Monday, October 15, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Lily Dancy-Jones

Congratulations to Lily Dancy-Jones of Asheville for completing the N.C. Environmental Education Certification. Lily is a Biology and AP Environmental Science teacher and the sponsor for the Eco Club at Clyde A. Erwin High School. Lily also chairs the steering committee of Youth for Environmental Stewardship (YES), a collective of environmental clubs across high schools and colleges in the greater Asheville area.

Lily said she enjoyed building relationships with other environmental educators during the certification process. "It is inspiring to learn about what others are doing across the state and exchange ideas and resources." Her favorite part of the process was having a chance to be a student again. "Being able to be the student, not the teacher, and experience high quality, thoughtfully planned programs was a great change from leading my traditional classroom and gave me more energy and inspiration as an educator."

For her community partnership project, Lily established an educational pollinator garden at Erwin High School. Lily put an impressive amount of thought into her project, making plans for the garden long before building it. "It was years in the making, starting with a workshop I took in the first year of working on my certification, and blossomed into a beautiful and amazing source of inspiration for conservation in my community."

To build the garden and provide educational opportunities for the Erwin community, Lily partnered with the North Carolina Arboretum, UNC Asheville, and Asheville Greenworks, among other partners. Her goal was to increase awareness about the importance of pollinators in the rural community of Erwin, and to bring a strong conservation ethic to the community. "I wanted to reach more students, as well as our faculty and visiting community members, to change the conversation about the purpose of gardens and the importance of pollinators and the impact individual actions could have."

Lily worked with a wide variety of K-12 students, UNC Asheville undergraduates, and other community members to build the pollinator garden. Students in the Eco Club and the AP Environmental Science class helped to collect native plants and create educational flyers about pollinators for other students at the high school. Local K-12 and college students built bee hotels for the garden. Lily also partnered with the N.C. Arboretum to help students learn to monitor monarch butterfly populations and eventually raise their own monarchs in the classroom. The garden is now a certified Monarch Waystation (through, a Schoolyard Habitat, and a Pollinator Pitstop (through the National Wildlife Federation).

Lily's community partnership project and her overall experience with the certification program made her reassess the way educators can instill environmental values in students. "I try to cultivate a conservation ethic in my students but I now think more carefully about how I do that, and have them come to their own conclusions with information I've shared rather than asking them to have the same viewpoint as I do."

To learn more about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification, visit the Office of Environmental Education website.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sea Level Rise and Security in the Southeast: A Film Screening and Discussion Panel

 On September 30, a panel of military, academic and government experts met to discuss the risks posed by sea level rise and opportunities to build resilience across North Carolina’s coastal communities. In the wake of Hurricane Florence, rising sea levels and catastrophic flooding are among the greatest threats to America’s safety and security in a 21st century world. 

John Nicholson, chief deputy secretary for the Department of Environmental Quality facilitated the panel discussion. Nicholson, a retired Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps reflected on his service in the military and how it’s shaped his views on climate change. “Sea level rise affects our coastal communities and presents special challenges for the coastal military bases we rely on to preserve our national security. Efforts to build resiliency among these communities will require the cooperation of policy makers, planners, scientists, military leaders and most importantly, the residents of these areas,” said Nicholson.

The discussion included representatives of the United States Navy and the Center for Climate and Security, professors from the Coastal Studies Institute at East Carolina University and the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State University, and the Principal Planner for the Town of Nags Head, North Carolina. The event also featured a screening of Tidewater, an award-winning film from the American Resilience Project that details the challenges sea level rise presents to military readiness, national security, and coastal communities in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. You can view Tidewater online at

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, the Center for Climate and Security, North Carolina Sea Grant, and the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership hosted the event at the NCSU Hunt Library on Centennial Campus.

