Monday, November 28, 2016

Educator Spotlight: Erica Connery

Erica Connery recently earned her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification. Connery is a Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) AmeriCorps member at the N.C. Coastal Federation’s Northeast office in Wanchese.

As an CTNC AmeriCorps member serving with N.C. Coastal Federation, Connery does education and outreach visiting local schools and presenting coastal science programs to groups of all ages. She also helps with the federation’s restoration projects. “I love living at the beach and exploring North Carolina’s coastal environments and being able to teach others about the coast.”

Connery says that the instructional workshops were her favorite part of the certification program. “They were a fun way to learn new teaching methods and get lots of program ideas, and I also got to meet a great network of fellow environmental educators in Eastern North Carolina. I was able to travel to several different environmental centers and sites for the workshops and it was interesting to learn from a variety of instructors.”

Connery’s community partnership project involved organizing field experiences at Jockey’s Ridge State Park for children in the Mano al Hermano family literacy program. Connery notes that not all of the children in the program get to the beach or sound during the summer. “By providing transportation for the field trip, the children had an opportunity to interact with other kids during a fun day outside their homes and it allowed them to explore the environments that they learned about in the books they read this summer.”

Connery liked that the certification program requires you to visit sites outside your own region. “I think it is important to see different parts of the state and learn how different environmental subjects are taught. Even though my focus is on coastal environmental education, I learned from all my workshop experiences by observing different teaching styles and the ways that people connect to the environment no matter where they live.”

Connery said that participating in the certification taught her to be more thoughtful about what she wanted people to get from her program.  “This program introduced me to more teaching techniques and methods to reach a broader audience. The workshops make you think about different learning styles and the different backgrounds that people may bring to your program and how to connect with them.”

For more information about CTNC AmeriCorps program, visit To learn more about the NC Coastal Federation, visit For more information on the Environmental Education Certification, visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website at  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Educator Spotlight: Lindsey Baker

Lindsey Baker recently completed the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. Baker works with K-12 STEM teachers at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CESTEM). Baker coordinates professional development workshops and runs a technology library with equipment that is available to regional teachers for free.

Baker developed the N.C. State Park Photo Scavenger Hunt Challenge for her community partnership project, a requirement for environmental education certification. Baker started the program hoping it would be a way to use technology to help get her peers outdoors and into state parks. What began as a small grant and project in 2013 grew into a statewide initiative with the help of Friends of State Parks. The program has been implemented in every state park and recreation area in North Carolina. Baker says the challenge was designed to be a zero-impact, self-guided activity that encourages park visitors of all ages and backgrounds to get outside and engage with nature. “This is a project that utilizes the spirit of competition with a sense of adventure. Anyone can use any kind of camera and in any one park, you must take photos of 12 out of 15 categories which include flora, fauna, a selfie with a Ranger, and a beautiful overlook, etc.”

Baker says that the certification program changed her approach to teaching. “Being able to participate and observe the environmental education workshop instructors was very valuable to me. I learn from others and by watching others. Seeing all of the different instructors and how they taught a variety of subjects was very interesting to me. This has helped show me better ways to teach and things to avoid when teaching.”

In addition to the workshops being one of her favorite things about the program, Baker enjoyed being able to visit new parks and other environmental education centers. She says earning her certification changed the way she thinks about environmental issues. “I think there are many sides to each environmental issue and going through this certification process helps you to be able to understand the science content behind the issue and then gives you the people-skills to be able to talk about the varying viewpoints. If we are going to help solve the environmental issues we face, then as educators, we better have a strong sense and skill of environmental communication.”

For more information about CESTEM, visit their website at For more information about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification, visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs site at

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Educator Spotlight: Jessica Stitt

Jessica Stitt recently completed the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. Stitt works at Wilmington Water Tours, a boat company in downtown Wilmington that specializes in eco-history tours on the Cape Fear River. She has been helping the company develop an education program. Stitt also works with Carolina Ocean Studies, a company that takes school groups out to a barrier island to teach them about the ecology of the island.

