Thursday, October 25, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Angela Roach

Congratulations to Angela Roach for completing the N.C. Environmental Education Certification. Angela is a park ranger at Falls Lake State Recreation Area near Wake Forest, NC, where she works to improve visitor experiences and protect natural resources.

Angela enjoys learning and teaching about wildlife, and when asked what stood out to her about the certification program, she stated that it was the chance to work with other passionate wildlife conservationists. "I love reptiles and amphibians and this certification program paved a way for me to interact with and become cohorts with some of the key conservationists in the state." Angela also benefited from the certification program through a course in teaching methodology. "The Methods of Teaching EE class really showed me that everyone learns differently...I have now tailored my teachings to a variety of teaching styles so I can reach a much broader audience."

For her community partnership project, Angela partnered with a boy scout troop and other park rangers at Falls Lake to design and build a podium containing fish identification information. Angela said that the project was inspired by her first few months working at Falls Lake, during which the most common question she fielded was, "What kinds of fish can I catch here?" This made her realize that there was a lack of publicly available information about fishing and fish species at Falls Lake.

A local boy scout working on his Eagle Scout Project designed and constructed the wooden podium, while Angela designed a mini flip book to help people identify and learn more about the fish species found in Falls Lake. The weather resistant flip book will go inside the podium, and the podium will be placed on a day use fishing pier inside the park. Angela also kept younger children in mind while designing the project, and created a special activity for kids that might be too young to fish. "The podium was finished with a chalkboard paint and a chalk box will be located near the podium so smaller children will have something to do while their parents fish."

Angela said she was thankful that she was able to start the certification program prior to becoming a park ranger, and that she looks forward to incorporating all she learned into her career at Falls Lake. She concluded by describing the certification program as "a great way to meet professionals in the field, gain contacts, share ideas and establish a network."

Monday, October 15, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Lily Dancy-Jones

Congratulations to Lily Dancy-Jones of Asheville for completing the N.C. Environmental Education Certification. Lily is a Biology and AP Environmental Science teacher and the sponsor for the Eco Club at Clyde A. Erwin High School. Lily also chairs the steering committee of Youth for Environmental Stewardship (YES), a collective of environmental clubs across high schools and colleges in the greater Asheville area.

Lily said she enjoyed building relationships with other environmental educators during the certification process. "It is inspiring to learn about what others are doing across the state and exchange ideas and resources." Her favorite part of the process was having a chance to be a student again. "Being able to be the student, not the teacher, and experience high quality, thoughtfully planned programs was a great change from leading my traditional classroom and gave me more energy and inspiration as an educator."

For her community partnership project, Lily established an educational pollinator garden at Erwin High School. Lily put an impressive amount of thought into her project, making plans for the garden long before building it. "It was years in the making, starting with a workshop I took in the first year of working on my certification, and blossomed into a beautiful and amazing source of inspiration for conservation in my community."

To build the garden and provide educational opportunities for the Erwin community, Lily partnered with the North Carolina Arboretum, UNC Asheville, and Asheville Greenworks, among other partners. Her goal was to increase awareness about the importance of pollinators in the rural community of Erwin, and to bring a strong conservation ethic to the community. "I wanted to reach more students, as well as our faculty and visiting community members, to change the conversation about the purpose of gardens and the importance of pollinators and the impact individual actions could have."

Lily worked with a wide variety of K-12 students, UNC Asheville undergraduates, and other community members to build the pollinator garden. Students in the Eco Club and the AP Environmental Science class helped to collect native plants and create educational flyers about pollinators for other students at the high school. Local K-12 and college students built bee hotels for the garden. Lily also partnered with the N.C. Arboretum to help students learn to monitor monarch butterfly populations and eventually raise their own monarchs in the classroom. The garden is now a certified Monarch Waystation (through, a Schoolyard Habitat, and a Pollinator Pitstop (through the National Wildlife Federation).

