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AmeriCorps Member's Environmental Education Certification Project Engages High School Students to Help Monarchs


Corinne Fretwell is an AmeriCorps member serving with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. Like many AmeriCorps members who work on environmental outreach projects in North Carolina, she is also enrolled in the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. 

                                         Corrine, center, with some of her
                      Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy 
AmeriCorps colleagues                   
Corrine gets some supervision from one of Deerwood's year-round residents

Corinne's required community partnership project is especially noteworthy. She worked to install a monarch waystation on land owned by Deerwood Lodge and Cabins, a privately held resort located along the French Broad River south of Brevard. In 2003, 175 acres of this land was put into a conservation easement with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy by owner Bill Mays. But the land had even more potential to serve as an ecological asset to help wildlife. Bill’s son, Matt Mayes, recounts seeing hundreds of thousands of migrating Monarchs visiting the property’s flowering fields, and in recent years he has shared the Monarchs with the family’s next generation; “I’ve gone out in the field with my daughter and caught them but it’s nothing near to the millions that used to come through here when I was a kid,” Matt shares.

Hopefully many more Monarchs will return as a result of Corrine's project. Corrine worked with more than 50 Brevard High School agriculture students, who with help from other CMLC AmeriCorps members, planted 275 native milkweed plants on the easement. The newly planted milkweed is critical to Monarch populations since milkweed is the sole host and food source for Monarch eggs and caterpillars. The adult butterflies and other important pollinators will benefit from milkweed nectar when the plants bloom in late summer, as well as from the other blooming flowers planted in Friday’s service day, which will extend the bloom time of the field from June through October.

The milkweed and other flowering plants were donated to the community project by CMLC. Tom Fanslow, Land Protection Director at CMLC obtained the plants from Monarch Rescue and founder Nina Veteto, who received funding for the plants from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant.

In keeping with the environmental education aspect, Fretwell
began each class session with a short lesson about CMLC, land protection, habitat restoration, Monarch Butterflies’ lifestyle and life-cycle, as well as a demonstration of proper planting technique. Students also received Monarch education materials from Monarch Watch, provided by Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist Joyce Pearsall who also joined in the planting day.

Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy is a non-profit land trust located in Hendersonville, NC. CMLC has protected more than 30,000 acres of lands that you love — and need — along the Blue Ridge Escarpment, French Broad River Valley, Hickory Nut Gorge, and beyond since its inception in 1994. For more information visit

Learn more about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program on the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website. 

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Certified Environmental Educator Publishes Carolina Explorers Magazine for Families and Educators


Tamara Seymour, a freelance writer, graphic designer and interim teacher at a high school in Avery County recently completed her environmental education certification and in the process started a new magazine for families and educators. 

As part of her community partnership project for her environmental education certification, Seymour published Carolina Explorers Magazine, a family magazine about nature in North Carolina, from the mountains to the coast. Carolina Explorers is a fantastic field guide for educators and parents packed full of activities and wildlife investigations. Readers will find information on great places to visit and get outdoors, unique plants and animals in North Carolina, and even the best spots for sea kayaking. 

As part of the project, Seymour shared the small format magazine with classrooms, libraries and educators. Seymour has received a lot of positive feedback. "Readers enjoy the the publication and learning about North Carolina nature and new places to explore," said Seymour.

Seymour anticipates taking on a more formal role as an Earth and Environmental Science teacher for the 2016-2017 school year. In addition to her work as a publisher and educator, Seymour has helped manage a Fraser fir tree farm for the past five years and established a small nature center at the farm. 

When asked about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program Seymour said, “I think it is one of the best managed and most valuable programs for North Carolina and its educators. The program has helped me feel more comfortable in a teaching role, has improved my content knowledge, and has proved how effective (and fun) hands-on learning can be. I've collected and connected with, many valuable and credible resources I will use from now on.” 

The certification is offered through the Department of Environmental Quality's Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. For more information about the program, visit

For more information about Carolina Explorers Magazine, visit the website at

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Interactive GIS Map Helps Educators Explore the Natural and Cultural History of the Tar-Pamlico Region


Staff from the DEQ Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs recently had the opportunity to try out a new interactive GIS map developed for educators during a workshop hosted by UNC Institute for the Environment’s Environmental Resource Program.

Interactive GIS Map developed by the DEQ Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs
Tracy Weidert, program coordinator with the office participated in the EGRET (Exploring the Geographical Region and Ecosystems of the Tar-Pamlico Watershed) Workshop which was designed to help educators explore the natural and cultural history of the Tar-Pamlico region, learn more about the EGRET curriculum and to explore ways the lessons could be integrated into their existing programs.

Weidert sees lot of potential for the interactive map because it allows users to explore the geographical and ecological features of their region with students and program participants. “With the map you can identify which river basin you live in, what type of soil is beneath your feet, examine the topography of your area, and more. The map also displays the state’s Environmental Education Centers of which there are over 200 in North Carolina,” said Weidert.

The workshop was offered to educators from state parks, science museums, nature centers and colleges and universities. The workshop is an extension of the EGRET Program, a year-long fellowship program to engage 5th grade teachers from the Tar-Pamlico river basin in hands-on, inquiry-based activities integrated across content areas and with the outdoors. 

Laura McCoy, Erica Connery, Toni Abernathy examining samples created during a live tar kiln demonstration

“We hope to make the program more sustainable by offering training to environmental educators in the field who can then support classroom teachers in their areas,” said Sarah Yelton, EGRET Program Manager, with UNC Institute for the Environment.

