Thursday, May 31, 2012

North Carolina Environmental Educator Receives Project Learning Tree® Gold Star Award

Congratulations to Renee Strnad, the North Carolina Project Learning Tree Coordinator, on winning the Project Learning Tree Gold Star Award! Renee is a N.C. Certified Environmental Educator and has served as an  essential partner with the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs in the development of the N.C. Environmental Literacy Plan and the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. Read more about Renee and her work in the PLT press release below:

Washington, D.C. – Project Learning Tree® (PLT), the environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation, honored Renee Strnad, North Carolina Project Learning Tree Coordinator with NC State University - Extension Forestry, with a PLT Gold Star Award.  The PLT Gold Star Award is the highest honor bestowed by PLT to a PLT program coordinator or partner in recognition of their years of exemplary service to Project Learning Tree. 

Kathy McGlauflin, Director of Project Learning Tree and Senior Vice President of Education with the American Forest Foundation, presented the award to Strnad on May 17 during PLT’s 26th International Coordinators’ Conference in Deadwood, South Dakota. 

“Renee’s passion for environmental education and for inspiring students and teachers is contagious,” said McGlauflin.  “Her unflagging support of PLT since early in 2000 has provided thousands of educators in North Carolina with professional development and curriculum support to help engage their students in learning about the natural world, forests, and the importance of stewardship.  She finds creative ways to engage people of all ages in learning about the environment and is a true believer that you should ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’”

Strnad came to North Carolina after graduating from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas in 1997 with a dual Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Biology and Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.  She was drawn initially to the Outer Banks by an environmental education position and within the year she relocated to Raleigh and NC State University where she is the Environmental Educator for Extension Forestry in the College of Natural Resources and North Carolina PLT coordinator.

PLT provides educators with the tools they need to bring the environment into the classroom and their students into the environment.  PLT’s curriculum materials cover topics ranging from forests, wildlife, and water, to community planning, waste management and energy.  The curriculum meets national and state education standards, including the North Carolina Standard Course of Study for grades K-8 in language arts, math, science, and social studies.

Strnad has been a certified environmental educator in North Carolina since 2003.  She coordinates teacher professional development, as well as classroom programs and field activities for K-12 students.  She supports 4-H natural resource programs statewide and serves as a liaison between the College of Natural Resources at NC State University and environmental educators.  She also coordinates forestry institutes each summer for educators -- one on the coast and one in the mountains.

“I play in the woods, teach about the woods, and increase the knowledge of teachers and students like,” says Strand of herself.  “A personal passion is ensuring that people understand the ecology and importance of forest fires in maintaining forest health in our state,” says Strnad.

Strnad also helps citizens better understand issues surrounding solid waste.  She developed a workshop series on municipal solid waste in cooperation with North Carolina’s office of Environmental Assistance and Outreach.  She serves her community as a member of the Board of Directors for the Scrap Exchange, a non-profit creative reuse center, based in Durham, whose mission is to promote creativity, environmental awareness, and community through reuse.
Since 2008, Strnad has been a key player in efforts to align North Carolina’s state standards with national environmental literacy guidelines.  She was instrumental in acquiring the first funding to support implementation of the N.C. Environmental Literacy Plan through a baseline study of environmental literacy in North Carolina students.

In 2009 Strnad was the winner of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina award for Outstanding Service, and she currently serves as President for the group.  In 2011, she received the North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s Environmental Educator of the Year award.

Strnad also supports national environmental education efforts through her work with the North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE), and last year she chaired NAAEE’s Volunteer Committee for their annual conference that was held in Raleigh in October.  She is currently serving as President of Environmental Educators of North Carolina, which is the NAAEE Affiliate in North Carolina. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

N.C. Environmental Education Center Becomes First State Attraction to Join NC GreenTravel Initiative

Grandfather Mountain, one of the state's recognized "N.C. Environmental Education Centers," recently became the first attraction to join and become certified to the NC GreenTravel Initiative, a program that recognizes state travel-related businesses that employ healthy environmental practices. The N.C. Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach – in partnership with the Center for Sustainable Tourism at East Carolina University and the Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development in the N.C. Department of Commerce – launched the NC GreenTravel Initiative earlier this year to spotlight the state’s commitment to sustainable practices and to recognize businesses that have integrated greener practices into their daily routine.

