Monday, January 25, 2010

Grants and Contests Abound on

Several new grants, contests and awards have been posted to the N.C. Office of Environmental Education's EE Grants and EE Contests and Awards pages.

There are a wide variety of grants for environmental education, conservation and science-related projects for schools, environmental education centers and organizations, and community groups. Many of the awards include cash prizes to further the projects. Several of the contests would be great for class or youth group projects as well.

Also note that grant applications for NC Beautiful’s 2010 Windows of Opportunity Grants will be accepted until January 30, 2010. Applicants must be K-12 full-time certified teachers located within applicable Duke Energy service areas. To register for an application or to check area eligibility, visit For more information, contact Louise Carey at (919) 828-3190 or

Friday, January 22, 2010

NC Beautiful Announces Windows of Opportunity Grants Winners

Twelve North Carolina schools have been selected to receive educational funds to promote environmental stewardship in the classroom.

NC Beautiful, a provider of environmental education and beautification opportunities that elevate the quality of life of North Carolinians, has announced this year’s recipients of the organization’s environmental education grants. Twelve schools were awarded Windows of Opportunity Grants, representing a total of over $11,000 in educational grants. The grants are available to certified, full-time K-12 teachers in the state of North Carolina.

Windows of Opportunity provides up to $1,000 grants to NC teachers to reward their creativity fostering environmental stewardship, leadership, and awareness and initiating a sense of community service. Each grant applicant was required to complete a five-section online application that included a two-page project narrative, budget, and commitment letter, which commits the school to complete the projected work. Each school must use its grant by June 2010.

NC Beautiful Executive Director, Steve Vacendak, says that the goal of the NC Beautiful is to annually offer a Windows of Opportunity grant in all 100 counties in North Carolina. “Promoting and fostering environmental stewardship is a state-wide commitment,” says Vacendak. “NC Beautiful remains committed to expanding our communication efforts to ensure that every school in the state has the opportunity to take advantage of this valuable resource so that everyone can connect to make North Carolina beautiful.”

The Windows of Opportunity Grants were created to cultivate an appreciation of natural environments by helping children get out of school and into natural settings. The grants also build leadership awareness, develop environmental educational mentors and ambassadors, create materials and resources that can be used by other K-12 students, and develop a sustainable, outdoor program, which will continue well after the grant period ends.

The following is a list of the 2010 Windows of Opportunity Grant recipients, including name of the teacher submitting the winning entry:

· Nancy Bryant, Burlington Christian Academy, Burlington (Alamance County)
· Crystal Hendrix, Ira B. Jones Elementary School, Asheville (Buncombe County)
· Becky Leousis, Shawboro Elementary, Shawboro (Currituck County)
· Kristen Snyder, George Watts Montessori, Durham (Durham County)
· Ruth McDaniel, Southern High School, Durham (Durham County)
· Zenda Cloniger, The Children’s Center, Winston-Salem (Forsyth County)
· Susan Parker, Buckland Elementary, Gates (Gates County)
· Kathleen Conroy, Providence Spring Elementary School, Charlotte (Mecklenburg County)
· Beth Carter, Cape Fear Center for Inquiry, Wilmington (New Hanover County)
· Kathleen Lester, Swansboro Elementary School, Swansboro (Onslow County)
· Lara Brickhouse, EB Aycock Middle School, Greenville (Pitt County)
· Tedi McManus, Gardners Elementary, Elm City (Wilson County)

About NC Beautiful
NC Beautiful has been part of the state’s environmental preservation community for over 40 years—supporting awareness, education and beautification efforts that affect our quality of life. Today, we concentrate on hands-on and merit-based programs designed to empower our citizens to preserve the natural beauty of the state of North Carolina. Whether it’s school children building outdoor classrooms, graduate students developing cutting edge research, or a Boy Scout troop planting azaleas at an elder care facility, we make it possible for North Carolinians to keep NC Beautiful. For more information, visit

Butterfly/azalea photo by PAPARABBIT

Friday, January 15, 2010

Environmental Education Center Friday!

This week we travel just north of Charlotte to Huntersville, home of a unique EE Center that combines wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education.

Carolina Raptor Center is dedicated to environmental stewardship and the conservation of birds of prey through education, research and the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned raptors. More than twenty species of live raptors, including various hawks, falcons, owls, vultures and eagles are displayed along a nature trail behind the main facility. Live bird presentations take place on Saturdays and Sundays if weather permits. Special events geared towards families are held throughout the year. From Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, visitors can experience Backyard Tails - a free-flight program where audience members can feel the swoosh of wings as live raptors fly through the audience. (See two excellent videos that show some of their raptors and give a great discussion of their mission.) CRC also focuses on outreach education, with total environmental education programs reaching more than 40,000 students each year.