You can view the livestream at

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Gretta Steffens

Roseboro, N.C. native Gretta Steffens recently completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification. Gretta is the Environmental Education Coordinator at the Sampson Soil and Water Conservation District. As the Environmental Education Coordinator, Gretta provides workshops for educators, coaches local middle and high school EnviroThon teams and establishes environmental education programs for local schools.

The N.C. Environmental Education Certification program had a profound effect on Gretta. In her words, “I fell in love with nature again and with North Carolina. I have enjoyed meeting people from all around the state who work in environmental education, they have been amazing. I love all the books and tools I have been given to use in my teaching and all the contacts I have made who have been so helpful.”

In particular, a workshop on elk with the NC Museum of Natural Sciences stands out in Gretta’s memory. “I realized one morning at sunrise, standing on a mountain, watching two male elk rattle their horns together, that I had found my calling. The beauty of the moment spoke to my soul and I felt that sense of wonder that you get as a child come flooding back to me.”

For Gretta’s community partnership project, she created a community garden in her hometown of Roseboro. Gretta partnered with a local artist and a master gardener to turn an empty lot in the middle of town into a garden filled with vegetables and fruits to be donated to community members. Supplies, funding, and labor to build the garden were all donated by local citizens and businesses. While there were some bumps in the road, Gretta and her partners were resilient throughout the partnership project. “We applied to a few grants, but never heard anything back. This didn’t discourage anyone, we just worked all the harder and the people of my town took real pride in doing it themselves.”

Gretta’s community garden project has already benefitted the Roseboro community. Shortly after finishing the project, Gretta reported, “The Community Garden has supplied produce to the local Meals on Wheels program, the local nursing home, to home-bound citizens and to socially disadvantaged families. It will be used as a teaching garden, an educational opportunity for local students and for volunteer opportunities for community groups and clubs…The garden has become a social gathering place, a place to learn and relax. It adds to the beauty of the town with its amazing plants and rustic fencing.”

Greta expressed gratitude for the certification program, stating that the workshops and classes she took broadened her way of thinking about the environment. “I see a much bigger picture than I did before. I am much more aware of the effects of future populations and long term global issues.”

Greta also said that the certification program gave her more confidence to teach environmental education lessons. “I think the main way that it has led to changes in my approach is by using more hands on involvement and more time outside. I have learned to make it fun as well as informative.”

To learn more about the NC Environmental Education Certification, visit the Office of Environmental Education website.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Jane Jarrett

Congratulations to Jane Jarrett for completing her N.C. Environmental Education Certification. Jane is an instructor at East Carolina University, where she teaches undergraduate students majoring in recreation and park management and recreation therapy. “One of the classes I teach is recreation and event programming, where I mentor students through the writing of program plans and implementation of community events and programs,” said Jane. When asked about her life outside of work, Jane replied, “When I am not working you can find me spending time with my two large dogs, my snake or my bird!”

For her community partnership project, Jane created a set of interactive nature boxes for a schoolyard garden in Greenville, North Carolina. Her project was part of an afterschool program for children who have underperformed in a traditional school environment. Jane created nature boxes with different themes related to the schoolyard garden, with a special focus on birds and pollinators. “My goal was to develop interactive, themed nature boxes that motivated students and kept them engaged,” said Jane.

Jane partnered with the East Carolina University Lab School and the Pitt County School System to implement her project. To help students keep up with their school curriculum, Jane ensured that learning materials in the nature boxes were related to vocabulary and concepts learned in the classroom. Nature boxes contained crafts, games, activities, and lesson plans for teachers and other learning facilitators.

As an educator focusing on community-based initiatives, it was important to Jane to create a project that engaged not only the school children, but the other community members involved in implementing the afterschool program. “This project engages members of the community by providing them resources to utilize while working with the participants. Having the materials, lessons, activities, games etc. ready to implement makes this project accessible for the facilitators/teachers/volunteers. The nature boxes, Children's Garden and afterschool program are provided to the participants for free.”

