Monday, July 20, 2015

Professor's Project Provides Environmental Education to Children and Families in Watauga County

Laura England
Laura England teaches environmental science courses at Appalachian State University. She was already involved with mentoring and outreach to teachers and students in her community, so working with undergraduate students to establish a new student organization for environment education was a logical fit for her environmental education certification project.

Laura led a group of ASU students in founding a new organization, the Sustainability andEnvironmental Education Club. “As an instructor and academic advisor, every semester I had a number of students from various majors tell me that they were interested in environmental education.” The club’s membership now includes more than 100 university students from twelve different departments within the university, including students majoring in education, recreation management, sustainable development, appropriate technology, environmental science, biology, geology, geography, anthropology and more.

The club reaches children throughout Watauga County and has partnered with a variety of community-based organizations such as Kiwanis Kids, The Children’s Playhouse (the local children’s museum) and the Valle Crucis Extended Learning Center to engage youth in the community and increase environmental awareness. Last year alone the club reached two thousand local children and families.

Some of the ASU club members
In addition to giving students hands-on environmental education experience, club members are involved with community-based projects such as installing a learning garden at a local preschool. Members engaged the students with lessons throughout the process of planning, building and caring for the garden. Laura also helped the student leaders secure a small grant to expand the learning garden initiative.

When asked what certification experience stands out for Laura, she said, “I was fortunate to earn many of my hours for outdoor experiences through the museum’s Yellowstone institute. It was such a once in a lifetime trip and learning opportunity that renewed my passion for environmental education.” The trip to Yellowstone National Park is one of the Educators of Excellence Institutes offered to outstanding educators by the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

Laura said that participating in the certification program had led to changes in her approach to teaching. “Much of my teaching has been, by necessity, lecture-based and in the classroom. But just this summer I taught a new watershed protection course that was all outdoors and hands-on. I hope to do more of this kind of teaching in the future.”

“I am even more committed to education and outreach on environmental issues than before. I feel buoyed by the growing network of educators who share this commitment, and feel more optimistic that we are collectively making a difference.”

To read more about Laura, visit the website here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

North Carolina Student Receives President’s Environmental Youth Award

Congratulations to Sharon Chen from Durham on receiving the President’s Environmental Youth Award!

Today, the White House Council on Environmental Quality together with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized the winners and honorable mentions of the annual President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) and Presidential Innovation Awards for Environmental Educators (PIAEE). Sharon Chen, a junior from Durham, N.C., was among the 44 students and 27 teachers from across the country who were honored during a ceremony at the White House for outstanding contributions to environmental education and stewardship.

“To solve our future environmental challenges, young people need to understand the science behind the natural world—and create a personal connection to the outdoors,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “These teachers and students are demonstrating the important role of environmental education, and showing how individual actions can help address climate change, protect the air we breathe, and safeguard the water we drink.”

Chen was the recipient of a PEYA award for her project, “A Green and Novel Technology for Recovering Copper and Wood from Treated Wood Waste—Part 1.” The PEYA awards celebrate student leadership in service projects to protect the environment and build a livable, sustainable global community. The technology Chen developed has the potential to save millions of tons of wood and copper from the landfill—protecting the environment, saving natural resources, and benefitting generations to come. Chen, now a junior at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, completed the project while she was a sophomore at North Mecklenburg High School.

From the EPA press release. Go here for the full press release and to read
more about Chen’s project and about all the recipients visit EPA’s website 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Brunswick Community College To Offer Nature & History Interpretive Guide Program

Did you know the BCC mascot is the Dolphins?
Here is another community college partnership related to environmental education! Brunswick Community College's Continuing Education and Economic and Workforce Development Program is offering several classes this fall that focus on ecotourism. One of the new offerings is a 114-hour course that provides a Nature and History Interpretive Guide Certificate. The program is designed for job seekers looking for employment in nature-based tourism and for those interested in starting ecotourism businesses. 

The college also plans to encourage their program participants to enroll in the N.C. Environmental Education Certification program. The college has worked with the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs to ensure that most of the individual ecotourism classes, as well as most of the hours in the Interpretive Guide program, can also count as credit hours toward N.C. Environmental Education Certification. 

For more information on the programs or to find out how to enroll, see the Brunswick Community College CHOICES publication (page 6, under "EcoTourism) or contact Marilyn Graham, Coordinator of the Sustainability through Innovation Leadership Center. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What a Hoot! Texas Park Ranger Completes Her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification

Kate Boysen served as an AmeriCorps member for North Carolina State Parks doing education and outreach for adults and children. While she was working on her environmental education certification in North Carolina, Kate was hired as an park ranger at Blanco State park with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Kate continued to earn credits towards her certification after relocating to Texas and as part of her community-based project, she became the leader of the Owl Watch Program at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The center needed someone to develop and lead programs about the great horned owls that nest on a ledge near the entrance to the gardens.  

The owl had nested at the center in the past, but the center did not have the staff to provide regular programming. Kate not only led some of the programs but she developed interpretive materials and trained volunteers to lead programs on their own. “The program educated and gave the public an opportunity to see an owl raising her owlets. It taught the community to respect wildlife and how to observe wildlife properly,” Kate said.

When asked how participating in the Environmental Education Certification Program led to changes in her approach to teaching, Kate said, “One way my approach changed was now I always relate my program to the audience. Before going through this program I would get caught up in giving too much information. This certification has also taught me about themes and organization.”

To read more about Kate’s experiene in the program, go here

Community College Partners with N.C. Zoo on Outdoor Learning Course

Randolph Community College’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education Division is partnering with the North Carolina Zoo’s Playful Pedagogy program to offer “Play, Learning, and the Outdoors,” a class for teachers and other professionals who work with children to acquire fresh perspectives on their approach to engaging with young people outdoors.

Participants will explore the importance of wondering alongside children as a way of encouraging and guiding exploration and discovery of the outdoor environment. The primary focus of the 5-hour course is to connect theory with practice using hands-on activities and informal discussions.

The course will meet from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at the North Carolina Zoo. Participants can choose one of the following dates: Friday, June 26; Friday, July 10; Friday, July 24; Friday, Aug. 7; or Monday, Aug. 10. The cost is $25.

To learn more and to preregister, contact RCC at 336-633-0268. Preregistration is required.

Playful Pedagogy, part of the North Carolina Zoo’s Education Division, functions as an umbrella for the Zoo’s play programs.

(reprinted with permission from the RCC website) 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Teacher with Orange County Schools Earns Certification

Eric McDuffie recently completed his N.C. Environmental Education Certification. In addition to being an eighth-grade science teacher at C.W. Stanford Middle School in Hillsborough, Eric describes himself as an environmental scientist, nature lover, and avid fisherman. "I also consider myself a conservationist and naturalist who is working hard to reconnect our children to their natural world in every way I know how," Eric says. He recently finished his master's degree in Environmental Management at Duke University and this summer he will begin pursuing a doctorate in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England.

Highlights from Eric's experience in the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification program include a Methods of Teaching Environmental Education workshop held at at Fort Macon State Park and working with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences UTOTES (Using the Outdoors to Teach Experiential Science) program. Through the UTOTES program, teachers at his school discovered how to get their students outside on their school grounds to learn while having fun. "I enjoyed learning from the museum staff and seeing our butterfly/hummingbird perennial garden come to life here on our school campus for all to enjoy and become more connected to nature," Eric says.

Read more about his experience in the certification program here.