The Carolina Raptor Center is located within the Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation Department’s Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, so it’s a “two for one deal” environmental education excursion!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

N.C. Office of Environmental Education Comments on Elementary and Secondary Education Act

The U.S. Department of Education is currently working on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and has invited public comment.

The inclusion of the No Child Left Inside Act and environmental education in the ESEA would be a significant step towards environmental literacy in North Carolina. Accordingly, the N.C. Office of Environmental Education has submited comments on the ESEA (View the letter).

In addition, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction have been working together and with many key organizations including Environmental Educators of N.C., the N.C. Association of Environmental Education Centers, representatives from higher education and others to develop an environmental literacy plan for the state. More information about these planning efforts will be posted on the office’s Web site,, in the next few weeks.

The office and their partners welcome input and participation from the North Carolina environmental education community during this process.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy New Year from the N.C. Office of Environmental Education!

This is the first edition of N.C. Enviromental Education News Tips for 2010. Welcome to all of our new subscribers and best wishes to all. You'll find a new "EE Center Friday" feature, as well as three new News Tips stories below. Also, several new environmental education jobs and internships have been posted, as well as new grants and contests and awards. Be sure to check the links on the right.

Environmental Education Center Friday!

Today we travel to North Carolina’s smallest state park, Carolina Beach.

Carolina Beach State Park may be the smallest in the system (420 acres), but it packs a big punch with amazing biodiversity and outdoor recreational opportunities. One of the most outstanding natural features of the park is its diverse plant communities - thirteen different plant communities are present within this small area. The park features eleven species of carnivorous plants, including Venus fly traps. In addition, it features lime sink ponds and Sugarloaf, a 60-foot high sand dune overlooking the Cape Fear River. The park is home to Carolina Beach Registered Natural Heritage Area. The presence of dunes, swales, savannas and pocosin vegetation mixed with limesink ponds makes this site significant.

The park also offers an exhibit hall, classroom, auditorium, six hiking and nature trails, picnic area, campground and group camping area. A variety of environmental education programs are offered to groups. The park's Environmental Education Learning Experience (EELE) "Plants That Bite Back" centers around the carnivorous plants in the park.

All of the N.C. State Parks and more than 100 other facilities are listed in the online Guide to Environmental Education Centers in North Carolina !

Environmental Educators of N.C. Presents its 2009 Awards

The Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) recently recognized a number of individuals and organizations for their contributions to environmental education throughout the state. EENC is the state’s professional organization representing environmental educators including classroom teachers, state and national park rangers, museum educators and educators working in other non-formal settings. EENC is also the state's affiliate to the North American Association for Environmental Education.

The awards were handed out by North Carolina's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. June St. Clair Atkinson, at EENC's annual conference.

Two individuals were honored with EENC's Outstanding Service Awards.

Shelby Gull Laird has served as EENC’s policy chair and is currently the organization’s president-elect. She was instrumental in creating EENC’s successful bid to host the 2011 conference of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). This conference, calendared for October 11-16, 2011, will bring 1,200 of the world’s environmental educators to North Carolina for professional development highlighting the best of our state’s natural and cultural resources. Over the past eight years, Shelby has had the opportunity to promote environmental education in two related roles. For four years, she taught earth/environmental science at Garner Magnet High School. Subsequent to that, she developed the highly regarded “It’s Our Water” professional development program, working with the nonprofit North Carolina based Environmental Education Fund.

Renee Strnad is the state coordinator for Project Learning Tree and supports 4-H natural resource programs statewide. She is also a liaison between the College of Natural Resources at N.C. State University and environmental educators, sharing relevant information between the two groups. She is currently working with Wiley Elementary School in Raleigh, where students in grades 3-5 get their first glimpse of being a forester, through tree measurement classes facilitated by N.C. State forestry students.

EENC's Outstanding Educator Award was given to Wiley International Magnet School’s Sarah Palmer. While Palmer has been using environmental education in her lessons for the better part of two decades, she redoubled her efforts a few years ago when she was told that she and her colleagues were the last generation for whom an intimate connection to nature would be a common experience. “That concept horrified me, and at that moment I decided to do something about it,” says Sarah. Since then, she has created various curriculum activities and units, including a Project Bright Ideas unit on ecosystems. Palmer also built a native plant learning garden on school grounds, which features edible, herbal and medicinal plants as well as some to attract native pollinators.