Jane said her favorite part of the N.C. Environmental Education Certification process was the chance “to interact with passionate educators and facilitators.” She also stated that participating in the certification program led to some changes in her teaching style. "I started noticing more subtle connections that I have personally made to enhance my labs and lectures...I was able to share methods of teaching environmental education with my students and encouraged them to create an atmosphere of excitement rather than advocacy with their participants."

When asked about the trainings and workshops that she enjoyed most during the certification process, Jane said she appreciated programs that “involved audience participation and got people outside their comfort zone.”

To learn more about the NC Environmental Education Certification, visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs' website.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Kristin Gibson

In June of 2018, Kristin Gibson completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification. Kristin was serving as an AmeriCorps Coastal Community Engagement Specialist with the North Carolina Coastal Federation in Newport, North Carolina.

To complete her certification, Kristin organized a community partnership project focused on cleaning up marine debris on the beaches of Emerald Isle. Kristin’s project idea was motivated by the pollution she witnessed growing up along the North Carolina coast. “Spending my high school years in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, I have always known how important the summer tourists are to the local economy. However, after a long day at the beach, tourists would litter the area with straws, bags, and other plastics. Marine debris is unsightly, and takes away from the aesthetic value of the beach.”

In the fall of 2017, Kristin attended the Marine Debris Symposium, where she watched a presentation by the founder of BlueTube, an organization that collects recycled plastic bags and uses the bags as receptacles for beachgoers to collect trash. The presentation by BlueTube founder Patty Goffinet had a strong effect on Kristin. “The minute she finished her presentation, I knew BlueTube was something we needed in Emerald Isle. Not only to protect our economy, but to decrease the amount of litter entering the marine environment through education and direct action.”

Kristin orchestrated the construction of BlueTubes at two beach access points at Emerald Isle. BlueTubes are bright blue, easy-to-spot containers that hold clean, used plastic bags. As Kristin explains, “They are installed at beach crossovers so people can grab a bag on their way to the beach, pick up trash and throw it away.” Kristin partnered with BlueTube Beaches, Emerald Isle Realty, and the Town of Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation to complete her project. At the end of her project, Kristin held a mini beach cleanup and public installation event, where she explained the environmental impact of marine debris.

Looking back on her certification process, Kristin stated that the program taught her to better understand how to provide educational material for different audiences. “Participating in the EE Certification program has taught me to pay more attention to age appropriate lessons and the different types of learners. This was very beneficial for my after school programming! I was able to create much more effective curriculum and lessons for the students.”

Kristin also believes that her NC Environmental Education Certification provided her with useful skills for her future career. “Earning my EE certification has allowed me to network with other educators, learn new teaching skills, and gain more knowledge of the environment in North Carolina.” Kristin encouraged other young educators to pursue the certification program, especially those who do not yet have experience in environmental education. “As a new educator, it was very helpful, and I think college students looking at the field would feel the same way.”

To learn more about BlueTube, visit the BlueTube website. To learn more about the NC Environmental Education Certification, visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs' website.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Educator Spotlight - Amy Taylor

Dr. Amy Taylor recently completed the NC Environmental Education Certification. Dr. Taylor is an associate professor in the Watson School of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington where she teaches various levels of science methods courses for pre-service teachers as well as a few environmental studies electives.

Dr. Taylor enjoys teaching and learning outdoors as often as possible. She teaches a class called Island Ecology for Educators in which most of the class is taught outdoors in amazing settings like Carolina Beach State Park.

When asked about her favorite part of completing the program, Dr. Taylor says it was getting to meet many different people in both formal and informal education and learning more about their methods for incorporating the various curricula into their own teaching. “It's refreshing to be in the same space with people who have similar interests and passions as yourself. I have been teaching workshops such as Project Wild, Aquatic Wild, etc. since the early 90s and it never gets old! I love revamping my own teaching and taking these workshops and connecting with other educators was very beneficial to my teaching.”