The professional development training included sessions on how to lead nature journaling programs that build observation skills and how to do citizen science in the schoolyard. Participants learned these skills and more at the two-day workshop, which was held at Goose Creek State Park. Park rangers and staff  were essential to helping facilitate the workshop sessions which also included: exploring swamp and marsh ecosystems; investigating Goose Creek by kayak; tar kilns + turpentine: how NC’s ecosystems built the state (with demonstration of a working tar kiln); and exploring ecosystem response to human activity.

More information about the EGRET program can be found at

To explore your ecological address using our new map, visit

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Free Film Screening Explores Carl Schenck’s Pivotal Role in Saving America’s Forests


The Department of Environmental Quality's Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs has partnered with the North Carolina Museum of History to bring a new documentary about Carl Schenck and his role in our nation’s conservation history to downtown Raleigh, Friday, June 17 at 7 p.m.

The North Carolina Museum of History will present a free screening of “America’s First Forest: Carl Schenck and the Asheville Experiment,” the first in-depth documentary film about legendary forester and educator Carl Schenck. The film, which debuted on national public television in April, tells the story of the German forester who managed over 100,000 acres of woodlands at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and established the first forestry school in the United States. He helped launch the American conservation movement.

Prior to the screening participants will have the opportunity to talk with local forestry education and outreach groups beginning at 6:30 p.m. The screening of “America’s First Forest” will begin at 7 p.m. followed a panel discussion and a Q&A session. The panel will feature James G. Lewis, executive producer of “America’s First Forest,” historian, and editor of Forest History Today; Brian Haines, public information officer of N.C. Forest Service; Joann Meyer-Cox, CF/CFA and owner of Meyer-Cox Forestry Consultants, LLC. Science comedian Brian Malow will serve as moderator.

Join us for this wonderful opportunity to learn more about Schenck’s amazing story and his pivotal role in our nation’s history.

Visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website for more information. 

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New Pittsboro Farm & Forest Trail Open: EE Certification Projects Part of Project


Abundance NC, the Chatham County Partnership for Children and a host of community partners are excited to announce the opening of the new Pittsboro Farm & Forest Trail! The trail surrounds the Plant, an eco-industrial park on the edge of Pittsboro. Home to Piedmont Biofuels, Fair Game Beverage, Homs Bio-Herbicides, Abundance NC, Piedmont Biofarm, and several other sustainably-minded businesses. The Plant is a special, eclectic treasure of Pittsboro. The trail is located at the Plant, 220 Lorax Lane, Pittsboro. 

This trail has a special connection to the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. Two Certified Environmental Educators completed projects that supported and were incorporated into the trail project. Marga Theelen partnered with the Wildlife Resources Commission, the Triangle Land Conservancy, New Hope Audubon, the Abundance Foundation and the Chatham County Partnership for Children to develop an explorative trail along the Wild Cherry Loop of the trail. The self-guided trail includes a companion brochure that helps visitors explore the ecology of the trail and explains forest succession and the functions of a constructed wetlands. Denise O'Gorman-Nowak also worked with the Chatham County Partnership for Children, Piedmont Biofuels and the Abundance Foundation to create a website for the trail which includes information about the trail and support resources and curricula to be used by educators, parents and caregivers. In the future, this website will serve an integral role for the trail community as the information hub to connect volunteers, educators and the public about events, workdays and all other aspects of the trail and it's programs. 

The rains subsided for the ribbon cutting...and left this nice present...
The.78 mile long trail, which will be open to the public from sunup to sundown, will provide a place for children and adults to be active in nature while learning about key themes of sustainable communities such as local food, renewable energy, the preservation of native plants, wildlife, natural resources and active living.  The trail surrounds four sustainably farmed vegetable fields, greenhouses, solar panels, and a newly planted vineyard; passes a constructed wetland, traverses woodlands with interesting specimen trees, and crosses a creek.

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Summer Lunchtime Speaker Series Kicks Off Next Week


“Extragalactic Exploration: Galaxies and the Universe” will kick off the next Lunchtime Discovery Series next week. Dr. Patrick Treuthardt, assistant director of the Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences will be the first featured speaker, May 25that noon. 

This 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 organizations throughout the state.

Attendees are able to learn about a variety of subjects first-hand and interact directly with some of the best experts in their respective fields. In some cases, participants even head outdoors to explore urban nature, local architecture and green rooftops! The presentations are provided as professional development opportunities for downtown employees and is open to the public.

Lectures are held in the office’s Environmental Literacy Center from noon until 1:00 p.m. The upcoming series includes presentations from Robin Moore from the Natural Learning Initiative with “Natural Play and Learning,” Dr. Adrian Smith from the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences with “Social Insect Chemical Communication,” and Greg Morris from Walnut Creek Wetland Center who will lead an interpretive walking tour of the capital area’s tree species. The full line up can be found at
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Environmental Educator Spotlight – Amy Kinsella


Amy Kinsella, a forest ranger with Holmes Educational State Forest in Hendersonville completed her environmental education certification this week. 

Kinsella is responsible for monitoring the health of 235 acres of state forest and for increasing forestry literacy for audiences of all ages. She conducts a variety of environmental education programs that occur on site, in schools and through year-long outreach programs including Envirothon, career days and festivals. 

The educational state forest offers workshops such as Project Learning Tree, and have outdoor instructor-led offerings like tree ID, birding, salamanders, and wildflower hikes. The state forest also hosts volunteer groups such as boy scouts, Eagle scouts and AmeriCorps members. 

Kinsella worked with an Eagle Scout group to complete a nature trail for an elementary school for her environmental education community partnership project. She assisted with identifying the trees on the trail and designating educational points along the trail. She worked with the local correction system to have engraved signs designed for identifying the trees on the nature trail. 

