Kristin’s work on the certification program inspired her to develop a new elective for the middle school that will teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) topics through outdoor activities and nature exploration, including weather observations and daily weather reports. The course was recently approved by the Stanly County School Board and the first group of students will begin in August. Owens-White notes that the goal of the new class “is to get kids disconnected from devices and connected to the world around them.”
“It is wonderful to see the direct results of the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification program in supporting teachers like Kristin who are using their local environment and schoolgrounds to engage students in STEM while increasing environmental literacy,” observes Tolley. “We enjoyed touring the school grounds with the students and seeing their excitement as they told us about the birds and plants and why they enjoy their classes with Ms. Owens-White.”
The course will incorporate material from various environmental education programs Owens-White experienced during her certification process, especially NC Project Learning Tree. “Witnessing how Kristin used PLT and the other experiences she had during the EE Certification program to create this new course for her students is so inspiring,” notes Strnad. “I can’t wait to see where it leads.” In addition to Project Learning Tree and other activities, another one of Owens-White’s goals is to have a team from South Stanly Middle School participate in the North Carolina Envirothon, a state-wide natural resource competition for high school and middle school teams that is also part of the international Envirothon competition.
The school hopes the course will benefit students in STEM and other subject areas and expand learning opportunities for students who excel at active and hands-on learning.
The North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program requires 200 hours of workshops, field studies, teaching experiences and a community project. It serves both formal educators in the classroom and “informal” educators, which include educators at parks, forests, gardens, museums, zoos, aquariums, arboretums and other public educational venues. The program builds capacity for education in the state by incorporating existing environmental education programs as essential partners, including NC Project Learning Tree and others. It also facilitates partnerships between formal and informal educators.
The North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program is administered by the DEQ Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. It encourages professional development and establishes standards in environmental education while acknowledging educators committed to environmental stewardship. eenorthcarolina.org
Project Learning Tree ® (PLT) is an award winning, multi-disciplinary environmental education program for educators and students in PreK-grade 12. Nationally, PLT is a program of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. In North Carolina, it is coordinated by North Carolina State University Forestry Extension in collaboration with the North Carolina Forestry Association and the North Carolina Forest Service. forestry.ces.ncsu.edu/ncplt
The North Carolina Envirothon program is a competitive event for high school and middle school teams to compete in a natural resources knowledge and ecology field day against other teams. It stimulates, reinforces and enhances students’ interest in the environment and our state’s natural resources. It is sponsored by the NC Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts with help in organization and implementation from the NC Division of Soil and Water Conservation. ncenvirothon.org