She especially enjoyed the outdoor experiences where she could get outside and apply the information from the workshops. “Taking birding or herping workshops with Mike Campbell or Becky Skiba (N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission) was always a treat as they are walking encyclopedias of information and I was always in awe of how much I learned at the end of those workshops.”

For her community partnership project, Dr. Taylor partnered with the New Hanover House Assisted Living Facility associated with the Affinity Living Group located in Wilmington, NC. The Affinity Living Group is the eleventh largest provider of assisted living in the United States, the sixth largest provider of Alzheimer's and memory care, and the largest senior housing provider in the southeastern US. She worked to restore elevated planting beds at the facility and helped the residents learn about local/native flowers in our area and the importance for planting them for benefits to bees, butterflies and other pollinators. “Many of the residents were avid gardeners in their younger lives and I thought this would be a way they could get back involved on whatever level they could physically handle.”

Dr. Taylor says participating in the certification program led to changes in her approach to teaching. “I have been teaching lessons outdoors for over 20 years but by completing the environmental education certification program I have more a structured idea of how to package and direct these lessons based on the key characteristics of environmental education. Particularly how to foster a clear awareness of, and concern about, economic, social, political and ecological interdependence in urban and rural areas but more importantly how to help create new patterns of behavior among individuals/groups as a whole toward the environment.”

She also feels the program changed the way she thinks about environmental issues. “I have always loved and had an innate appreciation of nature and the interdependence of all things in our environment. This certification program has helped me to see the "whole" picture of each type of environmental issue including the ramifications beyond our own backyard, schoolyard, or community but globally.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Courtney Long

Courtney Long has completed her NC Environmental Education Certification. Courtney most recently served as the Interpretation and Education Manager for the Cradle of Forestry in America Heritage Site. 

Long led field trips, planned activities for special event days and provided day to day support of the site. When working at the Cradle of Forestry, she started The Science Camel, a citizen science consulting and program planning initiative. 

Long says the community partnership project was her favorite part of earning the certification. Her project was a Pink Beds BioBlitz in Pisgah National Forest. The event brings naturalists, forest scientists and other community members together to begin cataloging the biodiversity of the Pink Beds Valley. 

“Although a BioBlitz is a great way to capture a species count, my goal was to encourage participants to take a closer look at the forest and germinate that seed for respect and passion for the outdoors. It opened my eyes to the world of citizen science as a tool to connecting people with natural environments,” says Long. 

The 36-hour event began with fourth-grade students from a nearby charter school. She says the fourth-grade focus was an effort to support the "Every Kid in a Park" initiative of the United States Forest Service (USFS) which encourages fourth graders to visit federal lands and waters. Students and chaperones participated in activities that emphasized NC’s standard course of study as well as a one-hour BioBlitz guided by environmental educators and volunteers. 

For the remainder of the event, approximately 50 volunteers and USFS employees led group walks of various topics, welcomed visitors and manned identification booths. The event provided an opportunity for Forest Service employees and the community to connect and for participants to learn and observe the methods forest scientists use to collect species data. 

Does Long think that participating in the certification program led to changes in her approach to teaching? Long says, “At one point, somebody emphasized that each of us are inputting EE values into a stream. That we cannot each fully impact a student or person but collectively we can. This offered a sense of community and altered my approach to teaching others in focusing on the small steps to acquiring environmental literacy, rather than rushing to the big picture.”

For more information about the Cradle of Forestry, visit their website. Visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs' website to learn more about the NC Environmental Education Certification. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Secretary Regan Recognizes Educator for Work Connecting Ecosystems and Human Health

Secretary Michael Regan joined a group of educators last week to award Jenna Hartley her N.C. Environmental Education Certificate. Hartley was at the Department of Environmental Quality’s Green Square Building to facilitate an EPA EnviroAtlas workshop for 25 educators from across the state.

Hartley--an ASPPH (Association of Schools and Programs for Public Health) Environmental Health Fellow hosted by the U.S. Protection Agency Office of Research and Development--was at Green Square facilitating a day-long EnviroAtlas educator workshop in partnership with DEQ’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs.

