Megan Chesser, teacher education specialist with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences recently earned her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification. Chesser works on the Teacher Education Team at the museum, where she provides professional development workshops for educators of all kinds - in the field, at schools and at the museum. Her job allows her to take educators outside to learn about the many connections to the natural world, whether on their school grounds or in a new habitat or ecosystem they have never explored before.
Chesser’s favorite part of the program was the networking opportunities it provided to connect with so many like-minded people who are also dedicated to educating the next generation about the natural world. The experience that stands out most to her took place during one of her workshops at Haw River State Park. Several participants were informally surveying the plants and animals around the building during a break when they discovered a beautiful, abundant flower that looked like a dogwood that had them completely stumped.
“After scouring field guides, comparing notes and thoughts, cross-checking, and with everyone’s help, we were able to identify it as an invasive plant; Houttuynia cordata, a fishy smelling plant!” said Chesser. “The park didn’t even know it was there! This experience stands out because our relentless dedication to identification and education at the onset brought them together, and every time I see those colleagues we remind each other of the mystery we solved together!”
For her community partnership program, Chesser created a set of backpacks, each full of activities and resources, that could be checked out by members of the public visiting Walnut Creek Wetlands Center. She hopes the backpacks will be a tangible way for families with young children, youth, or even adults to actively engage in outdoor exploration and to build connections with the natural world. Chesser said of the project, “The fun activities in the backpack make it safe, approachable and entertaining to explore the outdoors for people with little experience.”