Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Great Loss to the Environmental Education Community

We must, with very heavy hearts, report the loss of a wonderful friend and environmental educator. Ross Andrews suddenly and unexpectedly passed away on Friday, October 25th. Ross was most recently the executive director of the Center for Human-Earth Restoration (CHER), was a certified environmental educator and also served as the first director of the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center in Raleigh. He remained active with the Partners for Environmental Justice in Raleigh and had served in several other environmental education and environmental science capacities. Ross had also published scientific papers and was a published poet as well. You can view his obituary and online guest book at this link.

Please see the information below from Randy Senzig, the president of CHER, who together with Ross developed a unique program that connected adults and children to the natural world on conservation lands and other wild places around the Triangle. Ross lived his commitment to the environment and the people that live in it. He will certainly be missed by us at the office and many, many others.

January 12, 2014
Triangle Land Conservancy and the Center for Human-Earth Restoration  will host a hike on the new Walnut Hill Farm in part as a memorial to Ross Andrews on January 12, 2014 from 1 to 4 pm. See The Triangle Land Conservancy website for detail or call Randy Senzig, 919-270-9682.
January 25, 2014
The Partners for Environmental Justice, Walnut Creek Wetland Center and the Center for Human-Earth Restoration will host a memorial service for Ross Andrews at the Walnut Creek Wetland Center on January 25 from 1 to 4 pm.

CHER has also been using their Facebook page for updates and  information:
You may also want to sign up for CHER’s newsletter list for updates on services:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Alamance Partnership for Children Opens Outdoor Learning Environment

The Alamance Partnership for Children recently opened an outdoor learning environment adjacent to their office in the Historic Glencoe Mill Village. This is already an area rich in cultural history and environmental education--the office is near the Haw River, Great Bend Park and the Textile Heritage Museum. Some of the play area's structures and elements were designed to complement the culture, history and environment of the area. 

The area was designed the Natural Learning Initiative, a program of the N.C. State University’s College of Design. The project was initiated with funding from a grant from Shape NC, a partnership between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and the N.C. Partnership for Children. Shape NC is a three-year, $3-million program aimed at childhood obesity. Read the full story in the Times-News, and this pdf gives brief overview of the OLE's goals and featured. 

Natural playspaces and outdoor learning environments like this one are a growing trend and offer numerous health and academic benefits. For young children, they are also a great way to introduce environmental education and build on the essential awareness component.

Congratulations Alamance Partnership for Children on this great accomplishment!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

DENR awarded grant for 20 Mountains to the Sea AmeriCorps members

RALEIGH – Twenty AmeriCorps members will be joining the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to improve education and outreach efforts, thanks to a $256,956 federal grant received by the N.C. Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service in Governor Pat McCrory’s Office.

“Many North Carolina communities stand to benefit from the service projects we can accomplish with the help of these AmeriCorps members,” said John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “This program will enable DENR to more effectively reach our customers, empower these future leaders, and give them a greater sense of the value of public service.”

The 20 people joining DENR this fall are part of the Mountains to the Sea AmeriCorps Program, which is administered by DENR’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs.

The program will place the AmeriCorps members in nine North Carolina counties to increase environmental literacy and natural resource stewardship among communities in rural and underserved areas. The AmeriCorps members will perform many duties, including organizing and conducting public workshops on fish habitat issues for the Division of Marine Fisheries, presenting programs on wetlands for the Division of Water Resources, and maintaining trails and removing invasive exotic plants in state parks. 

The AmeriCorps members also will work with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, North Carolina’s three state-operated aquariums, the divisions of Air Quality, Coastal Management and Environmental Assistance and Customer Service. Members also will work with the department’s Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program and the Office of Conservation, Planning and Community Affairs.

AmeriCorps is a domestic version of the Peace Corps. More than 5,000 AmeriCorps members have served in North Carolina since the program began in the early 1990s. 

Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs 
Phone: 919-707-8626 -- 1601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1601
Jamie Kritzer, Public Information Officer, 919-707-8602,
Pat McCrory, Governor -- John E. Skvarla, III, Secretary
An Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action Employer

Reprint of N.C. DENR Press Release

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Environmental Education Is...