The recognition by Regan during the training was especially fitting as Hartley developed the EnviroAtlas workshop as part of earning her DEQ Environmental Education Certification.

For her fellowship at EPA, Hartley translated high-level EPA science into fun, easy-to-use K-12 educational resources, lesson plans and materials. Her N.C. Environmental Education Certification project was to design, orchestrate, and then run an educators' workshop based on the EnviroAtlas educational materials that she developed.

“The workshop is six hours long and teachers leave the workshop with access to hands-on activities that all involve a portion using technology and a portion outside in nature,” says Hartley. The workshop was also held earlier in the month at the EPA campus at Research Triangle Park, and will serve as a model for future workshops.

“We appreciate Jenna for her work taking EPA science and creating K-12 educational resources that help teachers make critical connections for their students between ecosystems and health,” said Regan.

Hartley says participating in the certification program changed her approach to teaching others.

“At every workshop that I attended, I took notes on what I considered to be ‘Best Practices.’ I then used those best practices to build my own workshop, so the programs for the certification directly fed into my teaching and my work.”

Hartley’s ASPPH fellowship at EPA concludes in August. From there, she will begin a PhD program in the College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University, working specifically on environmental education research. She credits the DEQ Environmental Education Certification Program with changing her career path. “This program has obviously made me a better teacher, but it has also empowered me to feel like I can make other teachers more confident about using the freely-available, high-tech EPA tools in their classroom. That has been indescribably rewarding.”

Hartley was pursuing Spanish and soccer in college when a chance trip to help a roommate sample invasive species along the banks of the Colorado River resulted in her changing her major to geology and later getting a Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences and Engineering.

She credits that one outdoor experience with changing her life. Now in her role as an environmental educator, she encourages other educators to provide those pivotal hands-on environmental experiences for their students.

“Keep creating tangible, awe-inspiring moments of environmental education that might change the lives of kids that look back fondly fifteen-plus years later and can remember the exact environmental education moment that changed the entire course of their lives.”

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Educator Spotlight: April Boggs

April Boggs, a graduate research assistant at North Carolina State University, recently completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification. She is currently working on her master’s degree in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology. Her hobbies include reading, hunting, kayaking, fishing and hiking. Participating in this program has helped her as a research assistant and in her everyday life.

 “Through the environmental education certification program, I learned that I need to be more conscious of how I teach others,” said Boggs. The program opened her eyes to see that there was more to learn about environmental education.

Boggs mentioned that as a biology research assistant, she tended to only focus on the facts. Being in the Environmental Education Certificate program made her realize that you shouldn’t solely focus on facts that are already known, but you should also have an open mind by promoting ideas and exploring.

“The certification experience that stood out for me was the Methods of Teaching Environmental Education workshop, as it brought up points about environmental education that I hadn't really considered.” The program is full of workshops and projects designed to increase environmental literacy as well as provide practice in environmental education teaching methods to all educators. Boggs also noted that receiving her certificate helped her to change her perspective on environmental education and showed we need to promote more critical thinking to solve issues.

“My community partnership project was to set up bird houses at the elementary school I attended as a child. As part of the project I also taught a lesson about birds, helped the students build pine cone bird feeders and provided bird watching and lesson supplies to third grade teachers for their classroom,” said Boggs. “My hope is that it helped instill curiosity about the birds and environment in the third graders I worked with and provided a resource for future classes.”

Bogg's experience shows that the program encourages a fun learning environment for both the educators receiving the certificate and the students who participate. “My favorite part of earning my certification was working with the students during my community project. It was great building the pine cone bird feeders with them and seeing how interested they were in birds.”

