Thursday, April 25, 2019

Educator Spotlight: Ariel Lowery

Ariel Lowery, an Environmental Educator at McDowell Nature Center, recently completed the N.C. Environmental Educator Certification. Through her job at McDowell, Ariel leads environmental education programs for people of all ages through field trips, summer camps, workshops, and other activities.

Ariel said her favorite part of the certification program was becoming a facilitator for Project WET (Water Education for Teachers), Project Learning Tree, and the Leopold Education Project. All three of these programs provide workshops to help educators incorporate environmental education into their curriculum. As a facilitator, Ariel helps adult educators learn how best to present material and involve students in hands-on learning experiences. Ariel appreciates that her unique position as an environmental educator and workshop facilitator allows her to work with both children and adults. "While I love educating children (they have the best quotes), I also enjoy adult education. I feel as though when I'm teaching adults I'm creating more connections and more opportunities to share our natural world."

Ariel also enjoyed the networking aspect of the certification program. "Through this whole 200 hour certification I have met so many people who are like minded and enjoy educating and sharing their experiences. Our network of environmental educators are incredibly passionate people who I often rely on for ideas and feedback!"

For her community partnership project, Ariel partnered with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation and a local Girl Scout Troop to enhance a pollinator habitat at McDowell Nature Center. The Girl Scouts had received a grant from Disney and were looking for potential locations to build a pollinator garden. Ariel realized that there was an existing pollinator habitat on the grounds of McDowell, and that the area could benefit from some new plantings and upkeep.

Over a series of workdays, Ariel and the Girl Scouts created a pollinator habitat that included native flowers and bushes, a walkway, a bench and picnic tables, an interpretive sign, and a fence around the garden. Just in time for spring, the project was finished and the area was opened to the public. When asked how the garden will impact visitors to McDowell, Ariel replied, "The community will benefit from their new pollinator habitat by learning what to plant in their gardens to attract all of the wonderful pollinators they have observed while visiting."

The butterfly habitat before the community partnership project (bottom photo) and after (top photo)
Reflecting on her experiences in the certification program, Ariel found that what she learned changed the way she thinks about environmental issues. "I have learned to educate without bias so that my participants are able to form their own opinions. If someone is inclined to know my opinion, I will share it, but I will not force it on the whole group."

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

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