From time to time we like to share quotes from the responses to our Basics of Environmental Education online workshop. This workshop is required for the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, but the materials are open to anyone. This one caught our eye:

“I would describe environmental education as more than just teaching a student (adult or child) about the natural world. I would broaden that definition. Environmental education is about using lessons structured around the natural world to  pique a student’s interest in and concern for their environment, and to teach them to develop the ability, skills, and knowledge base to make educated decisions regarding the environmental issues of today and tomorrow.”

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

N.C. Botanical Garden Program Featured in National STEM Magazine

No, it's not a magazine about woody plants--the N.C. Botanical Garden's Earth Partnership for Schools Institute is featured in STEMwire, a nationally distributed digital news service for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. The Institute trains teachers to restore their own schools' natural landscapes, while providing them with training on native flora and ecosystems. The institute also trains them on how to use the outdoors as a place of learning.

Article: Earth Partnership for Schools puts land restoration in the hands of teachers

The Earth Partnership for Schools Institute is also a Criteria I Workshop in the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. For more about the institute, contact Grant Parkins, NCBG Natural Science Educator or visit

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Environmental Educator in the Field

The story below is the first in what may be an ongoing feature on N.C. Certified Environmental Educators. Below, Joy Fields, an environmental educator with the Piedmont Triad Regional Council tells how a recent conference enhanced her skills and broadened her knowledge of the environment. Environmental educators never stop learning!

Environmental Educator in the Field: Cullowhee Native Plant Conference

By Joy Fields

As an environmental educator, I am constantly looking for ways to learn novel approaches to reach new audiences and help them relate the environment to how they work and play. With so many concerns pulling at our audiences, this can be difficult.  Fortunately, the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., which I recently attended, provided me with a wealth of new information to include in programs I provide on riparian buffers and native plants. 

The conference, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year,  offers network and education opportunities  about native plants for the nursery trade, educators, landscape architects, master gardeners and others concerned about preserving America’s natural heritage.  Educational opportunities from this year’s conference included, presentations, workshops and field trips that focused on mushrooms, native pollinators, maintaining curb appeal with native plants, edible natives and much more.  

One highlight of the conference that was especially exciting to me as a gardener and an environmental educator was a presentation by Nancy Adamson with the Xerces Society, who spoke about how one in every three bites of food that we take requires pollinators.  To produce vegetables and fruits, many plants require the help of pollinators to move pollen from one flower to another.  With the non-native honey bee populations plummeting, it is very important to encourage native pollinators so commercial crops, and our backyard gardens, continue to produce vegetables and fruit.  Many native pollinators rely on native plant species for habitat or food during times when agricultural crops may not be in bloom.  By encouraging native plants in riparian buffers and hedgerows, we can ensure habitat for pollinators and foster their presence around our farms and gardens.  This knowledge makes it much easier to address the economic benefits farmers and homeowners obtain by planting native plants along streams and hedgerows. 

The Cullowhee Native Plant Conference Steering Committee values education and annually makes scholarships available to educators who may not otherwise be able to attend this informative meeting.  I was the lucky recipient of one of those scholarships this year, and for that I am deeply grateful.  As an educator for Stormwater SMART, I speak to diverse groups about the importance of using native plants in rain gardens and riparian buffers. I focus on native plants because they tend to have longer roots than European or Asian introductions, and they are able to survive without the application of fertilizers and pesticides, which protects our rivers and streams from pollution caused by excess application and runoff of chemicals or manures.  The Cullowhee Native Plant Conference gave me additional tools to add to my communications to help landscapers, gardeners and farmers understand the importance of native plants and the economic benefits received by supporting our native pollinators.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Update: "STEM Consolidation" Would End Funding for NOAA Environmental Literacy Grants, other EE Grant Programs

