Tuesday, April 27, 2010

No Child Left Inside Bill to be Reintroduced: What it means for North Carolina

NCLI Act? N.C. Environmental Literacy Plan?
What does it all mean?

This piece by Sarah Yelton, PreK-12 Environmental Education Program Consultant for the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, spells out what NCLI could mean for North Carolina, why we need an Environmental Literacy Plan and the steps being taken to develop it. An earlier version of this story originally appeared in the Environmental Educators of N.C. Newsletter.

My guess is that many of you have heard the term “No Child Left Inside” by now. It’s a term that has been floating around for a few years and is used most often to refer to federal legislation that will have a significant impact on the state of environmental education in North Carolina and across the country. The No Child Left Inside Act (NCLI) of 2009 was introduced into the 111th session of Congress (H.R. 2054 and S. 866) on Earth Day 2009. The bill did not make it to the floor during the 111th Congress, but there are reports that it will be introduced again the week of May 23, 2011.

So why is this important for North Carolina? The NCLI Act establishes and sets aside funding for two new federal grant programs for environmental education. School districts will be able to partner with EE centers, non-profit organizations, natural resource agencies, colleges and universities and others to develop and evaluate new programs for teacher professional development and capacity building in environmental education. These might be teacher training institutes, programs that provide outdoor experiences for students, new policy approaches for incorporating EE into the curriculum at the state or district level, or evaluating the effectiveness of EE in improving student achievement, to name just a few examples. But to be eligible for either of these grant programs, North Carolina must have in place a plan that ensures graduates of our state educational system will be environmentally literate.

To position North Carolina to take advantage of the funding made possible through NCLI as soon as it becomes available, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) entered into a partnership to develop a state environmental literacy plan in the fall of 2008. In April of 2009, the Environmental Literacy Plan (ELP) Working Group, which includes stakeholders from the education and environmental communities such as EENC and the NC Association of EE Centers, convened for the first time with DPI and DENR Office of EE and Public Affairs staff to begin developing the environmental literacy plan.

According to the NCLI Act, there are three main objectives for the environmental literacy plan. First, North Carolina must show how our state educational system will prepare students to understand, analyze, and address the major environmental challenges facing North Carolina and the United States. It must also provide for field experiences as part of the regular school curriculum and create programs that contribute to healthy lifestyles through outdoor recreation and sound nutrition. Finally, it should create opportunities for enhanced and ongoing professional development for teachers that improves their environmental knowledge and skills in teaching students about environmental issues, including the use of interdisciplinary, field-based and research-based learning and innovative technology in the classroom.

When complete, North Carolina’s environmental literacy plan will describe how DPI will measure the environmental literacy of students, including relevant academic content standards regarding EE and a description of how the plan relates to graduation requirements. It will also provide for teacher professional development opportunities that support environmental literacy of students and explain how DPI will implement the plan, including securing funding and other necessary support. The team has already completed a first draft of the ELP plan, which is available for public review: http://www.eenorthcarolina.org/ncenvliteracyplan.html. A second draft will be available by late spring or early summer. Individuals can sign up for email alerts for ELP updates at the link.

The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and NCDPI held an event May 12, 2010 at Wiley International Studies Magnet Elementary in Raleigh to officially kickoff the ELP partnership. News 14 Carolina did an excellent video and report. Visit this link for the complete story. Senator Josh Stein delivered remarks, as well as State Superintendent June Atkinson and N.C. DENR Secretary Dee Freeman.

An earlier version of the NCLI Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives with broad bi-partisan support before the 110th session of Congress ended in 2008. The NCLI Act was listed as one of 4 key pieces of legislation that will impact the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind). In North Carolina, Representatives Price, Shuler and Etheridge signed on as co-sponsors of the 2009 bill. 

We will continue to provide updates on the progress of the North Carolina Environmental Literacy Plan and the 2011 No Child Left Inside Act.  