Amy feels that the certification program has changed her approach to teaching others. “We are in the process of evaluating our current program offerings and creating new programs that better meet curriculum standards. It was nice to see people who are passionate about providing a quality education program and to brainstorm about the evaluation process for program offerings," she said.

For more information about Holmes Educational State Forest visit North Carolina Educational State Forests and the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs

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River Basin Publications Win Printing Industry Award


River basin education publications created by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality won two awards at the 2015 PICA (Printing Industry of the Carolinas) Award ceremony in Concord on April 16. The N.C. Correction Enterprises Print Plant of Nashville received a Special Judges Award under the “campaign” category for their printing of the Discover North Carolina’s River Basins booklet and the Catawba River Basin and Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin brochures. These publications are produced by the department’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs.

The PICA Awards received more than 630 entries from 47 printing companies from across the state this year. The entries were reviewed by a panel of out-of-state judges using criteria that included clarity and neatness, sharpness of halftones and line drawings, richness and tonal qualities of color, paper and ink selection, ink coverage, difficulty of printing, effective contrast or softness, finishing, bindery, and overall visual impact.

PICA represents the graphic communications industry in North and South Carolina. Since 1931, this trade association has been dedicated to advancing the success of the Carolinas’ printing and imaging industry. Working together with Printing Industries of America, the world’s largest graphic arts trade association, PICA provides training, resources, and a voice of advocacy on both a state and national level.

The river basin publications are extremely popular with teachers and the public and receiving a PICA Award is wonderful news for an already successful program. The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs provides the Discover North Carolina’s River Basins booklet, brochures on each of the state’s 17 river basins and a poster sized map of the basins to educators. The program also maintains an interactive online map to find out which basin you live in and to find environmental education centers in your area.

PICA is headquartered in Charlotte, NC. For more information, visit More information about the DEQ River Basin program at

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National Ocean Sciences Bowl Finals Held in Morehead City, NC



The text below features selections from the NOSB Media Advisory shared by N.C. Sea Grant.
Read the complete Media Advisory, with a list of teams and sponsors 

Top High-School Scholars to Compete in 19th Annual National Ocean Sciences Bowl

Contact: Allison Hays, 202-787-1644,
Posted Wednesday, April 20, 2016 as a courtesy to the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.

North Carolina Sea Grant is among the North Carolina sponsors for the event. Follow the events via Twitter: #NOSB16.NOSB

North Carolina is being represented at NOSB by
Walter Williams High School (Alamance County) Good luck!

 WHO: Winning teams consisting of four to five high school students from 24 regional competitions will compete in the 19th Annual National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB), an education competition that tests students’ knowledge of ocean-related topics, which include cross-disciplines of biology, chemistry, policy, physics, and geology. The competition consists of buzzer-style, multiple-choice questions; longer, critical thinking-based team challenge questions; and the Science Expert Briefing, a mock congressional hearing where students present science recommendations on a piece of legislation, bettering their understanding on how science informs policy.

WHAT: The theme for this year’s NOSB Finals is “Our Changing Ocean: Science for Strong Coastal Communities.” This topic encompasses numerous scientific disciplines and encourages an increased understanding of the science needed to sustain strong coastal communities, including improving community awareness; addressing erosion and increasing coastal populations and development; restoring coastlines; protecting estuarine ecosystems and services; and improving coastal disaster projection, preparedness, and response. During the finals competition weekend, students will participate in a number of hands-on science activities, including a career mentoring event with leaders in the science field; a tour of Duke Marine Lab; and multiple field trips, including behind-the-scenes looks at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, a shark tagging trip aboard the R/V Capricorn, and a coastal marsh cleanup at Fort Macon State Park. The top teams at the NOSB Finals will receive an all-expense paid award trip to various locations around the world to conduct scientific research with field experts.

 WHEN: April 21-24, 2016 — April 21: career event; April 22: field trips and opening ceremony; April 23-24: NOSB Finals Competition

 WHERE: Carteret Community College, 3505 Arendell Street, Morehead City, North Carolina WHY: Most high-school students do not have the opportunity to study ocean science as part of their formal coursework. To fill this void, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., created the NOSB as an educational forum to encourage and support the next generation of marine scientists, policy-makers, teachers, explorers, researchers, technicians, environmental advocates, and informed citizens to be stewards of the ocean. Many past NOSB participants have pursued college degrees and careers in ocean science, helping to solve the growing environmental, economic, and security challenges facing our ocean and planet.
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State environmental agency encourages public to take part in Earth Day events


Earth Day is Friday, April 22, and there are many environmental education events to mark the occasion throughout North Carolina. A wide variety of fun, family-oriented activities are planned that incorporate music, games and outdoor recreation. These opportunities are a great way to enjoy the outdoors and discover ways to care for our environment. To help you find events in your area on Earth Day and through April, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs compiles an online calendar on their website, Events can also be searched by city and zip code. 

Trail hikes, stream clean-ups, nature tours, music and more await those who want to explore and learn about North Carolina’s diverse environment. The public can also follow and share events, environmental education news and cool nature stories on Twitter and Facebook by following and using the hashtag #NCEarthDay. Many of these Earth Day events are also part of the N.C. Science Festival, which lasts through April 24th. For more information N.C. Science Festival events near you, see

DEQ employees will be volunteering their time on Earth Day as well. The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs is coordinating a DEQ Earth Day volunteer event on Friday, April 22. Raleigh area employees will be participating a stream clean up along a restored section of Rocky Branch that runs through N.C. State campus. Rocky Branch, a tributary of the Neuse, was once considered the most polluted stream in North Carolina. It now provides wildlife habitat, stormwater control, recreation and transportation along the Rocky Branch Greenway.

