Thursday, June 28, 2018

Educator Spotlight: April Boggs

April Boggs, a graduate research assistant at North Carolina State University, recently completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification. She is currently working on her master’s degree in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology. Her hobbies include reading, hunting, kayaking, fishing and hiking. Participating in this program has helped her as a research assistant and in her everyday life.

 “Through the environmental education certification program, I learned that I need to be more conscious of how I teach others,” said Boggs. The program opened her eyes to see that there was more to learn about environmental education.

Boggs mentioned that as a biology research assistant, she tended to only focus on the facts. Being in the Environmental Education Certificate program made her realize that you shouldn’t solely focus on facts that are already known, but you should also have an open mind by promoting ideas and exploring.

“The certification experience that stood out for me was the Methods of Teaching Environmental Education workshop, as it brought up points about environmental education that I hadn't really considered.” The program is full of workshops and projects designed to increase environmental literacy as well as provide practice in environmental education teaching methods to all educators. Boggs also noted that receiving her certificate helped her to change her perspective on environmental education and showed we need to promote more critical thinking to solve issues.

“My community partnership project was to set up bird houses at the elementary school I attended as a child. As part of the project I also taught a lesson about birds, helped the students build pine cone bird feeders and provided bird watching and lesson supplies to third grade teachers for their classroom,” said Boggs. “My hope is that it helped instill curiosity about the birds and environment in the third graders I worked with and provided a resource for future classes.”

Bogg's experience shows that the program encourages a fun learning environment for both the educators receiving the certificate and the students who participate. “My favorite part of earning my certification was working with the students during my community project. It was great building the pine cone bird feeders with them and seeing how interested they were in birds.”

The environmental education certification program enhances the ability of all educators and organizations to provide beneficial programs and resources, helping local communities while educating students about their environment. Educating North Carolinians on how to preserve our resources is an important step to investing in the future of North Carolina’s environment.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Renee Pagoota-Wight

Renee Pagoota-Wight, a kindergarten teacher at Sherrills Ford Elementary in Catawba County recently completed the Department of Environmental Quality’s N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. Renee has worked in education for 23 years and has a passion for marine life, specifically coral reefs.

Renee holds a Master’s degree in Classroom and Clinical Reading for K-12 and her teaching style focuses on education through experience. “My favorite part of teaching is instilling a love of learning to read and learning through play.” When she is not teaching, Renee enjoys photography and traveling.

Renee says her most memorable experience of the program was visiting Yellowstone National Park as part of a N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences Educators of Excellence Institute. She also says that attending a workshop in Wilmington was a notable part of the certification process.  “I thoroughly enjoyed the Methods of Environmental Education which I participated in at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington. It was a real eye opener as to the number of non-formal educators that seek Environmental education certification alongside formal educators. It was a fun class!”

In addition to gaining hands-on experience in nature and making new connections with formal and non-formal environmental educators, Renee utilized the certification program to construct an outdoor classroom at Sherrills Ford Elementary. As her community partnership project she led a community group to design and build a short trail and an outdoor classroom called the “Nature Nook.” The outdoor classroom was recently featured in a story by the Hickory Record. 

 Renee also credits the program with enhancing her ability to teach students about natural science and helping her narrow down her post-retirement career. “I feel confident in taking groups outside and starting with a simple concept like using our senses to discover. We Skyped a scientist this year and he explained that observation is one of the most basic, yet important skills in scientific discovery. I feel that in the future when I retire as a formal North Carolina educator I will seek opportunities to teach outdoors or in natural spaces.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Educator Spotlight: John Caveny

John Caveny recently completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. John works as the Natural Resource Management Specialist for Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation in Linville, NC.

His major job duties as the Natural Resource Management Specialist consist of managing and overseeing the natural resources through the park, patrolling and maintaining the trail system and providing environmental education and interpretive programs to guests of the park. When John is not working the park, he enjoys fly fishing, hiking, and experiencing nature with his two small children.
John says his favorite part of receiving his certification was “traveling all across the State of NC [to] explore different parks and connect with environmental educators from all backgrounds.”

An experience that stands out to John was attending Project Aquatic WILD at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. There he went electroshocking in the Davidson River and pulled out a lamprey.

John’s community partnership project was developing a new interpretive sign display along the Woods Walk Trail on Grandfather Mountain. He partnered with the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area and Appalachian State University Trail Crew. The project “will provide the visitors to the park a chance to explore nature in the park that was previously unavailable to them,” says John.

Due to the certification, John has gained a large range of knowledge and materials to help visitors connect to nature in a deeper way. He has also been able to meet an extensive community of partners to provide him assistance. Before the program, John was a little hesitant with how people would receive information about environmental issues. He says, “Many people have vastly different views on the issues at hand. I learned that you just need to provide them with the facts and scientific data to back up the facts, while presenting it in a way that can be applied to their daily lives.”

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Amy Long

Amy Long, an instructor at University of North Carolina at Wilmington, recently received her certificate for completing the N.C. Environmental Education Program. Because of this program, Amy says she was able to attend many workshops, environmental education centers, and learn more about North Carolina. Her teaching style has also expanded, allowing her to create new lesson plans.

“I have taken so many of the environmental education curriculum lessons into my own college teaching! And many of my colleagues have now as well. The certification process and curricula have reinforced that science is fun because it is hands-on,” said Long.

Long is a full-time lecturer and teaches environmental education and interpretation in UNCW’s Master of Science program. She also teaches undergrad courses ranging from introductory non-major courses to senior capstone research courses, specializing in restoration ecology as well as science communication and education.

“Even though my title is lecturer, I do anything but lecture! I have learned that you can take lessons like ‘Just Passing Through,’ ‘A Drop in the Bucket,’ ‘The Incredible Journey’ and ‘Pass the Jug and connect to young adults in a formal classroom. What is designed for younger learners is still fun and engaging to older learners,” Long says.

Long also coordinates the environmental workshop series and introductory lab courses at UNCW. Outside of the classroom, she is involved in public outreach. She is the coordinator for TreeFest, an annual Christmas tree event held in Bloomsburg, P.A., and is on the Wilmington Earth Day committee.  

The Leopold Education Program workshop and facilitator workshop within the program both stood out to her. She also recalls a nighttime hike she used for outdoor instructional credit. During this activity, the participants were blindfolded and linked closely together while walking the trail. The purpose was to observe nature around you by silently listening to the nighttime creatures. 

“I am afraid of the dark! So this left a huge impression on me. I was terrified, but simultaneously loved the experience. I will never forget how intensely I could smell the trees around me and hear the wind rustle the leaves.” According to Long, this made a huge impression and is one that she continues to do this type of activity with campers at Blowing Rock Conference Center.

Completing the program has improved her thought process as an instructor and outreach participant by making her more aware of how she presents information. The EE certification also gave her the courage to use a different approach in her university setting.

“I am more keenly aware of presenting fact without advocacy. I am very aware of how I present information and allow the learner to do with it what they wish. Participating in the program didn’t change how I feel about any particular issue, but it impacted my teaching and I learned/honed more from the certification process.”