Friday, July 30, 2010

NC Zoo Society Program Brings Together Technology, Literacy and Nature

An innovative program is happening this summer at the N.C. Zoo in Asheville. KidsConnect teaches real-world problem solving while engaging children with technology, local libraries and the natural world. The following program description from the N.C. Zoo Society explains the program, which has been in place since 2006 and is sponsored by the Dell Foundation, Inc.

The KidsConnect program is designed to bring education resources and access to technology to underserved youth, ages 8-13, while also bringing them closer to nature through understanding conservation. Library outreach workers in Greensboro, High Point, and Forsyth County are trained in using the Field Trip Earth site and curriculum materials developed for the KidsConnect program and are then provided with more advanced technology training. The library staffs select community-based partners and provide training to their staffs who offer programming to underserved youth and bring the curriculum, technology and hands-on experiences to their students.

Each site uses Field Trip Earth to learn about conservation and its importance to our planet and then selects a local project to research and act on. All projects integrate the use of technology and the building of literacy skills into their efforts.

This year the sites consisted of five locations, including an international program site with English as a second language. Student projects were documented using technology. Presentations about their experiences were created using power point, animation and other programs.

Throughout the program students also communicate using an on-line community created for the project. In late summer, 200 students gather at the Zoo to celebrate what they have accomplished and to make presentations, and to receive recognition for “Saving a piece of the world for wildlife.” Some students that age out of the program still help as mentors and are given special recognition and a small gift. Leadership skills are also developed as students take responsibilities in the day, make presentations and host display tables.

Community participation in the program has grown, as has the number of youth served. But the most important growth has come in the students who gain stronger literacy skills, improved technology skills and discover their leadership skills and find that they can make a difference in saving a piece of the world of wildlife. Over the years the program has expanded and impacted more students, leveraged library resources and expanded the capacity of the partnering organizations.

Recognition of the program has included a visit by local Dell representatives, media attention, and publication in Boys and Girls Club magazine and on Fox 8 TV; and designation by the N.C. Extension Service of High Point program’s garden as a “Community Garden”. This garden was included on the “Master Gardeners Training Tour” and listed on the state website. Students have also made presentations to City Council and other civic groups to share what they have learned and to advocate for the environmental issues they were working on.

To learn more about the program and see presentations and more information about the project, go to If you would like to see what kids have done, go to or contact Kathy Bull, NC Zoological Society at 336-879-7286 or

US EPA's 2010-2015 Strategic Plan Leaves out Environmental Education

Public Comment Period Ends Today, Friday, July 30

Earlier this week, Brian Day, Executive Director of the North American Association for Environmental Education, sent out a notice regarding the absence of the words “environmental education” in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Strategic Plan for 2010-2015. This has been a cause for concern in the NC environmental education community and across the nation. Mr. Day noted that the absence of environmental education could impact environmental education programs across the nation, as the EPA’s Office of Environmental Education (created by the National EE Act) serves as a resource for the whole country and funds the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), the EPA’s EE Grants, the Environmental Education And Training Partnership (EETAP) and regional EE grants.

The EPA is now accepting comments on the proposed Plan. The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs has already submitted comments, which can be viewed at

The deadline for comment is today, July 30th by 11:59 pm Eastern Time. Comments are accepted electronically at
Comments can be entered directly online—letters can be attached as well.

N.C. Envirothon Team Heads to National Competition

On August 1st, a team of 5 local high school students from Durham County will be traveling to Fresno, CA to represent North Carolina in the 2010 Canon Envirothon. The Canon Envirothon is North America's largest high school environmental education competition. Reaching more than 500,000 students across North America annually, the Envirothon will test teams in their knowledge of wildlife, soils, aquatics, forestry and current environmental issues. Teams completing in this years competition will come from states across the US and Canadian providences. The 2010 Canon Envirothon is being held on the University of California at Fresno’s campus August 1-6, 2010. Winning teams receive scholarships for college and more.

Durham County’s students, the ‘Vicious Vipers’, won the chance to represent NC at the event by taking 1st place at the Area 4 Envirothon on March 26, 2010 and then 1st place at the NC Envirothon on April 23-24, 2010. The team includes, Nathanael Gass, Anna Gass, Merilee Nixon, Peter Barrow, Michael Estes, and advisor Cindy Gass. Also traveling with the group is Steve Bennett, NC Envirothon coordinator and Jennifer Brooks, Durham County Envirothon Coordinator.

In Durham County, the Envirothon program is sponsored by the Durham Soil and Water Conservation District. The competition is open to middle and high school public, private and homeschool groups. The Vicious Vipers have been competing in Envirothon for 4 years now, starting in middle school.