On Earth Day 2015, Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural and Cultural Resources employees and family members teamed up to create an artificial stream bed to improve drainage and stormwater control at Prairie Ridge Ecostation.
This year DEQ employees will volunteer to do a clean-up along Rocky Branch Creek and Greenway on the N.C. State University Campus.

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Environmental Education is a “Natural” Fit for Libraries, Says Syracuse U Professor


Marilyn Arnone, a School of Information Studies (iSchool) Research Associate Professor and Associate Professor of Practice with Syracuse University, was recently awarded a Carnegie-Whitney Grant by the American Library Association. Arnone now resides in North Carolina and recently became a North Carolina Certified Environmental Educator.

Arnone received the grant for a project that helps librarians and educators pair fiction and nonfiction books on environmental topics. In addition to being a valuable tool for teachers and librarians, the searchable paired booklist will assist higher education faculty who teach future librarians and will serve as a resource for promoting interest in reading environmental content.

This isn’t the first time Arnone has embarked on a large project to educate future librarians about the value of collaborating with nonformal environmental education programs and providers. As part of completing the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program, she produced the “Nature Librarians” website and video series that showcases what innovative community libraries and children's and youth services’ librarians are doing to provide their communities with nature-based activities and programs for children and families. “I loved doing this project and it gave North Carolina librarians some fresh ideas for nature programming,” Arnone said.

In addition to teaching her current courses, Arnone introduced a new course for the spring of 2016 on environmental programming for librarians.

When asked if obtaining her environmental education certification advanced her career, she said, “It helped prepare me to teach librarians in the Library and Information Science program at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies how to integrate environmental programming into their efforts to serve their communities.”

To read more about Arnone and her Carnegie-Whitney Grant, visit Syracuse University School of Information Studies website at
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Science in the Great Outdoors


North Carolina's natural wonders are even more spectacular when you discover the science around them! 

This year, as part of NC State Parks 100 Year Celebration, State Parks has partnered with the North Carolina Science Festival to encourage students, adults and families to discover science in one of North Carolina’s beautiful state parks.

Kelvin, the NC Science Festival mascot, has already visited Mount Mitchell State Park. His visit reminds us that everyday citizens worked to preserve Mount Mitchell as our first park in 1916.  They understood the science enough to know that the unique alpine forest needed protection. Since then, dozens of other parks have been championed by everyday folks who discover the science of these places enough to know how special they are. 

My conservation heroes include Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, Margaret Nygard and A.B. Coleman. Chance are you know the first two; the latter are North Carolinians who gave us Eno River State Park and Merchants Millpond State Park by inspiring others to appreciate theses ecological wonders.  

The NC Science Festival and the efforts of several hundred NC Environmental Educators help ensure continued support for all parks - national, state, county, city, non-profit, and public-private partnership parks.

Science and Parks are everywhere.

Science and Parks are for everyone.

Science and Parks are FUN!

For a list of fun, do-it-yourself outdoor science experiments, visit 

Blog post by Sean Higgins, Interpretation & Education Manger, North Carolina State Parks

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Ranger Uses Environmental Education to Improve River Health and Educate Kids About the Environment


A park ranger from Hanging Rock State Park is making a difference in communities across North Carolina through environmental education. 
Darius Pollard completed the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program offered through the Department of Environmental Quality, which he began as an AmeriCorps member at New River State Park in Ashe County. 

As part of the community partnership component of his environmental education certification, Darius spearheaded a campaign to improve the health of the New River by engaging private landowners in efforts to restore easements or buffers along the river. Through a partnership with the National Committee for the New River, Darius arranged for funding to cost-share with landowners who wanted to restore their easements on the river. Darius’ efforts have not only helped with erosion and sediment pollution in the river but they have successfully educated property owners and engaged them in good management practices.

In addition to educating adults, Darius has had the opportunity to educate children through environmental education and interpretation programs at state parks. He credits the certification program for changes in his teaching approach. “Participating in the EE program changed my approach by increasing my knowledge but also by broadening my knowledge and interpretation styles for different audiences. Before the EE program, my approach to children was similar to that of adults but through this program I have learned that, for good interpretation, I must approach children in a much different way. Through workshops such as Growing up WILD, and Project CATCH, I feel much more comfortable approaching any age group,” he said.

There are certified environmental educators in every region of North Carolina. You can view programs offered by educators like Darius on the environmental education calendar at

The N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program is a professional development program for classroom teachers and nonformal educators. The program is administered by the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs in the Department of Environmental Quality. For more information about the program, visit

*Growing up WILD and Project CATCH are programs offered by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. 
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NC's Environmental Education Website – Notice Something New?


You may notice something new about the North Carolina Environmental Education website. The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs recently launched a “new look” for the website and although it has a new look, it still has the same great resources. 


The site which is set-up to serve as an online “hub” for environmental education programs, and facilities and resources receives approximately one million visits a year and provides a statewide calendar of events.

Behind the website’s success as an information clearinghouse is a unique partnership between eight southeastern states, Hawaii and Wisconsin to share information and provide environmental education resources. Some of the services provided through this partnership include a searchable directory of North Carolina's environmental education centers and organizations, a listing of grants and jobs, a statewide interactive calendar of events and a searchable resource database that links each resource to its provider.

The system also allows the participating states to share postings for grants, jobs, curriculum and other resources, greatly maximizing the capacity of each individual state’s educational outreach mission. Many of these shared services were provided free to the office through this collaborative grant.

