Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Educator Spotlight - Amy Taylor

Dr. Amy Taylor recently completed the NC Environmental Education Certification. Dr. Taylor is an associate professor in the Watson School of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington where she teaches various levels of science methods courses for pre-service teachers as well as a few environmental studies electives.

Dr. Taylor enjoys teaching and learning outdoors as often as possible. She teaches a class called Island Ecology for Educators in which most of the class is taught outdoors in amazing settings like Carolina Beach State Park.

When asked about her favorite part of completing the program, Dr. Taylor says it was getting to meet many different people in both formal and informal education and learning more about their methods for incorporating the various curricula into their own teaching. “It's refreshing to be in the same space with people who have similar interests and passions as yourself. I have been teaching workshops such as Project Wild, Aquatic Wild, etc. since the early 90s and it never gets old! I love revamping my own teaching and taking these workshops and connecting with other educators was very beneficial to my teaching.”

She especially enjoyed the outdoor experiences where she could get outside and apply the information from the workshops. “Taking birding or herping workshops with Mike Campbell or Becky Skiba (N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission) was always a treat as they are walking encyclopedias of information and I was always in awe of how much I learned at the end of those workshops.”

For her community partnership project, Dr. Taylor partnered with the New Hanover House Assisted Living Facility associated with the Affinity Living Group located in Wilmington, NC. The Affinity Living Group is the eleventh largest provider of assisted living in the United States, the sixth largest provider of Alzheimer's and memory care, and the largest senior housing provider in the southeastern US. She worked to restore elevated planting beds at the facility and helped the residents learn about local/native flowers in our area and the importance for planting them for benefits to bees, butterflies and other pollinators. “Many of the residents were avid gardeners in their younger lives and I thought this would be a way they could get back involved on whatever level they could physically handle.”

Dr. Taylor says participating in the certification program led to changes in her approach to teaching. “I have been teaching lessons outdoors for over 20 years but by completing the environmental education certification program I have more a structured idea of how to package and direct these lessons based on the key characteristics of environmental education. Particularly how to foster a clear awareness of, and concern about, economic, social, political and ecological interdependence in urban and rural areas but more importantly how to help create new patterns of behavior among individuals/groups as a whole toward the environment.”

She also feels the program changed the way she thinks about environmental issues. “I have always loved and had an innate appreciation of nature and the interdependence of all things in our environment. This certification program has helped me to see the "whole" picture of each type of environmental issue including the ramifications beyond our own backyard, schoolyard, or community but globally.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Courtney Long

Courtney Long has completed her NC Environmental Education Certification. Courtney most recently served as the Interpretation and Education Manager for the Cradle of Forestry in America Heritage Site. 

Long led field trips, planned activities for special event days and provided day to day support of the site. When working at the Cradle of Forestry, she started The Science Camel, a citizen science consulting and program planning initiative. 

Long says the community partnership project was her favorite part of earning the certification. Her project was a Pink Beds BioBlitz in Pisgah National Forest. The event brings naturalists, forest scientists and other community members together to begin cataloging the biodiversity of the Pink Beds Valley. 

“Although a BioBlitz is a great way to capture a species count, my goal was to encourage participants to take a closer look at the forest and germinate that seed for respect and passion for the outdoors. It opened my eyes to the world of citizen science as a tool to connecting people with natural environments,” says Long. 

The 36-hour event began with fourth-grade students from a nearby charter school. She says the fourth-grade focus was an effort to support the "Every Kid in a Park" initiative of the United States Forest Service (USFS) which encourages fourth graders to visit federal lands and waters. Students and chaperones participated in activities that emphasized NC’s standard course of study as well as a one-hour BioBlitz guided by environmental educators and volunteers. 

For the remainder of the event, approximately 50 volunteers and USFS employees led group walks of various topics, welcomed visitors and manned identification booths. The event provided an opportunity for Forest Service employees and the community to connect and for participants to learn and observe the methods forest scientists use to collect species data. 

Does Long think that participating in the certification program led to changes in her approach to teaching? Long says, “At one point, somebody emphasized that each of us are inputting EE values into a stream. That we cannot each fully impact a student or person but collectively we can. This offered a sense of community and altered my approach to teaching others in focusing on the small steps to acquiring environmental literacy, rather than rushing to the big picture.”

For more information about the Cradle of Forestry, visit their website. Visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs' website to learn more about the NC Environmental Education Certification.