For more information, please contact the Durham Soil and Water Conservation District at (919) 560-0558 or (Press release provided by Jennifer Brooks. Thanks!)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

N.C. DENR Takes Part in America's Great Outdoors Listening Session

N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Dee Freeman and representatives from N.C. DENR's Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and Division of Parks and Recreation provided input at the America's Great Outdoors Initiative Listening Session that was held in Asheville on July 15th. Several other agencies and organizations involved in environmental education attended as well, including the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the Environmental Educators of North Carolina and other local environmental education centers and programs.

This is one of several sessions that will be held across the country. The Initiative and listening sessions are the result of a memorandum issued by President Obama that directed the Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Administrator of the EPA and Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality to create a 21st Century Strategy for America's Great Outdoors.

The initiative has three main goals:
-Reconnect americans to the outdoors-Enhance conservation partnerships-Protect and restore our lands and waters using science

This article from the Asheville Citizen-Times reports on the event and provides video of the welcome by Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy (she mentions environmental education!).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Wilmington Area Women Go to Sea Again to Research Plastic Marine Debris Pollution

We know that litter on the ground can find its way into storm drains, which empty into waterways that lead to the ocean. Once trash enters the ocean it becomes marine debris--but what happens after that?

Follow Keep America Beautiful of New Hanover County’s Jennifer O’Keefe and UNC-Wilmington’s Bonnie Monteleone on a voyage 700 miles off the North Carolina coast to find out what happens to litter from our streets, parking lots and school yards. The first stop is Bermuda where beach surveys on this island inside the North Atlantic Gyre last year showed massive amounts of plastic pollution.

After a couple days in Bermuda, they’ll board the Research Vessel Atlantic Explorer for 5 days of sampling. Plastics collected will be taken back to UNC-Wilmington where they will be weighed and analyzed. This is a continuation of O'Keefe and Monteleone's work last summer. Also, in September, Monteleone sailed into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch on a similar research mission.

You can follow their adventures at by visiting to view photos and videos from this trip and last year’s research.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Teachers are "At the Water's Edge" This Week to Learn about Wetlands, Wildlife and Water

Teachers from across the state have gathered at Trinity Center in Salter Path this week (July 11-16, 2010) for the "At the Water's Edge: Exploring Wetlands, Wildlife and Water" environmental education professional development institute.

The Institute is made available by the Environmental Education Fund, with funding provided by the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program. The Institute is administered by the Office of Environmental Education. Partners include the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, NC Cooperative Extension, NC Coastal Federation and others.

Office of Environmental Education staff will be posting photos and updates through out the week on Twitter and Facebook. Photos from last year's institute are available on the Office's Educator page.

The Office of Environmental Education received more than a hundred applications for twenty-four spots in the workshop. The Office has coordinated similar institutes each summer since 2002.

During the week, teachers will participate in an in-depth investigation of North Carolina’s watersheds and river basins while exploring the unique natural habitats of the coastal region. Along the way, techniques for incorporating outdoor experiences into the curriculum using school grounds and field exploration will be emphasized. By applying the interdisciplinary approach of environmental education, educators will learn how to integrate science, social studies, language arts, math, health and art using the natural environment as the context for learning.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


We have just learned of this opportunity in Asheville next week. The N.C. Office of Environmental Education, along with the N.C. Children & Nature Coalition and the Environmental Educators of N.C. are encouraging the N.C. environmental education community to take part and provide input on these national efforts to reconnect Americans with the outdoors.

"Changing Lives ... Impacting Communities"

When: Thursday, July 15, 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm

What: Public Listening Session on President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative

Where: Asheville-Buncombe County Technical Institute; Asheville Campus, 340 Victoria Road, Asheville, NC 28801 (Map & Directions)

Who: Representatives from DOI, USDA, EPA, and CEQ will be present to hear your thoughts and to participate in a conversation with you about land conservation, recreation, and reconnecting Americans to the great outdoors.

Register: This event is free and open to the public and we will make every effort to accommodate everyone. To help with our planning, we encourage you to pre-register by Monday July 12. To pre-register, please email Teresa Lovelace

Include with your email your name, organization, and primary area of interest:

· Working lands, open space, and landscape conservation
· Outdoor Recreation
· Youth engagement and environmental education.
· General Discussion

In April, at the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors, President Obama established the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to develop a conservation and recreation agenda worthy of the 21st century and to reconnect Americans with our great outdoors. The President understands that protecting and restoring the lands and waters that we love and reconnecting people to the outdoors must be community driven and supported. The President directed the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality to lead this effort and to listen and learn from people all over the country. Please join senior representatives of these agencies for a public listening session and discussion on land conservation, recreation, and reconnecting Americans to the great outdoors.

In the Southeast, many citizens and organizations are deeply involved in the conservation of working farms, forests, lakes, and rivers, scenic lands, and historic areas, and in celebrating and enjoying the region’s rich outdoor and cultural heritage. This public listening session and discussion is an opportunity forleaders of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to hear from you about solutions for building a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnecting all Americans with the outdoors.

More Info: You can find more information on the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative and submit comments online