There is a current effort on the federal level to consolidate a number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs by removing their funding and starting new programs at the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian. Many in the environmental education community are concerned, as this consolidation of programs would end funding for NOAA's Environmental Literacy Grants program and Bay-Watershed Education and Training program. The EPA Environmental Education Program is not mentioned in this consolidation, but the President's current budget proposal does not provide any funding for it. An overview of the Administration proposal can be found at

Many organizations that promote and support both STEM and environmental education, such as the North American Association for Environmental Education, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the National Wildlife Federation and the American Meteorological Society signed on to a letter that addressed their concerns with eliminating the NOAA and EPA programs, which are the only three federal grant programs that are dedicated to environmental education. The  letter notes:

 "Consolidating the funds from these three programs into a much broader STEM education pool of funds ignores the specific need of the federal government to foster environmental literacy. Eliminating the NOAA and EPA programs would also leave the environmental education community without any federal funding program that understands the particular needs and opportunities in our field."

For more information, visit

Update 7/24/2013

U.S. House and Senate subcommittees are not looking favorably on the proposed STEM consolidation (see:  Congressional Panels Dump on STEM Reshuffling Plan in AAAS Science Insider). While it is too early to confirm, this may mean that the federal environmental education funding may continue to operate at current levels. We'll continue to keep you updated as the process unfolds. 

New Community EE Website and Guidelines Ready for Review and Feedback

The EE Capacity Project is seeking feedback on the Community Environmental Education Guidelines it is developing for the North American Association for Environmental Education. 

This document will join the other NAAEE  EE Guidelines as part of the organization's efforts to encourage best practices in the field. Last September, the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and the Environmental Educators of North Carolina teamed together to host one of the Community EE Roundtables that provided input and guidance for the new guidelines. 


Community EE Website

Community EE is an evolving practice that considers the value of intentional, authentic relationships with communities and environmental outcomes that consider community health and neighborhood wellness. This site was set up to collect your thoughts and feedback on Community EE to ensure the practice is inclusive and reflective of a broad range of perspective. Your constructive feedback is welcome. Please share this site with others you feel would have a stake in Community EE.

Community EE Guidelines Ready for Review
EECapacity encourages you to review the third draft of the Community EE Guidelines. As we continue to work through the development of the Guidelines we need your constructive feedback. Please follow the link below to take a look at current draft. You will notice a red link after each "effort". That link will take you to a survey where you can read the key character in more detail and contribute your thoughts. There are seven efforts (previously known as key characteristics) we believe lead to authentic relationships with communities, and ultimately to authentic learning and practice of EE with communities. Feel free to invite others in your circle to participate. 

Community EE Guidelines Review Feedback

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

No Child Left Inside Act Reintroduced: Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Strengthen Environmental Education

The following press release was issued today (7/17/2013) by Senators Jack Reed and Mark Kirk, and by Congressmen John Sarbanes and Mike Fitzpatrick:

Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Strengthen Environmental Education:
Reed, Kirk, Sarbanes, Fitzpatrick Reintroduce The No Child Left Inside Act

WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort to reconnect more kids with nature and address critical environmental challenges, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S. Representatives John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA)  are introducing legislation to strengthen and expand environmental education in America’s classrooms.  The No Child Left Inside Act of 2013 will help expand environmental education in schools across the country by bringing locally developed, high-quality environmental education programs to more schools and providing federal assistance to states to develop and implement environmental literacy plans.  

Studies show getting kids outside and teaching them about nature helps them raise achievement in other subjects and has important health benefits too.  Yet studies also show the amount of time children now spend outdoors has declined significantly in the past 20 years.  Today, many schools are being forced to scale back environmental programs and curtail outdoor activities.

“Teaching children about the environment and giving them a hands-on opportunity to experience nature makes them smarter and healthier.  Environmental education should be an important part of the curriculum in our schools.  This legislation will help reconnect more kids with nature and raise student achievement in core subjects like math, science, and reading,” said Senator Reed.  “Environmental awareness should be second nature for our young people and protecting the environment is crucial to future economic growth.”