If you have any questions, concerns, or would like to find out more about the environmental literacy plan development process, please contact Sarah Yelton at the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs at sarah.yelton@ncdenr.gov or 919-733-0711.

Friday, April 16, 2010

EE Week Over? It's Really Just Started! Earth Day and Arbor Day Events in N.C.

Environmental Education Week officially ends tomorrow, but this week was also the kickoff for Earth Day and Arbor Day events and educational activities that will last into May. Here are some ways to extend the EE Week goodness…

· Various Divisions of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources are offering Earth Day and Arbor Day events starting this weekend. See this DENR News Release for locations and times. Events include two 5k Races, a cake-baking contest, games, animal exhibits…something for everyone.

· A wide variety of Earth Day and Arbor Day Events are also being offered by local parks, environmental centers, cities and organizations starting this weekend. See the EE Events list.

· Document those EE Week activities! National EE Week is sponsoring their Photo Blog Contest again this year. Prizes include: First, Ultra Flip Video Camcorder and 30 copies of National Geographic Explorer Magazine; Second, Ultra Flip Video Camcorder and a $50 gift certificate to Acorn Naturalists, and Third, an Ultra Flip Video Camcorder.

. And take some photos for us! We’ll be doing the EE Week/Earth Day/Arbor Day blog again to feature activities around the state. Just send us no more than 3 photos and a short write up of what you did. Event hosts or participants are welcome to send items to Marty.Wiggins@ncdenr.gov.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday EE Week Update: Environmental Education-It Works.

EE Week is the perfect time to share the benefits of environmental education and outdoor activity with others.

An increasing body of research shows that EE can improve academic achievement across the curriculum and can have a positive effect on classroom and social behavior.

Outdoor activity is key as well, as it is essential in developing and strengthening the first component of EE--awareness and sensitivity to the environment. Similar to EE activities, time spent in the outdoors (both organized and free play) has been shown to be developmentally important for children and beneficial for adults, both mentally and physically.

Here are some items to share about the benefits of environmental education and the essential role of outdoor activity:

· National EE Week has a list of EE success stories (with photos!) from 2009.

· The Office’s EE Research Page has links to peer-reviewed research on EE and outdoor activity. Both it and the news feed below has resources you can use when writing articles, grant proposals etc.

· The EE Research News Feed has a list of news and journal articles on EE and the benefits of outdoor recreation, parks and other green spaces.

· This page has profiles of N.C. Certified Environmental Educators, showing how they share their EE training and expertise with others and use it to improve their communities.

· The EE Schools Directory shows how schools in N.C. are integrating EE, school gardens and other types of outdoor learning.

· Need some help on explaining what EE is? The EPA Office of Environmental Education has a good explanations, and for a little more depth and perspective, the online articles for the Basics of Environmental Education Independent Study are a must.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday EE Week Update: Cultural Diversity in EE

The Office of Environmental Education had the opportunity to do an EE Week guest blog on Outdoor Afro, a Web site operated by speaker and consultant Rue Mapp. According to Rue, it is a “community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, fishing, gardening, skiing — and more!”

There are many individuals and organizations just like Rue that are working to make the environmental education and outdoor recreation communities more culturally diverse. EE Week is a good time to reflect on ways to do the same in North Carolina. Here are some available resources and materials:

The North American Association for Environmental Education’s Diversity Council works to increase cultural diversity in EE.

Black Issues Forum, produced by UNC-TV, has the program “Blacks Going Green” available on their Web site (scroll down to episode 2314). It features Yasmin Fozard, a former Environmental Educators of North Carolina Board Member.

National environmental education curricula, including Project WET, Project Learning Tree, Project Wild and Food Land and People have at least part of their materials available in Spanish, as do many other EE resources. Some EE Centers also offer outreach programs that travel to underserved areas, and some can provide programs in Spanish.