Stitt says her favorite part about earning her certification was traveling to different state parks and recreation areas to attend workshops. “I have enjoyed gaining more experience as an educator, I have already used the materials from each and every one of the workshops.” She plans to visit more parks while working on her continuing education requirement for the program.

For her community partnership project, Stitt working with state park rangers and office staff to create signage for the new Carolina Beach State Park Fitness Trail. As part of the project, she incorporated QR codes on signage at each station – one with information about the proper exercise and the other with information about an animal that does a similar exercise. This created a fun and educational way to tie the trail to animals found in the region.

Stitt says the certification program changed the way she approached teaching. “It allowed me to expand my knowledge of different lesson plans but also allowed me to meet other educators and learn about their experiences. It also helped me network and learn from others as well, which allows me to use more resources to teach.”

She also notes changes in how she views environmental issues after completing the program. “After participating in the certification program, my passion for teaching and sharing my knowledge with others increased and showed me the importance in instilling stewardship in those around me to keep our environment safe for future generations.”

In her personal time, Stitt enjoys going to the beach, surfing, volunteering with Cape Fear River Watch and with Friends of Pleasure Island State Parks group of which she currently serves as secretary.

To learn more about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website at

To find out more about Wilmington Water Tours, visit their website at or Carolina Ocean Studies at

Friday, November 4, 2016

Paid Summer Internships Available with DEQ and DNCR: Many EE and Public Outreach Opportunities

It's that time of year again...North Carolina college students have a great opportunity to gain experience in the environmental, natural and cultural resources fields with the North Carolina Department of Administration's Council for Women and Youth Involvement State Internship Program. Applications are due by January 13, 2017. 

Permanent North Carolina residents attending a college, university, law school, community college or technical institute in North Carolina or a North Carolina resident attending an equivalent institution out of state are eligible to apply for these internships.

Interns work 40 hours a week for a 10-week period, earning $8.25 an hour. They participate in meetings, educational tours and other activities designed to broaden their perspective of public service and state government. There are up to 80 internship positions available during the summer at various state agencies located throughout North Carolina.

The Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ)  and Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) have many internships available. Many of these internships involve elements of environmental education or public outreach.

Divisions within DEQ with internship opportunities include Coastal Management, Waste Management, Marine Fisheries, Water Resources, and Energy, Mineral and Land Resources. Divisions within DNCR with opportunities include the Wildlife Resources Commission, the Maritime Museum, the Museum of the Cape Fear, all three N.C. Aquariums, various State Parks, the Museum of Natural Sciences, and the N.C. Zoo. 

The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs has hosted several state interns in the past and encourages you to share these great opportunities with college students you know. 

The online program booklet has a list and description of all the internships as well as the application information and program requirements. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Educator Spotlight: Michael Wood

Michael Wood, a park ranger at Stone Mountain State Park in Roaring Gap, North Carolina recently completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. 

Wood oversees resource management at the park and provides educational programs to the public and to school groups. This is in addition to his law enforcement duties.

One of Wood’s favorite parts of the program was gaining experience and resources for providing children’s programs from workshops such as Growing Up WILD and Aquatic WILD which are provided through the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

Another experience that stood out for Wood was the Civilian Conservation Corps workshop he participated in at Hanging Rock. “We listened to experiences from workers who worked in the area building dams, bridges and other facilities. There is a lot of history and heritage to be gained by these types of workshops."

For his community partnership project, Wood developed a beginner’s fly fishing program in which participants were given the opportunity to learn about rules and regulations, knot tying, casting, fly selection and given the opportunity to gain actual fishing experience at no charge. All of the equipment was provided including rods, reels, and flies to stimulate interest in the sport and to help aid financial constraints. The project was a partnership with Trout Unlimited and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “This program was a great success. All the participants successfully learned to tie knots and cast as well as several of the participants catching trout in the delayed harvest stream that runs through the park.”

Wood said that participating in the program changed his approach to teaching others. “The program allowed me to focus more on offering diverse programs to the public to further facilitate their learning and understanding. My awareness of the importance of identifying environmental issues has changed significantly and I try to design programs to stimulate or foster a sense of stewardship for my participants."

To learn more about Stone Mountain State Park, visit the park’s website at 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