“To prepare American students to compete in the 21st century global economy, this bill uses an innovative approach to teaching science and bringing the benefits of outdoor activity to more children,” Senator Kirk said.  “Our bill promotes hands-on learning and an integrated curriculum, while bolstering important science, technology, engineering and math education programs."

“Environmental education must be a national priority,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Hands-on, outdoor interaction with the environment enhances student achievement – not only in science, but also in reading, math, and social studies.  By investing in education that will grow the next generation of innovators, scientists and environmental stewards, we will prepare our workforce of the future to meet the many economic, environmental, and energy-related challenges our country is facing.”

“This bill reflects a larger, overall responsibility to promote environmental stewardship across generations,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “Incorporating environmental learning is a down payment on our future. Research shows that promoting a hands-on approach to teaching kids about the environment improves student achievement in science as well as reading, math and social studies – all which directly strengthens our global competitiveness.”

The No Child Left Inside Act would provide funds to encourage partnerships between school districts, colleges, parks, and non-profits and other community-based organizations to implement the improved curricula and provide professional development for teachers on the use of field-based, service, and experiential learning.

Additionally, the bill will add environmental education as an authorized activity under other traditional federal grant programs and require cooperation, joint planning, and reporting by federal agencies involved in environmental education. 

NCLI is supported by over 50 million citizens from 2,200 local, regional, and national organizations in the No Child Left Inside Coalition, including the League of Conservation Voters, National Education Association, National Science Teachers Association, National Wildlife Federation, and the Outdoor Industry Association, as well as hundreds of colleges, universities, businesses, and health care organizations.

The bill numbers for the No Child Left Inside Act are S. 1306 in the U.S. Senate and H.R. 2702 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Friday, July 12, 2013

N. American Association for Environmental Education Conference Registration and Awards Nominations Now Open

A message from the North American Association for Environmental Education EE-NEWS:

Register Now!
It’s time to register for the 2013 NAAEE conference in Baltimore (October 9-12). With prices lower than last year’s, you’ll want to make sure to join us for a diverse slate of thought-provoking keynoters, exciting concurrent sessions, outstanding workshops and field trips, and endless opportunities for networking and professional development.

Register at

Conference information:

Exhibits and Ads
Promote your programs and resources, reach more than 1,000 environmental educators, and support NAAEE by purchasing your exhibit booths and program advertisements soon. Exhibit booth purchases include one free conference registration, so it’s a great deal and a wonderful way to interact directly with your primary target audience. And surely you want your ad noticed as every conference participant receives and reads the program!
Sign up online at

Session Notification Update
Review results have been sent to all conference proposal submitters; research symposium results will be sent soon. The online conference management system will reopen to all later this week. Session scheduling is underway and specific session dates and times will be announced and posted online within about a week.

2013 Call for Nominations: NAAEE Excellence in EE Awards

Nominations Deadline: August 16, 2013
Help NAAEE recognize individuals and organizations that excel in EE by nominating them for one of our annual awards, including our highest honor: the Walter E. Jeske Award.

The Call for Nominations is now open; the awards will be presented on October 12 at the Annual Awards Luncheon at the 2013 NAAEE Annual Conference. Online nomination forms are linked here:  

Environmental Education Quotable...

This was a response to a Basics of Environmental Education online workshop question we recently received from a N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program enrollee:

[E]nvironmental education strives to further the understanding of the interconnectedness of the whole environment, both natural and artificial, through age appropriate knowledge sharing and exploration of nature.

Well said!

Monday, July 8, 2013

N.C. Sea Grant Highlights North Carolina's Amazing Coast

North Carolina Sea Grant proudly announces the release of a new book that highlights our state's coastal ecosystems. North Carolina’s Amazing Coast: Natural Wonders from Alligators to Zoeas is now available in bookstores and from the University of Georgia Press. 

This beautifully illustrated book is a partnership between the North Carolina and Georgia Sea Grant programs. Terri Kirby Hathaway, N.C. Sea Grant marine education specialist (and a longtime N.C. Certified Environmental Educator!) and Kathleen Angione, a writer and former N.C. Sea Grant Coastwatch senior editor, teamed with Georgia Sea Grant writers David Bryant and George Davidson and illustrator Charlotte Ingram on the project.