Matt Besch, principal of Beaufort-based In Your Head Advertising, took home the organization’s 2009 Outstanding Partnership Award. “Matt contributed countless hours to our organization, above and beyond his modest retainer, to ensure that the EENC website would be competitive and comprehensive,” noted EENC Communications Chair Elizabeth Burke. “We were fortunate to find a partner who understands and supports the environmental and educational mission of EENC.”

Archdale-Trinity Middle School’s 7th grade science teacher, Sarah Fuller, was honored as EENC's Outstanding Newcomer. While Fuller has been an EENC member since 2005, she stepped up to the challenge of serving as EENC’s membership chair this year. And while this award recognizes her as a newcomer to EENC, she’s been involved in environmental education for the past decade. She earned her B.A. from SUNY-Potsdam in Elementary Education , with an emphasis in ecology, and earned an M.A. from UNC-Greensboro in Middle School Science.

Finally, EENC's 2009 Outstanding Environmental Organization award was given to the North Carolina Envirothon. For the past 18 years, the Envirothon has engaged thousands of middle and high school students in actively learning about ecology, natural resources management, and current environmental issues. The Envirothon encourages teachers and students to go outdoors to learn about the natural world around them. They are also challenged to think critically about how to balance the quality of life with the quality of the environment. The Envirothon also engages resource professionals to share their expertise and passion for their every day work in soils, land use planning, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife, and many other diverse environmental fields. North Carolina's Division of Soil andWater Conservation's Steve Bennett, brought the Envirothon to North Carolina, and was on hand to accept the award.

Congratulations everyone!

Thanks to EENC Communications Chair Elizabeth Burke for this submission.

N.C. DENR Lists 2009 Accomplishments

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources has released its 2009 list of notable accomplishments. Environmental education and outreach accomplishments from several divisions were noted in this year's report and are listed below (The Office of Environmental Education is a division of N.C. DENR). The entire release can be viewed on the N.C. DENR Web site.

N.C. DENR Environmental Education and Outreach

The state parks system put in place a full-service, Internet- and call center-based reservations system for its nearly 3,000 campsites as well as picnic shelters, community buildings, conference rooms and auditoriums. The reservations system has been the most requested amenity in recent years by visitors to the state parks. Beyond helping residents plan visits to state parks, the system provides valuable information about visitor demographics and preferences.

The Division of Soil and Water Conservation helped put on the 2009 Canon Envirothon, the world’s largest high school environmental science competition. Professional staff, volunteers, mentors and parents from the United States and Canada came to UNC-Asheville in August to support 54 participating teams. Students competed in soils and land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife and current environmental issues. North Carolina’s team, The Sequoias, took second place.

Some DENR attractions saw increased attendance. The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences welcomed 750,000 visitors in 2009, making it the most-visited museum and the No. 1 field trip attraction in the state. The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher saw a 16 percent increase in attendance from June to August after opening the albino alligator exhibit. The North Carolina Zoo set an attendance record for Easter Saturday with 10,681 visitors. The previous record of 10,437 was in 1995.

The Office of Environmental Education published a comprehensive guide to the state’s environmental education centers. The Guide to Environmental Education Centers in North Carolina is at It profiles more than 180 facilities that provide environmental education learning opportunities for the public. The centers include state-owned facilities and federal, local and nonprofit parks, visitor centers, nature centers and museums.

The state Ecosystem Enhancement Program worked with staff from the internationally syndicated television show “Aqua Kids” for the second straight year. The show showcases water quality protection efforts in the Tar Heel State. Program staff worked with “Aqua Kids” in Alleghany County to film segments on stream restoration and mountain stream ecology at Roaring River in Stone Mountain State Park, and on mountain bog ecosystems and the endangered bog turtle in Sparta. The shows are set to run in early 2010 on cable systems statewide.

In May, the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island broke ground on a new educational ocean fishing pier, Jennette’s Pier. The pier is one of three proposed new hurricane-resistant concrete structures, one near each of the three North Carolina aquariums. All three piers will provide family-oriented educational sites from which aquarium staff can conduct programs such as recreational fishing and do research.

More than 100 teachers and environmental educators attended North Carolina’s first Outdoor Classroom Symposium at the N.C. Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, thanks to hard work from department staff from the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program, the state Office of Environmental Education and their partners. The symposium focused on techniques for creating, maintaining and using outdoor classrooms and integrating outdoor learning into the curriculum.

Presentations from the First Annual N.C. Outdoor Classroom Symposium Now Available

Many of the presentations and handouts from the First Annual NC Outdoor Classroom Symposium have ben posted on the Office of Environmental Education Web site, View them at this link. The Symposium was a huge success and the Office of Environmental Education and the Albemarle Pamlico National Estuary Program hope to host another one in Spring of 2011.