Monday, July 24, 2017

Educator Spotlight: Suzy Greene

Suzy Greene, a teacher at York Elementary School in Wake County, recently completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification. Greene, who teaches 2nd grade, serves as the head coach for the school’s N.C. Science Olympiad Team and is the lead teacher for York’s after school service club, the CreekKeepers. Greene credits the certification program with increasing her knowledge base and enhancing her teaching.

Suzy says learning to correctly identify macroinvertebrates in creeks and streams was the experience in the certification program that stood out for her. “I knew nothing about these creatures before and never believed that I would gain enough experience or knowledge to be able to correctly identify them. After a few environmental education courses that got me in the creek working with experienced individuals, I can say that while I am no expert, my skills have vastly improved. Possessing this skill is very important as a leader of the CreekKeepers and this is probably the experience I am most grateful for.”

Suzy’s community partnership project was leading the York CreekKeepers as an after school service club. The club prides itself on committing to projects that help to increase the ecological knowledge of the immediate community and to do their part in making sure the little stream behind their school--a tributary of the Neuse River Basin--is in good health. The club's projects so far include monitoring their creek, composting in the school’s cafeteria, speaking to a local gardening club about ways they can help protect the watershed and holding a drug take-back event at the school in partnership with the Raleigh Police Department.

Suzy says she never thought about the distinction between environmentalism and environmental education before the certification program. “It helped me to understand that when addressing an audience, it is best to be prepared and knowledgeable about facts, allow for discussion and remain calm when faced with dissent. Offering avenues where further learning can take place is paramount when educating others about the environment.”

She says the program had an impact on her teaching. “I have become more motivated as an educator to increase the hands-on experiences in nature for those that I instruct. This I know will help them to become better environmental citizens.”

Monday, July 17, 2017

Educator Spotlight: Erin Staib

Erin Staib, a park ranger at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park in Goldsboro, completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification this summer. In addition to her law enforcement duties, Erin has lots of opportunities to create and teach educational programs and conduct natural resource management at the park. She also enjoys incorporating her hobbies beekeeping and paddle boarding into some of 
her programming.

For her community partnership project, Erin worked with the Arts Council of Wayne County to create a new arts festival with nature focus for Cliffs of the Neuse. “It was a rewarding experience creating a space for local art in the park and it helped connect people to parks who may not otherwise go out into nature often.”

Erin says the certification program led to changes in her approach to teaching others. “I realized it was more important to create a sense of wonder in my audience. Facts are great but you don’t have to be an expert on a subject to inspire someone.”

Erin says she also thinks differently about environmental issues after completing the program. “If you want people to care about environmental issues you have to encourage them to invest in their community. One of the best ways to do this is to get kids outside early. They’ll notice what spaces are naturally wonderful and which spaces are not. They’ll gain an appreciation for nature and years from now, when they are running things, they’ll make better decisions than we did.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Collaboration + Good Coffee = Connected Science Learning Success - State Agencies Partner to Unite Formal and Informal Educators in North Carolina

The Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and the N.C. Public Schools Science Section have coauthored an article that touts the unique collaboration between the two agencies to unite formal and informal educators in the state. The article, Collaboration + Good Coffee = Connected Science Learning Success was published in the spring edition of the Connected Science Learning journal, a publication of the National Science Teachers Association and the Association of Science-Technology Centers. The journal highlights Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education experiences that bridge the gap between in-school and out-of-school settings. 

Beginning in 2011, the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (N.C. DPI) began hosting a meeting that allows educators from environmental education centers and science museums, as well as other informal science education providers, to meet directly with N.C. DPI science curriculum specialists and a panel of classroom teachers. The collaboration has encouraged in-school and out-of-school educators to share knowledge, engage students in learning opportunities and develop learning communities to advance science education in the state. The impacts of the collaboration are highlighted in the article about success stories from partnerships between classroom teachers, schools, school districts and informal science providers across the state.

The article also highlights the office’s efforts to provide teachers with access to professional development opportunities offered by informal educators and facilities throughout North Carolina. As one science teacher from Northwood High School in Chatham County put it, “All the coastal ecology that I know, I learned by going out into the coastal environment with informal educators and getting dirty. This allows me to bring a rich experience into the classroom when I can’t take the students to the coast.”

The agencies plan to continue their collaboration to support the outstanding formal and informal educators in the state and their efforts to improve science education for K–12 students.

Read the article

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Educator Spotlight: Marissa Blackburn

Marissa Blackburn, education program specialist at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, recently completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification. Marissa says working toward her certification in environmental education has allowed her skills as an educator to grow, making her a more competitive candidate for employment in the field.

As an educator at the aquarium, Marissa presents public programs to visitors on a variety of marine topics through dive shows, live animal encounters, auditorium lectures and exhibit feedings. She coordinates both a year-round and a summer teen volunteer program in addition to a senior project program and a college education internship program. When she isn’t presenting a program or training or supervising and coordinating volunteers and interns, Marissa has the opportunity to interact one-on-one with visitors at the exhibits. 

Marissa says one of the highlights of her experiences in the certification program was taking seasonal birding workshops with Mike Campbe
ll, an outreach education specialist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “I think these were my favorite workshops because we were outside all day, learning field skills for identifying different species of birds. With each workshop I attended, my appreciation for birds grew greater. I am by no means a bird expert now, but I enjoy watching, listening to, and identifying birds when I can and teaching others to do the same. Plus, Mike’s ability to identify any species of bird based on its call is awe-inspiring!”

For her community partnership project, Marissa created a recycling program for the local Boys and Girls Club in Wilmington. She created lesson plans, developed a program manual and held a staff training for the program in addition to teaching lessons to children.

Marissa says participating in the program helped her become a more engaging and interactive educator. “Learning about methods and best practices in environmental education and applying these principles to my teaching has resulted in more impactful, memorable programs for my audiences. I have also been able to share methods, principles, and best practices with interns and volunteers I coordinate increasing further the impact of the certification program.”