Terri will  be working with classroom teachers to develop lesson plans based on the book and she and other authors will be touring the state at various book signings this summer. For more information, visit 

Environmental Educators of NC Awards Nominations Open Until August 1st

The Environmental Educators of North Carolina's annual awards nominations are open until August 1, 2013. Please make your nominations soon! Winners will be announced at the 2013 annual conference, which will be held at the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville September 12-15.

Any individual can nominate a person, agency or organization for an EENC award. The award categories include:

Awards open to all:

Environmental Educator of the Year
Exceptional Environmental Education Program
Outstanding Partnership

Awards open to EENC members:

Melva Fager Okun Lifetime Achievement Award
Outstanding Service Award
Outstanding Practitioner Award
Outstanding Newcomer Award

Nominations can be made online at

Check out the snazzy EENC award plaque, made in NC from reclaimed wood!

N.C. Certified Environmental Educator Featured as Project Scientist STEM Superstar

Karan Barber, the Special Programs and Outreach Coordinator at the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville, is featured as this week's Project Scientist's "STEM Superstars."

Project Scientist is a Charlotte-based nonprofit that provides science camps for girls and celebrates the contributions of female scientists in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

We are not surprised that Karan was nominated for this honor, as we have seen the great things she is doing at Carolina Raptor Center and through her work with Barney's Almanac. Thanks to Project Scientist for recognizing that environmental education supports all aspects of STEM! Visit  for more information.

 From Project Scientist: Karan is a Project Scientist STEM Superstar because she is living proof that it is never too late to unearth and explore your passion for the sciences. After discovering a love of the outdoors and nature, she decided to make a career change by pursuing her environmental science degree at Queens University of Charlotte.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"STEM Consolidation" Would End Funding for NOAA Environmental Literacy Grants, other EE Grant Programs

Updated 7/2/2013

There is a current effort on the federal level to consolidate a number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs by removing their funding and starting new programs at the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian. Many in the environmental education community are concerned, as this consolidation of programs would end funding for NOAA's Environmental Literacy Grants program and Bay-Watershed Education and Training program. The EPA Environmental Education Program is not mentioned in this consolidation, but the President's current budget proposal does not provide any funding for it. An overview of the Administration proposal can be found at

Many organizations that promote and support both STEM and environmental education, such as the North American Association for Environmental Education, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the National Wildlife Federation and the American Meteorological Society are signing on to a letter that addresses their concerns with eliminating the NOAA and EPA programs, which are the only three federal grant programs that are dedicated to environmental education. The  letter notes:

 "Consolidating the funds from these three programs into a much broader STEM education pool of funds ignores the specific need of the federal government to foster environmental literacy. Eliminating the NOAA and EPA programs would also leave the environmental education community without any federal funding program that understands the particular needs and opportunities in our field."

For more information, visit

Monday, July 1, 2013

Congratulations New Certified Environmental Educators!

Derek Dunn, one of North Carolina's newest certified environmental  educators.

Congratulations to the following individuals for earning their North Carolina Environmental Educator Certification:

Jennifer Fuller
North Carolina Baptist Assembly, Fort Caswell 

Lisa Marochak

Durham Soil and Water Conservation District 

Maria Hitt

Orange County Partnership for Young Children 

Wendy Patoprsty 

North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Watauga County

Lauren Pyle

Western North Carolina Nature Center, Asheville

Jenni Heartway 

Learning Outside, Pittsboro

Cynthia Stephenson

Forsyth Country Day School

Cliff Hudson

Riverside High School, Williamston

Kristy Burja,

Foothills Equestrian Nature Center, Tryon

Derek Dunn

Greensboro Parks and Recreation

Joy Fields

Piedmont Triad Regional Council

Jill Goodwin
Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Katie Gray
Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

To learn more about these and other recently certified individuals visit 

In other news, the online certification management system just completed  a major upgrade. Now enrollees and certified individuals will find  more options and increased usability in tracking their credits. Certified individuals will also now receive a digital badge image they can use to indicate their certified status in email signatures, resumes and other online documents.

