such as Project WET which focuses on the way people use water resources, Apple noted that the practical applications were valuable. “Practicing activities at workshops with other educators and learning their methods, trials, failures and successes helped me to see where I needed improvement and how to better myself as an educator. I was also able to share my own experiences thus far in my young career, and I believe the certification helped me to learn the best ways to more effectively reach a variety of audiences,” said Apple.

For more information about Harris Lake County Park visit the park's website . For more information about the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs or the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program visit www.eenorthcarolina.org

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