Some examples of what you might be missing on the site:

A statewide listing of educational facilities
such as parks, nature and science centers, museums, botanical gardens, arboretums, coastal reserves, educational state forests, the NC Aquariums and Zoo.

A statewide calendar of events and professional development opportunities for educators

New resources such as the Egret Curriculum, a place-based curriculum designed to increase knowledge of current watershed science and environmental issues related to the Tar-Pamlico watershed in North Carolina and that aligns all lessons with 5th grade core curriculum and essential standards.

A statewide listing of jobs and internships in the field of environmental education.

Opportunities for grantsand contests.

A thriving online community of educators through a statewide listserv, Twitter and Facebook

An opportunity to meet North Carolina’s Certified Environmental Educators

So check out the updated site and join the state's community of environmental educators. 

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Sara Hallas Receives Conservation Communicator Award


Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator with the N.C. Coastal Federation and a N.C. Certified Environmental Educator was honored for her outstanding environmental education and outreach efforts by the Hugh Hammond Bennett Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

From the N.C. Coastal Federation's Coastal Review Online.

RALEIGH — Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator with the N.C. Coastal Federation’s northeast office in Manteo, recently received the 2016 Conservation Communicator Award from the Hugh Hammond Bennett Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

The award, presented Saturday in Raleigh, honored Hallas’ outstanding environmental education and outreach, including organizing the Coastal Environmental Educators Network, a coalition of environmental education organizations and professionals in northeastern North Carolina. The network’s mission is to create a sense of value for the region’s natural and cultural resources through partnership and networking. The network consists of more than 30 member organizations, including state, federal, university and nonprofit organizations.

To read the full story, visit the Coastal Review Online at

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McCrory’s Environmental Department Connects NC Educators With Jobs


The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs in the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality is seeing an early influx in the number of jobs and internships posted to its website. The site reflects governor McCrory’s commitment to providing educators with professional opportunities and much-needed resources by serving as a statewide clearinghouse for environmental education tools and hosting job postings.  It also features a grant database and an interactive calendar that includes professional development opportunities for educators, field trip opportunities and family events.

Environmental education-related job postings typically pick up in February as organizations prepare for summer camps and other seasonal opportunities. However, job postings began to spike in early December for both seasonal and full-time education positions. Along with the increased traffic, the office has heard positive feedback from both employers who are hiring educators and educators who are looking for positions. Suzanne Mwengi, Membership and Outreach Coordinator with the Friends of the Western North Carolina Nature Center said, “I just wanted to thank you again for posting our position to your listserv and allowing us to post it to your website!  We’ve now filled the position.  We had several applicants state that they heard about the position from the EE listing.” The office’s jobs listing had about 6,000 page views in December and has already received 5,500 views in January.

In addition to the popular jobs listing, which receives an average of 4,600 website views a month, the office also maintains an ongoing list of grants for educators that gets an equal amount of views. One recent success story came from Jessica Kellerman, a teacher with Sandy Grove Elementary in Hoke County who received a grant posted to the site. “I just wanted to thank you again for the wonderful website. I have used it to find local sites to take my special education students on field trips and I recently secured a grant to put an adaptable swing outside for recess for students in wheelchairs from a grant found on your website. When I was at NCCAT this week I shared the website with fellow educators because I know it is a resource that is organized and up to date.”
The office encourages agencies and organizations to use the site to advertise their workshops, events and positions. To learn more about all the resources offered by the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, you can visit their website at

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NC Department of Public Instruction Hosts 5th Annual Meeting for Nonformal Educators


A group of 75 nonformal educators from all regions of North Carolina met last week in the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences Nature Research Center in what has become an annual event. Hosted by the Science Section of the Department of Public Instruction, the meeting is part of a broader partnership between the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI) to support nonformal educators who provide environmental science to school-age children and families across the state. 

This marks the fifth year for the meeting. 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 and Soil and Water Conservation Districts attended. The participants shared ways they can improve standards-based program offerings for schools and partner more effectively with teachers, school administrators and the Department of Public Instruction. “North Carolina has a unique partnership that encourages collaboration between schools, school districts, NC DPI and the nonformal education community to support science learning and environmental literacy,” said Debra Hall, elementary science consultant for the Department of Public Instruction. 

 The meeting provides an opportunity for educators to get updates on curriculum standards for NC DPI and instructs them on how to access support documents and resources to help them align their educational programs and field trips with the state’s essential standards for science. Participants heard from several guests speakers, including Renee Strnad with Extension Forestry at North Carolina State University who gave an overview of the North American Association’s Guidelines for Excellence in Environmental Education. These guidelines set professional standards for environmental literacy and work in concert with both national and state level educational standards. 

 Chris Goforth, the head of citizen science with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, spoke to the group on how citizen science can be used to engage classroom teachers and students in authentic science experiences. Tom Randolph, lead interpretation and education ranger with Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, discussed best practices for curriculum-based programs and field trips emphasizing hands-on, outdoor experiences for students and their connection to better classroom performance. 

 The meeting was held on the same day that the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act was signed into law. The Every Student Succeeds Act includes language that supports environmental education and environmental literacy programs. The act also supports hands-on learning” and “field-based or service learning” to enhance understanding of STEM subjects which will provide additional opportunities for environmental science education programs. “North Carolina has one of the strongest nonformal environmental education communities in country and the inclusion of field-based environmental science support in the Every Student Succeeds Act will further enhance the already diverse and effective environmental science programming in our state,” said Lisa Tolley, program manager with the Department of Environmental Quality.
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NAAEE Hails History-Making Opportunities for Environmental Learning in Congressional Education Bill


North American Association for Environmental Education sees passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or ESEA) as big win, opening avenues for students and teachers in environmental and nature literacy.