The environmental education certification program enhances the ability of all educators and organizations to provide beneficial programs and resources, helping local communities while educating students about their environment. Educating North Carolinians on how to preserve our resources is an important step to investing in the future of North Carolina’s environment.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Renee Pagoota-Wight

Renee Pagoota-Wight, a kindergarten teacher at Sherrills Ford Elementary in Catawba County recently completed the Department of Environmental Quality’s N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. Renee has worked in education for 23 years and has a passion for marine life, specifically coral reefs.

Renee holds a Master’s degree in Classroom and Clinical Reading for K-12 and her teaching style focuses on education through experience. “My favorite part of teaching is instilling a love of learning to read and learning through play.” When she is not teaching, Renee enjoys photography and traveling.

Renee says her most memorable experience of the program was visiting Yellowstone National Park as part of a N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences Educators of Excellence Institute. She also says that attending a workshop in Wilmington was a notable part of the certification process.  “I thoroughly enjoyed the Methods of Environmental Education which I participated in at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington. It was a real eye opener as to the number of non-formal educators that seek Environmental education certification alongside formal educators. It was a fun class!”

In addition to gaining hands-on experience in nature and making new connections with formal and non-formal environmental educators, Renee utilized the certification program to construct an outdoor classroom at Sherrills Ford Elementary. As her community partnership project she led a community group to design and build a short trail and an outdoor classroom called the “Nature Nook.” The outdoor classroom was recently featured in a story by the Hickory Record. 

 Renee also credits the program with enhancing her ability to teach students about natural science and helping her narrow down her post-retirement career. “I feel confident in taking groups outside and starting with a simple concept like using our senses to discover. We Skyped a scientist this year and he explained that observation is one of the most basic, yet important skills in scientific discovery. I feel that in the future when I retire as a formal North Carolina educator I will seek opportunities to teach outdoors or in natural spaces.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Educator Spotlight: John Caveny

John Caveny recently completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. John works as the Natural Resource Management Specialist for Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation in Linville, NC.

His major job duties as the Natural Resource Management Specialist consist of managing and overseeing the natural resources through the park, patrolling and maintaining the trail system and providing environmental education and interpretive programs to guests of the park. When John is not working the park, he enjoys fly fishing, hiking, and experiencing nature with his two small children.
John says his favorite part of receiving his certification was “traveling all across the State of NC [to] explore different parks and connect with environmental educators from all backgrounds.”

An experience that stands out to John was attending Project Aquatic WILD at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. There he went electroshocking in the Davidson River and pulled out a lamprey.

John’s community partnership project was developing a new interpretive sign display along the Woods Walk Trail on Grandfather Mountain. He partnered with the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area and Appalachian State University Trail Crew. The project “will provide the visitors to the park a chance to explore nature in the park that was previously unavailable to them,” says John.

Due to the certification, John has gained a large range of knowledge and materials to help visitors connect to nature in a deeper way. He has also been able to meet an extensive community of partners to provide him assistance. Before the program, John was a little hesitant with how people would receive information about environmental issues. He says, “Many people have vastly different views on the issues at hand. I learned that you just need to provide them with the facts and scientific data to back up the facts, while presenting it in a way that can be applied to their daily lives.”

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Amy Long

Amy Long, an instructor at University of North Carolina at Wilmington, recently received her certificate for completing the N.C. Environmental Education Program. Because of this program, Amy says she was able to attend many workshops, environmental education centers, and learn more about North Carolina. Her teaching style has also expanded, allowing her to create new lesson plans.

“I have taken so many of the environmental education curriculum lessons into my own college teaching! And many of my colleagues have now as well. The certification process and curricula have reinforced that science is fun because it is hands-on,” said Long.

Long is a full-time lecturer and teaches environmental education and interpretation in UNCW’s Master of Science program. She also teaches undergrad courses ranging from introductory non-major courses to senior capstone research courses, specializing in restoration ecology as well as science communication and education.

“Even though my title is lecturer, I do anything but lecture! I have learned that you can take lessons like ‘Just Passing Through,’ ‘A Drop in the Bucket,’ ‘The Incredible Journey’ and ‘Pass the Jug and connect to young adults in a formal classroom. What is designed for younger learners is still fun and engaging to older learners,” Long says.

