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 MonarchWatch.org), 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.