(FROM nAAEE Press Release) 
The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) applauds the Senate passage of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces No Child Left Behind. The much-anticipated bill includes language that, for the first time, supports opportunities to provide students with environmental education and hands-on, field-based learning experiences. A companion bill overwhelmingly passed the House last week.
“The inclusion of environmental education language in the Every Student Succeeds Act signifies an important step forward for teachers and school systems who know what a rich and engaging context the local environment is for learning,” said Judy Braus, Executive Director of NAAEE. “We congratulate Congressional leaders for recognizing the role that environmental education can play in providing students with a well-rounded, 21st century education and preparing them for a lifetime of success.”
Under Title IV of the new bill, environmental education would be eligible for funding through grants to states for “programs and activities that support access to a well-rounded education.” Environmental literacy programs are now also included among eligible programs for funding through 21st Century Community Learning Center grants. Additionally, the inclusion of Title IV funds for hands-on, field-based, or service learning to enhance understanding of science, technology, engineering and math subjects provides a potential boost for environmental science education programs.
The gains for environmental education come as a result of years-long work by champions of the bipartisan No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Act, which sought to secure federal dollars to support states’ efforts to implement environmental literacy plans in K-12 public schools.
“Environmental education can have a positive impact on kids’ health, academic achievement, and understanding of the natural world. This bill represents a major step forward, giving schools new opportunities to engage students through environmental education. I first introduced NCLI back in 2007, and since that time, thanks to the advocacy of coalitions and organizations like NAAEE, we’ve made real progress in elevating the importance of environmental education and getting more schools to develop outdoor, hands on learning as part of their curriculum. And that has a tremendous benefit for students and our communities,” stated U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the chief Senate sponsor of the NCLI Act.
Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-3) has sponsored NCLI in the House. “ESSA is a tremendous victory for advocates of environmental education who’ve fought long and hard to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards with outdoor, hands-on learning programs,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “I commend my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for passing a comprehensive education reform package that has immense benefits for students, teachers and schools across the country.”
NAAEE serves as the backbone organization for the field of environmental education and is dedicated to advancing environmental literacy and civic engagement through the power of education. NAAEE supports a network of more than 20,000 educators, researchers, and organizational members in more than 30 countries through direct membership and 50 state, provincial, and regional affiliate organizations. Through community networks, publications, signature programs, NAAEE provides leadership, professional development, and resources for professionals working in all areas of the field. For more information, visit
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New K-12 Education Bill Passes House, Will Strengthen Environmental Education


Bipartisan Legislation Includes Key Provision from Rep. Sarbanes’ No Child Left Inside Act, Which Would Allow Schools and Teachers to Expand Environmental Learning Programs for Students Across America

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 8, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan bill that replaces the widely-criticized No Child Left Behind Act and includes numerous policies to improve K-12 education across the country – including one provision introduced by Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) that would bolster environmental education programs for young students.

“ESSA is a tremendous victory for advocates of environmental education who’ve fought long and hard to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards with outdoor, hands-on learning programs,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “I commend my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for passing a comprehensive education reform package that has immense benefits for students, teachers and schools across the country.”

The environmental education provision contained in ESSA comes from the No Child Left Inside Act (NCLI), a bipartisan bill authored by Congressman Sarbanes that is designed to enhance American students’ environmental literacy. First introduced in 2007, NCLI was reintroduced this year in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Sarbanes and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) with the support of 41 original co-sponsors. It was also reintroduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

NCLI would provide federal grant funding for teachers who design and implement environmental education programs in, and importantly, outside of the classroom. By encouraging new environmental curricula, the bill would also cultivate partnerships and strengthen relationships between school districts, colleges, environmental nonprofits, parks and other community-based organizations.

ESSA is expected to pass the Senate next week and advance to the President’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law. In addition to improving environmental education, the bill contains a number of reforms that will help provide American students with a high-quality, twenty-first century education, including:
  • Helping states improve low-performing schools and enhance teacher quality;
  • Setting higher standards and improving learning outcomes for all students;
  • Dedicating more funding to bolster STEM education, student health and literacy initiatives and afterschool programs;
  • Identifying and acting on ways to close the achievement gap;
  • Strengthening access to, and the quality of, early childhood education programs;
  • Maintaining important information about student performance; and
  • Providing greater funding flexibility to better support students and school.
For more information about the bill, visit:  
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Partnership Assists Migrating Monarch Butterflies in Western North Carolina While Educating the Public


Chelsea Rath, an AmeriCorps Project Conserve member with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, is already making a difference in the community she serves. Chelsea worked with a local landowner to plant a 382 plants, such as milkweed and Joe-Pye weed, on his property creating a way station for Monarch butterflies passing through Horse Shoe in Henderson County. 

Chelsea worked with Nina Veteto, the founder of Monarch Rescue, Tom Fanslow with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and other AmeriCorps Project Conserve members to establish the patch of milkweed that will aid the monarchs during fall migration.

The habitat is located on property managed by Super-Sod, a sod farm in Horse Shoe, North Carolina. It is protected by a conservation easement on about 340 acres, and a buffer easement on about three miles of the French Broad River. The property includes a common area that is not currently being utilized and is mowed regularly into a lawn. “This area provided the perfect location to plant a pollinator habitat. As monarchs lose habitat around the country, it is important to create new areas for them to feed, mate, and grow,” said Ms. Rath.