Lily's community partnership project and her overall experience with the certification program made her reassess the way educators can instill environmental values in students. "I try to cultivate a conservation ethic in my students but I now think more carefully about how I do that, and have them come to their own conclusions with information I've shared rather than asking them to have the same viewpoint as I do."

To learn more about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification, visit the Office of Environmental Education website.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sea Level Rise and Security in the Southeast: A Film Screening and Discussion Panel

 On September 30, a panel of military, academic and government experts met to discuss the risks posed by sea level rise and opportunities to build resilience across North Carolina’s coastal communities. In the wake of Hurricane Florence, rising sea levels and catastrophic flooding are among the greatest threats to America’s safety and security in a 21st century world. 

John Nicholson, chief deputy secretary for the Department of Environmental Quality facilitated the panel discussion. Nicholson, a retired Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps reflected on his service in the military and how it’s shaped his views on climate change. “Sea level rise affects our coastal communities and presents special challenges for the coastal military bases we rely on to preserve our national security. Efforts to build resiliency among these communities will require the cooperation of policy makers, planners, scientists, military leaders and most importantly, the residents of these areas,” said Nicholson.

The discussion included representatives of the United States Navy and the Center for Climate and Security, professors from the Coastal Studies Institute at East Carolina University and the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State University, and the Principal Planner for the Town of Nags Head, North Carolina. The event also featured a screening of Tidewater, an award-winning film from the American Resilience Project that details the challenges sea level rise presents to military readiness, national security, and coastal communities in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. You can view Tidewater online at

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, the Center for Climate and Security, North Carolina Sea Grant, and the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership hosted the event at the NCSU Hunt Library on Centennial Campus.

You can view the livestream at

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Gretta Steffens

Roseboro, N.C. native Gretta Steffens recently completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification. Gretta is the Environmental Education Coordinator at the Sampson Soil and Water Conservation District. As the Environmental Education Coordinator, Gretta provides workshops for educators, coaches local middle and high school EnviroThon teams and establishes environmental education programs for local schools.

The N.C. Environmental Education Certification program had a profound effect on Gretta. In her words, “I fell in love with nature again and with North Carolina. I have enjoyed meeting people from all around the state who work in environmental education, they have been amazing. I love all the books and tools I have been given to use in my teaching and all the contacts I have made who have been so helpful.”

In particular, a workshop on elk with the NC Museum of Natural Sciences stands out in Gretta’s memory. “I realized one morning at sunrise, standing on a mountain, watching two male elk rattle their horns together, that I had found my calling. The beauty of the moment spoke to my soul and I felt that sense of wonder that you get as a child come flooding back to me.”

For Gretta’s community partnership project, she created a community garden in her hometown of Roseboro. Gretta partnered with a local artist and a master gardener to turn an empty lot in the middle of town into a garden filled with vegetables and fruits to be donated to community members. Supplies, funding, and labor to build the garden were all donated by local citizens and businesses. While there were some bumps in the road, Gretta and her partners were resilient throughout the partnership project. “We applied to a few grants, but never heard anything back. This didn’t discourage anyone, we just worked all the harder and the people of my town took real pride in doing it themselves.”

Gretta’s community garden project has already benefitted the Roseboro community. Shortly after finishing the project, Gretta reported, “The Community Garden has supplied produce to the local Meals on Wheels program, the local nursing home, to home-bound citizens and to socially disadvantaged families. It will be used as a teaching garden, an educational opportunity for local students and for volunteer opportunities for community groups and clubs…The garden has become a social gathering place, a place to learn and relax. It adds to the beauty of the town with its amazing plants and rustic fencing.”

Greta expressed gratitude for the certification program, stating that the workshops and classes she took broadened her way of thinking about the environment. “I see a much bigger picture than I did before. I am much more aware of the effects of future populations and long term global issues.”

Greta also said that the certification program gave her more confidence to teach environmental education lessons. “I think the main way that it has led to changes in my approach is by using more hands on involvement and more time outside. I have learned to make it fun as well as informative.”

To learn more about the NC Environmental Education Certification, visit the Office of Environmental Education website.