Long also coordinates the environmental workshop series and introductory lab courses at UNCW. Outside of the classroom, she is involved in public outreach. She is the coordinator for TreeFest, an annual Christmas tree event held in Bloomsburg, P.A., and is on the Wilmington Earth Day committee.  

The Leopold Education Program workshop and facilitator workshop within the program both stood out to her. She also recalls a nighttime hike she used for outdoor instructional credit. During this activity, the participants were blindfolded and linked closely together while walking the trail. The purpose was to observe nature around you by silently listening to the nighttime creatures. 

“I am afraid of the dark! So this left a huge impression on me. I was terrified, but simultaneously loved the experience. I will never forget how intensely I could smell the trees around me and hear the wind rustle the leaves.” According to Long, this made a huge impression and is one that she continues to do this type of activity with campers at Blowing Rock Conference Center.

Completing the program has improved her thought process as an instructor and outreach participant by making her more aware of how she presents information. The EE certification also gave her the courage to use a different approach in her university setting.

“I am more keenly aware of presenting fact without advocacy. I am very aware of how I present information and allow the learner to do with it what they wish. Participating in the program didn’t change how I feel about any particular issue, but it impacted my teaching and I learned/honed more from the certification process.”

Thursday, May 31, 2018

DEQ Secretary Regan Recognizes Park Ranger Jacob Fields

DEQ Secretary Michael Regan was in Cumberland County last week and visited Carvers Creek State Park to recognize Jacob Fields for completing the department’s Environmental Education Certification Program. Fields took Regan on a tour of the park’s longleaf pine habitat and the historic Rockefeller house. Like most park rangers, Fields wears many hats. In addition to leading educational programs for school groups and the public, he is also responsible for trail maintenance, law enforcement, prescribed burns, search and rescue and other duties.  

When asked about the program experiences that stood out for him, Fields cites the Basic Interpretive Training provided by N.C. State Parks at Singletary Lake and a herpetology training offered through the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Fields says the certification exposed him to a lot of different programs offered by a variety of instructors. “The diversity helped strengthen my knowledge about conservation and why programs such as these are vital to our future,” said Fields.

In addition to recreation and conservation, Carvers Creek State Park has a mission to educate the community and visitors about the importance of the longleaf pine ecosystem that once was prevalent in the sandhills region. Fields incorporated this educational focus into his community partnership project that is required for the certification program.

For his project, Fields led a wiregrass conservation effort which involved transplanting native wiregrass on a park road that was scheduled to be widened. He worked with Boy Scouts, volunteers and staff to restore the wiregrass in an area visible to the public near the park office. 

“Educators like Jacob are essential for preserving our rich ecological heritage and for educating the public about the significance of our state’s unique ecology such as our longleaf pine ecosystem,” said Secretary Regan. “Our state park rangers manage these important lands while providing important educational opportunities for students and the public.”

By providing a readily accessible area that contains wiregrass and other native plants, it provided Fields the opportunity to teach and lead programs for the public and school groups on the longleaf pine and wiregrass ecosystem. This area is burned on a one to two-year rotation providing a unique opportunity for park staff to educate the public about the importance of prescribed fire and how restoration through fire is possible. 

“Many visitors were unaware of this unique habitat that is slowly diminishing in size due to human development and fire suppression,” said Fields “Featuring this restored plot of land allows visitors to better understand the importance of wiregrass and prescribed fire to the longleaf pine ecosystem.”  

Fields says the program changed his approach to teaching. “My approach to teaching others has incorporated more of an outline and list of objectives, which is much more organized than the programs that I taught before. At the end of my programs I have begun tying everything to the bigger picture of why we teach. If Mr. Rockefeller had let his land become developed instead of the state park that it is today, then we could not have been able to have this unique experience.”