Dave Shaffer, the property manager at Super-Sod, readily stepped forward to volunteer his assistance after hearing Ms. Veteto speak about the risks to monarchs and their need for habitat at the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy Landowner Appreciation Picnic.

The project will become certified as a Monarch Way Station and will have educational signage on site in the future. This signage will educate on the life cycle of monarchs, their habitat needs, and their migration habits and will highlight the unique partnership created between Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and Super-Sod through this project. This site will also serve as a milkweed repository to provide seeds to many different groups in the community as more pollinator patches are planted.

“In addition to providing an important habitat for Monarchs and other butterflies and fall nectar sources for migrating Monarchs, the project has become an incredible opportunity to involve the community and educate visitors about the need for these pollinator habitats and why they are so important,” said Ms. Rath.

Chelsea is among several AmeriCorps members with Project Conserve enrolled in the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. Two AmeriCorps programs in North Carolina, Project Conserve and Project GEOS (Growing Environmental Opportunities through Service), a program of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, have members enrolled in the certification program.

For more information about AmeriCorps Project Conserve, visit http://www.americorpsprojectconserve.orgor AmeriCorps Project GEOS, visit

For information about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, visit

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Make That Viral Animal Video a Teachable Moment


Recently a visitor to Falls Lake State Recreation Area made this amazing video of Northern Water Snake taking a catfish. Jason Dickerson of Rolesville sent the video to Raleigh CBS affiliate WRAL TV, who posted the story on their website, social media and on their local broadcasts.

Not surprisingly, the video went viral on social media and has been featured on several news outlets, even as far as Australia.  However, no stories identify the snake or give any information about its behavior or habitat.

We consulted with herpetologist Jeff Beane to confirm that it is a northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon). Northern water snakes are found in all parts of the state except for the southeastern coastal counties. It is amazing to watch it catch the catfish in this video. This is normal behavior and they do often eat catfish, though Jeff notes that this catfish “is a little larger than usual for a snake this size to handle.” Northern water snakes' main diet consists of fish and amphibians, and Jeff tells us they can hunt in fairly deep water and also hunt and scavenge in shallows as well. The Davidson College Herps of North Carolina website explainsthat their coloration can vary widely. As a result of this, these non-venomous snakes are sometimes mistaken for cottonmouths or copperheads. 

It’s easy for environmental educators to get frustrated when these videos go viral, as they can result in a lot of “NOPES!*" as well as incorrect information about the animal.
 (*Remember the infamous Jennette's Pier lancetfish?)

However, these can be good opportunities for environmental educators to provide the public with good information and outreach about nature, as well as dispel misunderstandings about our state’s amazing wildlife. 

So when one of these viral videos arises, consider doing a little homework, consulting an expert, and then Tweet away...or Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram or Blog or Email... 
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A New GIS River Basin Map Available to Educators


The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs now provides an online GIS River Basin map for educators. The new interactive map allows you to explore your river basin or learn more about any of the 17 river basins in North Carolina. You can click on each basin to learn about the diversity of plants and animals found in our beautiful state.

A version of the map that focused on the Tar-Pamlico River Basin was used by teachers during UNC’s Institute for the Environment’s EGRET (Exploring the Geographical Region and Ecosystems of the Tar-Pamlico Watershed) Fellows Program this summer. The summer institute was held for 5th grade teachers at Goose Creek State Park in Washington and A Time for Science in Greenville.

“The interactive GIS river basin map is an excellent tool for educators to use with students or anyone who wants to better understand the ecological features and important resources in their river basin,” said Sarah Yelton, Environmental Education Coordinator with the institute’s Environmental Resource Program. “We used it specifically with 5th grade teachers in our EGRET Fellows Program who are exploring the natural and cultural resources of the Tar-Pamlico River Basin. The teachers liked having the ability to turn on and off layers of information and target in on a specific basin. We created a web scavenger hunt, or web quest, for the Tar-Pamlico River Basin to go along with the GIS based map and the teachers loved it,” she said.

The map is now available online at The online map has many potential uses for schools that utilize electronic tablets and other multi-media tools in the classroom. The office hopes that more educators will use the map in the classroom to help students make connections to the rivers and streams in their own communities.
There are more North Carolina River Basin resources at, including river basin lesson plans developed by North Carolina classroom teachers, nonformal educators and office staff. The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs welcomes new lesson plan or activity ideas based on the new GIS map or existing river basin materials. Please share your ideas with us on Twitter, Facebook or email Tracy Weidert, River Basin Education Program Manager at 
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Celebrate Take A Child Outside Week


Celebrate Take a Child Outside Week September 24-30

The N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs invites you to take part in a nationwide effort to connect children to the natural world. “Take a Child Outside” is designed to help children develop an appreciation for the outdoors by giving parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers information on nature activities and places to visit.

Take a Child Outside Week is held in conjunction with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and partner organizations throughout the U.S. and around the world. The program encourages all citizens to participate in outdoor activities from September 24-30, 2015.

Organizations and agencies across the state including parks, nature and science centers, museums, aquariums, botanical gardens, etc. are hosting events during the week. There are many opportunities to take your child, grandchild or students outdoors. You can visit the North Carolina Environmental Education Calendar to search for Take a Child Outside activities being offered across the state.

You can also participate by making a pledge to take a child outside and help them experience the natural world on the Take a Child Outside website. The program is designed to help break down obstacles that keep children from discovering the natural world, and to provide resources and recreational activities for exploring local habitats.

Many state attractions and other environmental education centers have events planned. You can view all the events and programs going on during the week on the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website.

