Monday, October 31, 2016

Emilee Mroz - Educator Spotlight

Emilee Mroz, a marine science educator and outdoor instructor at the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores recently completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. Mroz leads camps, school programs and kayaking and paddle board programs at the aquarium. She also works with aquatic animals including alligators and sea turtles.

For her community partnership project component of the certification program, Mroz worked with the Bogue Banks Chapter of Surfrider Foundation, a local non-profit, and a Boy Scout troop to install cigarette “cannons” on some of the beaches near her home. “The town of Emerald Isle is a popular tourist destination. The Surfrider Foundation and other local environmental groups conduct beach cleanups regularly and cigarette butts are the most common type of trash found littered on the beaches. I decided to find a way to encourage people to not to leave their cigarette butts on the beach,” said Mroz.

Members of the Boy Scout troop and Surfrider Foundation worked together to assemble and paint cigarette receptacles to be placed on local beaches and a local hardware store in the area donated most of the materials.  The finished cannons were installed next to the trash cans on the beach at a major access points. The Town of Emerald Isle’s Public Works and Solid Waste Department will empty the cigarette cannons along with the trash cans. Mroz hopes that this project not only raised awareness of the litter problem but will help make the beaches cleaner for everyone, including the wildlife.

When asked how participating in the program has changed her teaching or perspective on the environment, Mroz said, “I have used a number of the activities from the workshops in my teaching. I have also learned a lot about different flora and fauna which has helped me be a more thoughtful educator. I have deepened my appreciation for the natural world, especially the diversity here in North Carolina.”

For more information about the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, visit the aquarium’s website. For more information about the Office of Environmental Education or the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, visit

Friday, October 21, 2016

USDE Releases Guidance on ESSA Grant Program: Environmental Education is Part of a Well-Rounded Education

October 21, 2016
Contact: Press Office, (202) 401-1576,
The U.S. Department of Education today released non-regulatory guidance to help states, districts and schools provide students with a more well-rounded education under Title IV, Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAE). The new grant program in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) focuses on safe and healthy students, and how technology can be integrated into schools to improve teaching and learning in addition to emphasizing access to a well-rounded education that includes a wide variety of disciplines – such as music, the arts, social studies, environmental education, computer science and civics.
"As a social studies teacher, I know the value of a well-rounded education for students," said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. "For me and for so many students, a wide range of possible subjects in school, powerfully and creatively taught, can be exactly what it takes to make the difference between disengagement and a lifelong passion for learning. Literacy and math skills are necessary but not sufficient for success in college, careers, and life. The world our children will be working, leading and succeeding in will be one of constant innovation and connection from across the globe. In order to fully maximize the potential of this world of ideas and cultures, it's vital that we redefine a well-rounded education for all students that includes access to learning new languages, in addition to science, social studies and the arts. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, we have an opportunity to broaden the definition of an excellent education to strike the right balance in our nation's classrooms and expand opportunities to learn for all students to build a strong foundation for college and career."
The guidance – which serves as a resource to help support effective implementation of the new grant program – provides examples of allowable uses of funds, discusses the role of state education agencies, details fiscal responsibilities, and identifies local application requirements.
Under the new program, states, districts and schools have the flexibility to tailor investments based on the needs of their unique student populations.
As, King said earlier this year, while strong literacy and math skills are essential for success in college, career and life, they are not sufficient. King told the audience at Las Vegas Academy of theArts that varied disciplines – including music and the arts, social studies and civics, science and technology – "aren't luxuries that are just nice to have. They're what it means to be ready for today's world."
One recent survey found, though, that elementary school students spend just 21 minutes a day on socialstudies, and just a little bit more on science. With the passage of ESSA, states, districts and schools can refocus on the characteristics of a comprehensive, well-rounded education—and do so in ways that and ensure access and equity for all students.
Too often, students from low-income families and students of color do not have access to arts, science, social studies or advanced coursework. Likewise, gender gaps persist in many disciplines. Science achievement gaps can show up as early askindergarten. Further, there is evidence that students get better at math when they take classes that make the connection between STEM and the arts. Students can also grow in self-confidence, in linguistic skills, and in creativity when they have certain courses in the arts.
Through this guidance, the Department provides resources, tools and examples of innovative strategies to support the effective implementation of the SSAE grant program. Areas of focus include:
·        Strategies to leverage federal, state, and local funds as well as develop partnerships to maximize the impact of the programs and services;
·        Steps to guide districts in examining their needs and investing in areas that will have the greatest impact on their communities;
·        Tactics to improve school conditions for student learning so students are healthy and feel safe and supported;
·        Effective practices to carefully design and thoughtfully apply technology to accelerate, amplify, and support student learning;
·        Approaches to engage students in educational opportunities across multiple subjects and domains.