Grandfather Mountain has long been dedicated to environmental education for visitors as well as schools, civic groups and many others. Over the last several years, they have also integrated their dedication to EE with a commitment to sustainably. This has included generating its own green power through an array of photovoltaic cells; using solar thermal panels to heat the water and supply radiant heat in Grandfather’s Fudge Shop; and using 100 percent compostable and biodegradable plates, cups, forks, spoons, knives and take-out containers in its Nature Museum Restaurant. Recycling bins for aluminum and plastic can also be found in different locations throughout the park.

Read the entire N.C. DENR Press Release for more details as well as contact information for the NC GreenTravel Program.

N.C. Teacher Wins Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators!

Frank McKay, a teacher at Exploris Middle School in Raleigh, has been awarded one of 18 Presidential Innovation Awards for Environmental Educators.  This award recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers for excellence in integrating environmental education into their lessons and connecting students with their communities and the natural world. The award is sponsored by the White House Council on Environmental Quality in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Exploris is an urban charter school with no school grounds or outdoor classroom spaces, but Frank has worked with many community partners and local and state agencies to find environmental education experiences for his students, including the City of Raleigh's Walnut Creek Wetlands Center.  (Here is more about Frank's work at Exploris).

For more information about the award program, visit the PIAEE page on the EPA website.

Congratulations Frank!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Meet North Carolina Certified Environmental Educators!

For several years the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs has featured profiles of individuals certified through the N.C. Environmental Educator Certification Program. We recently moved all of the past profiles to a new blog format. Check them out at

You can also access the profiles from the main EE Certification site, which lists all N.C. Certified Educators by county.

The North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program recognizes professional development in environmental education and acknowledges educators committed to environmental stewardship. This 200-hour program establishes standards for professional excellence in environmental education for formal and non-formal educators. It consists of workshops, field experiences, teaching experiences and and environmental education community partnership project.

To more about the program, including the enrollment process, are available at

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

EECapacity Seeks to Enhance Environmental Education in Urban Communities

A training focused on addressing environmental education in urban communities took place the week of May 15th in Washington, DC. This project stems from a five-year Environmental Protection Agency environmental education professional development program grant that was awarded to the Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab. The EE Capcity program "seeks to redefine environmental education practice within the context of an increasingly urban society" and will also research the role of new social networks in creating innovative educational practices.

Though the training has ended, the program continues and Twitter users can still continue the discussion with the hashtag #eecap. For a detailed story on the EE Capacity project, read this piece in the Cornell Chronicle. Photo from Cornell Chronicle.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Eleven N.C. Colleges Make Princeton Review's "Green Colleges" Guide

The Princeton Review, in collaboration with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, released its third annual edition of "The Princeton Review's Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2012 Edition" in April. Eleven North Carolina colleges made the list this year!

Appalachian State University
Catawba College
Duke University
Elon University
Guilford College
North Carolina State University
University of North Carolina at Asheville
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Wake Forest University
Warren Wilson College
Western Carolina University

"The Princeton Review's Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2012 Edition" profiles 322 institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada that demonstrate notable commitments to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation. The 232-page book—the only free, comprehensive, annually updated guide to green colleges—can be downloaded at  and The Guide was developed with generous support from United Technologies Corp (, founding sponsor of the Center for Green Schools. (From the Princeton Review Press Release)

Congratulations again to the eleven, but we know many more North Carolina four-year, two-year and community colleges are doing great work in environmental education, sustainability and green-jobs workforce development. We'll try to feature more of those in EE News Tips and in the "EE College" tag on our Delicious feed.