Here are a few highlights of some of the Take a Child Outside Events hosted by state agencies:

N.C. State Parks will feature special events and ranger-led programs including fun hikes and nature education programs that introduce children and families to the outdoors. Children will be working towards earning their North Carolina Junior Ranger certificate and patch at some parks. State Parks offer many activities for memories to be made including picnicking, canoeing, camping and hiking. Check out all of the Take a Child Outside events happening at State Parks online at

The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher is hosting a Salt Marsh and Crabbing Program for ages 7 and up. This hands-on, outdoor program introduces participants to the challenge of catching blue crabs. Lessons in crab biology and crabbing equipment prepare participants for an exciting expedition through the salt marsh to catch and release crabs. For more information, visit

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is hosting seven Wildlife Expos and other events to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day on September 26, at various locations from Corolla to Brevard. There will be free, family-oriented events that highlight the state’s extraordinary hunting and fishing heritage and remarkable wildlife conservation efforts through the years. Interactive activities and demonstrations vary for each event, but all provide unique opportunities for participants of all ages to connect with nature and test their outdoors skills. For more information visit the commission’s website at

The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences' Prairie Ridge EcoStation invites families to explore the outdoors on Saturday, September 26, 2015. Come at any time during the event to visit the Nature PlaySpace to enjoy some hands-on nature activities. Activities also include: 10:00 am, Nature Stories, in the amphitheater; 10:30 am, Citizen Science Saturday walk, entrance kiosk (best for children 8 years+); 11:15, Nature Stories-Music, in the amphitheater. For information contact: Cathy Fergen at or 919-707-8878.

The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs is proud to join with the Museum of Natural Sciences in this effort, and believes children want to embrace and explore their world. This exploration shapes their lifelong relationship with their parents and the environment. Stress reduction, greater physical health, more creativity and a sense of play are just some of the many benefits for a family when it invites nature into their lives. Take a Child Outside is held annually, September 24-30.

Be sure to check out the environmental education calendar for events going on near you on the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs' website. You can search the calendar using your zip code or city. 

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Kelsie Armentrout to Receive Governor's Conservation Achievement Award for Environmental Educator of the Year


Kelsie Armentrout, a former Wake County teacher and Kenan Fellow will be awarded with the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award for Environmental Educator of the Year on September 12.

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation presents the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards each year to honor individuals, associations, businesses and others who have exhibited an unwavering commitment to conservation in North Carolina.

“These are the highest natural resource honors given in the state. By recognizing, publicizing and honoring these conservation leaders – be they professionals, volunteers, young conservationists or life-long conservation heroes – the N.C. Wildlife Federation hopes to inspire all North Carolinians to take a more active role in protecting the natural resources of our state,” said Tim Gestwicki, chief executive officer with the N.C. Wildlife Federation.

Kelsie is being honored for her innovation as a classroom science teacher and for connecting her students with wildlife in North Carolina. Before leaving the classroom this year to pursue a master’s degree, Kelsie taught middle school science at Hilburn Academy, a Wake County Public School in Raleigh and was a 2014-2015 Kenan Fellow.

Kelsie worked on “Students Discover,” a cooperative mammal research project with the Your Wild Life program at N.C. State University and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences that that is helping citizen scientists survey the animals in their region with camera traps (trail cameras). Working with Dr. Roland Kays and Dr. Stephanie Schuttler from the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Kelsie also participated in the eMammal program as a way of bringing citizen science into the classroom.

As part of this experience, Kelsie traveled with the team to Mexico to train with teachers in Guadalajara. Kelsie applied this knowledge as soon as the school year began, and had her students use camera traps at Hilburn to do their own research. Kelsie helped created lesson plans for using the camera traps in the classroom and aligned them with middle school curriculum standards. These lesson plans are now online on the Students Discover website in addition to a short video of Kelsie’s experience in the program. 

Kelsie says her experiences with the eMammal program helped engage her students in science. “Having the opportunity for the students to see their research and their data collection directly impact actual scientists can really open a whole new door for them,” she said.

Kelsie earned her N.C. Environmental Education Certification in 2012 and was featured in a short videoon the program in 2014. She had demonstrated an ongoing enthusiasm for bringing the environment into the classroom and credits the program with providing her with resources to successfully teach science.

“Getting my environmental education certification during undergrad really shed new light on science. I ended up becoming a science teacher and wanting to be a science teacher because I saw the importance of student discovery and open-ended questions,” said Kelsie.
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As school begins, let’s keep children in touch with nature


From Amber Veverka, a master naturalist and N.C. certified environmental educator in Charlotte:

The kindergarteners that day were wide-eyed.

We’d gathered in a courtyard outside their Charlotte classroom for a hands-on lesson in investigating the natural world. I was a volunteer, eager to explore alongside them.

“What is nature?” I asked the kids seated around me. They peppered the air with their answers. But the one I can’t forget was from the little girl in ponytails who said, solemnly, “Nature is something you should never, ever touch.”

If I ever needed confirmation that we – and our children – are alienated from the natural world, that little girl’s response supplied it.

School is back in session, and families like mine are again swept along in a rush of drop-offs, bus rides and after-school activities. If we aren’t intentional, the school year tide can pull all of us into an indoor life. It’s dark in the morning. Kids are loaded down with homework at night. In between, they’re in classrooms and we’re in offices.

We’re born loving creation, recognizing instinctively that we belong in the grass, under the trees, within earshot of birdsong. But the entire arc of our culture – particularly the culture of an overscheduled, urban center such as Charlotte – veers away from these first loves. We get jobs. We get busy. We live our days in cubicles and cars.

I urge all of us to make this school year one in which we and our children spend more time in nature. It’s not always easy. But it’s possible...

Read the rest here:
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