Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Educator Spotlight: Aaron Sebens

Aaron Sebens, a teacher at Central Park School for Children in Durham just completed his N.C. Environmental Education Certification.

Sebens is a librarian and project specialist and also helps teacher begin environmental education projects.  His favorite part about the program was learning outside and about so many topics from landfills to raptors, watersheds to solar power.

For his community partnership project, Aaron’s fourth grade class launched a crowd-funding campaign to add solar electricity to their classroom. “It went viral and we ended up raising enough money to take our classroom completely off the grid. The U.S. Department of Energy made a video about the project  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lGjOtIQ1YQ and President Obama tweeted about it,” said Sebens.

Fourth-grade teacher Aaron Sebens and some of his students - (from left) Ella Brown, Peter Mullen, Natalie Russell, Cassie Wells, and Ellen Broghausen, pose with the class' solar panels on the roof of the building at Central Park School. The class raised money and did the construction to convert their classroom to solar energy as a school project.
Sebens said that the project awareness and skills that citizens will need to solve the problems our society will face. “We are, for the most part, ignorant consumers of electricity. Students monitored the electricity we used in the classroom, at their house, and found out they can make do with a lot less. They learned the skills of organizing resources and developing a plan to make a big idea into a reality. This project is ongoing and last year we added a wind turbine to provide more and a different source of clean energy.

Sebens immersed his students in the process of planning the system, raising the funds, and working with community partners to make the project work. “Students need to become active participants in their understanding and consumption of electricity if we are going to have the innovators we will need to solve the problems that will arise in the next century.”

When asked if the certification program changed his approach to teaching Sebens said that he thinks about formal and informal educational experiences in different ways and considers ways to remove obstacles to environmental education not just for students but for teachers as well. 

The N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program is offered by the Department of Environmental Quality's Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. To learn more about the program, visit the office's website at www.eenorthcarolina.org 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Educator Spotlight: Erin Harrison

Erin Harrison, a former AmeriCorps member currently working as a Water Conservation and Efficiency Analyst for the City of Durham, recently completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification.

In addition to providing water use assessment for residents and maintaining the water supply status, Harrison educates school groups and other organizations about water conservation and water and wastewater treatment processes.

When asked about the certification experience, Harrison said she is a big fan of the wildlife-specific experiences and programming. “I learned about owls, spiders, beetles, reptiles, black bears and many more. It is always super interesting and I can really see the passion educators have for sharing their knowledge of something they really love.”

For her community partnership project Harrison planned and installed a Kids in Parks TRACK Trail at Eno River State Park. The .5-mile loop trail is a part of the network of family-friendly outdoor TRACK Trail adventures provided by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. The Eno trail includes four self-guided brochures including Animal Athletes, Nature's Hide and Seek, Need for Trees and Birds of the Piedmont. These brochures were carefully curated to fit Eno River State Park and its specific flora and fauna and visitor demographics. The brochures are placed at the trail head along with interpretive signage. Harrison says the Track Trail gave the community a new, interactive way to experience and enjoy their park and it gave park rangers a way to provide an educational experience for larger groups.

Harrison says participating in the program changed her approach to teaching others. “My approach now involves ways to ensure that participants feel invested and have ownership of their resources. I also realize that teaching others actually means that you have to let them teach themselves. Ideas that come from your participants will actually stick. I have to remember to let them be a part of the inquiry because I can learn just as much from them as they learn from me.”

Harrison says she now has an understanding about the wide array of perspectives that exist when it comes to environmental issues. “It’s important to be aware that not everyone is coming from the same place, background or knowledge-base as you when they think about the environment. Being able to respect those differences is crucial to wider support of environmental causes."

Learn more about Eno River State Park on their website at http://www.ncparks.gov/eno-river-state-park

Information about the Conservation Trust for North Carolina's AmeriCorps Program, visit their site at http://www.ctnc.org/connect/ctnc-americorps/

The N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program is offered by the Department of Environmental Quality's Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. To learn more about the program, visit the office's website at www.eenorthcarolina.org 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Teens & 20s Writer Plans to Earn Her N.C. Environmental Education Certification During Gap Year

Chandler Holland in the Discovery Room at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences
Photograph by Michael Holland

Chandler Holland, a Teens & 20s writer for the Burlington Times-News is in her senior year of homeschooling and plans to complete the N.C. Environmental Education Certification during her gap year before attending Warren Wilson College with a merit-based scholarship.

"The fact that I will spend my “Gap Year” working toward obtaining my EE certification no doubt played a significant role in my acceptance at the school of my choice in their early decision process, as well as being awarded a merit scholarship.  Warren Wilson College has a strong program that will give me the real-world skills to begin a successful career committed to environmental education," Holland said.

In addition to writing a monthly article for the Teens & 20s column on a variety of topics including sustainability and the environment, Holland is a docent in the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Discovery Room. She plans to officially enroll in the program later this month when she turns 18 and will count her hours volunteering as a docent towards her certification.

Holland recently highlighted the certification program in her December 19 column, Environmental education: Certification program isn’t just for classroom teachers.To read Holland’s story on program go to 

The N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program is offered by the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. To learn more about the program, visit the office’s website at www.eenorthcarolina.org

Source for article:

December 19, pg. A10
Environmental education: Certification program isn’t just for classroom teachershttp://teensandtwenties.com/environmental-education-certification-program-isnt-just-for-classroom-teachers/