Importantly, the guidance highlights that SSAE funds may not be sufficient to independently fund many of these innovative activities. This guidance discusses leveraging other state and local resources in combination with the SSAE grant funds to achieve the goals of SSAE programs and activities. For the full guidance released today, click here.

(Environmental education emphasis added by N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and is not in the original press release) 

Colburn Earth Science Museum Rebranded as "Asheville Museum of Science": Soft Opening November 11th

Many of our readers have probably visited the Colburn Earth Science Museum in Asheville. This museum has existed in some form since 1960! The legacy of engineer and bank president Burnham Standish Colburn, the founder of the museum, will continue in the Colburn Hall of Minerals as a part of the new Asheville Museum of Science. This is an exciting addition to North Carolina's nonformal science and environmental education center community. Please watch the video below for a virtual tour with Executive Director Anna Priest. This place looks amazing! 

AMOS has many events planned in advance of their opening. For updates, follow them on Facebook: and for now they are still using the website. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Educator Spotlight: Crissy Neville

Crissy Neville, an elementary teacher in Cumberland County, recently completed the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program.

Neville works with K-2 Gifted Education in Cumberland County Schools. She has been teaching 17 years and prior to her current position, she taught Pre-K, grades 2-5 and community college. Neville also owns a farm in Linden, NC and is a 5th generation farmer living in the same home as her great grandfather, grandfather and father.

Neville says the certification program will help her start an “encore” or retirement career after she leaves public school teaching in a few more years. “I have been a formal elementary education educator for many years and until recently, never led or taught environmental education lessons. I now incorporate EE lessons into my curriculum and use it as a summer camp theme. “ After retirement, she hopes to work as an informal educator at a park or the local botanical garden where she now volunteers. “This certification has helped me have confidence and knowledge in environmental education topics and has created a deeper passion for using the outdoors as a classroom.”

Neville enjoyed visiting parks and other environmental education centers and regions of the state she never had been. She said the outdoor instructor-led experiences stood out for her. She especially enjoyed the creek paddle at Carver's Creek State Park in Cumberland County. “I love being on the water. I enjoy kayaking and canoeing every chance I can get.”

For her community partnership project, a component of the certification, Neville began the Century Farm and Garden Club in her community. “The club is a popular thing in my community now and I already feel like an informal educator as I lead programs and facilitate programming.  The club helps community members become lifelong learners and community service participants.”

When she isn’t teaching, Neville enjoys gardening, canning and preserving food, working in her greenhouse, running and doing things with her three daughters. She also has a new hobby. “I loved all of the Criteria II (outdoor instructor-led) classes and I now love bird watching as a result – my newest hobby! I especially enjoyed going on a bird watching trip to Durante Nature Preserve this past April during the spring migration period.”

For more information about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, visit the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website at

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Educator Spotlight: Lauren Lampley

Lauren Lampley, a Naturalist with Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, recently completed the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. Lauren earned credit towards her Master’s in Environmental Education through the certification program.

Lampley began the certification program while just starting her masters in environmental education. Lampley says the program helped her meet people and learn how to apply environmental education in her field. “The Criteria I workshops were my favorite (part of the program) because they helped me to get my feet wet in the EE world in fun activities.”

Lampley has lots of opportunity to educate the public in her role as a naturalist. “My favorite thing to educate about are birds and other wildlife. I love helping people make connections between existing knowledge and how the information affects them.”

For her community partnership project, a requirement of the certification, Lampley developed a bear safety program at Lees-McRae College. She developed the program as a pilot and plans to offer the program through other organizations in the community. Many of the local private communities have frequent bear encounters as a result of residents lack of awareness of how to live in areas with wild black bears. Lampley hopes the program will result in a drop in the number of dangerous and negative bear encounters as residents become educated about black bears.

Lampley says the Environmental Education Certification Program provided her with new approaches to teaching. “I have learned how to educate others about the local environment and how to use different activities to get audiences involved.”

For more information about the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program, visit the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education’s website at For more information about Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, visit their site at