The N.C. Division of Forest Resources Outreach Program works to raise awareness of the management assistance and other offered programs and services to minority landowners and does conservation education as well. As a matter of fact, Minority Landowner Magazine is based in North Carolina and is published by a former N.C. DFR employee.

Finally, the Environmental Education & Training Partnership has a great article, Making EE Relevant for Culturally Diverse Groups , that features the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center, an environmental education center in southeast Raleigh. At the end of the article is a great resource section with links to organizations, articles and research on EE, the environment and cultural diversity.

These are just a few resources that are out there. Please let the office know what you are doing and any other resources you use!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday EE Week Update: National Library Week?

National Library Week?

Did you know that this is not only Environmental Education Week, but also National Library Week? Why are we mentioning this here? Libraries and environmental education definitely go hand in hand, and many libraries are also dedicated to environmental literacy. As a matter of fact, the American Library Association has an active Task Force on the Environment.

N.C. also has a history of cooperation between the EE Community and libraries. The Kathleen Clay Edwards Library in Greensboro is located in Price Park and is also an N.C. Environmental Education Center. Many other libraries host environmental education programs as well, and often integrate reading programs with nature, the environment and sustainability. Check out the event listings at your local branch, or http://www.eenorthcarolina.org/. If your local library offers EE-related programs, encourage them to register as an organization on the Web site and post them to the EE Calendar!

Also, our friends at the State Library of North Carolina suggest that environmental educators can use WorldCat to find library resources near them. WorldCat finds books and other resources and lists the libraries that own it, ranking them by location based on the IP address of the computer they are using. Also, there are a number of environment-related state publications in the Digital Repository: http://digital.ncdcr.gov/.

So visit an Environmental Education Center AND your local library this EE Week--you’ll be glad you did!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Environmental Education Week! Monday Updates

It’s the second day of Environmental Education Week. We hope everyone was able to get outdoors and enjoy the great weather over the weekend. The forecast from Murphy to Manteo is looking great for the remainder of EE Week, so please plan to take advantage of all the great opportunities across the state.Here are a few reminders and suggestions on how to participate:

  • Visit the Office of Environmental Education Web site for EE Week, Earth Day and Arbor Day events.
  • Friday, April 16th at 6:00 p.m. the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Ceremony will be held at the Sheraton RTP. It will feature renowned environmental education author and professor David Sobel as keynote speaker. Seats are now available for the general public for $35 (includes full dinner). Contact Diane.Rodman@ncdenr.gov by close of business today (April 12th) if you would like to attend.
  • Document what you are doing (and maybe win a prize!) National EE Week is sponsoring their Photo Blog Contest again this year. Prizes include: First, Ultra Flip Video Camcorder and 30 copies of National Geographic Explorer Magazine; Second, Ultra Flip Video Camcorder and a $50 gift certificate to Acorn Naturalists, and Third, an Ultra Flip Video Camcorder.
  • There is still time to get the word out! The N.C. Environmental Education Week Press Release and Governor’s Proclamation.

Friday, April 9, 2010

EE Week Special: David Sobel Speaking April 16th!

The public is now invited to hear well-known author, professor and environmental educator David Sobel. Yes, that’s David Sobel, author of “Placed-Based Education,” “Beyond Ecophobia” and “Childhood and Nature.” David is a core faculty member and director of teacher certificate programs at Antioch University New England. He is a widely recognized authority on place-based education and age-appropriateness in environmental education curricula.

The Sobel speech is part of the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Ceremony, so this is also a great opportunity to learn more about this program and honor the individuals who have worked so hard to receive this honor.

All those being honored have responded and now the general public is invited to purchase the remaining seats. It will be held at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel & Convention Center in RTP and begins with a social at 6:00 pm and dinner at 7:00. The cost is $35 and includes a full meal provided by the Sheraton.

RSVP by via email to Diane.Rodman@ncdenr.gov by close of business on Monday, April 12th if you would like to attend. We will email you the payment options. Act quickly—we want to give as many people as possible the chance to participate in this great event!