The North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program, managed by the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, has certified more than 1,000 individuals. This 200-hour program recognizes professional development in environmental education and establishes standards for professional excellence in the field for formal and non-formal educators. It consists of workshops, field experiences, teaching experiences and an environmental education community partnership project.

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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Environmental Education Cooperation at its Finest

Our state is known throughout the nation for our tight-knit environmental education community and quality and variety of environmental education programs. Note how this middle school program, which combines classroom and outdoor instruction with hands-on coastal restoration work, was a success due to the collaboration of several agencies, organizations and volunteers   that were all dedicated to environmental education. 

The following agencies and organizations all contributed in some way to the environmental education and restoration effort (let us know if we missed one!):

Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership

Jockey’s Ridge State Park
N.C. Sea Grant
N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island and Jennette’s Pier
N.C. Coastal Federation
The Nature Conservancy
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries
The Nature Conservancy
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership
Carlson Family Foundation

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

Jeanna Goodson, a science teacher at Maiden High School in Catawba County, was recently awarded the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. The PIAEE is awarded by the U.S. EPA and  recognizes outstanding kindergarten through grade 12 teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for learning for their students. The award is given each year to two teachers from each of the EPA's ten regions.

Jeanna has been a North Carolina Certified Environmental Educator since 2003 and credits the EE Certification Program with inspiring her teaching and helping her win this award. 

Congratulations Jeanna!

Some of Jeanna's students in action

Below is Jeanna's write-up on the PIAEE winners page:

As a National Board Certified AP Environmental Science and wildlife teacher at Maiden High School, Jeanna has provided students with meaningful outdoor and integrated learning experiences. She strives to connect her students with the natural world in a way that fosters an appreciation for the environment while also building a practical understanding of community initiatives and collaboration. Jeanna worked with local community members and groups to design and create a campus nature trail that enables her students to access different ecosystems for outdoor labs and activities in their studies. On the trail, students conduct science experiments such as water quality testing, and learn about local flora and fauna, population dynamics, air quality and pollution research. She utilizes a variety of creative and integrative education methods such as science simulations, interactive games, hands-on and team based activities and projects to help students to explore larger concepts and gain a better understanding of events and issues they may not otherwise experience. Her students learn the importance of connecting real world issues with their local community and environment which has direct ties to their daily lives. 

Jeanna’s students share their learning experiences and enthusiasm for science, cultural and environmental issues with their families and community members through a variety of interactive projects that include creating and sharing an on-going environmental science A-Z booklet which includes images of labs they conduct, outdoor lessons, and written materials. Parents interact with students in this project through their written reflections about environmental science they collaboratively discuss with students. Jeanna also works with other teachers to encourage the integration of nature activities into other subjects and has participated in North Carolina’s rigorous Environmental Education Certification Program. Jeanna’s exceptional dedication to her students is apparent as she tries to help instill a sense of awareness and responsibility in her students as they learn to be mindful of how their actions can impact the world around them and how they can each make a difference as responsible stewards of the earth. 

EE News Tips Spotlight: The Environmental Literacy Center

Did you know our office maintains the Environmental Literacy Center? The Environmental Literacy Center (ELC) is located in the Nature Research Center, the new wing of the Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh. We have 2000+ holdings of books and DVDs such as educator guides, environmental curricula, North Carolina field guides, naturalist books, environmental non-fiction and children's books. Subject areas include environmental science, popular natural science, conservation, sustainability, museum and non-formal education practices and science education. The ELC is available for use upon appointment. It can be used as a meeting center and/or a resource center for anyone in the field of education. It's a great place to do research or plan environmental education programs or events. The resources can be used by educators and preservice teachers or for student research but the holdings are only circulating for DENR employees at this time. Learn more about it at

Friday, May 17, 2013

The New Environmental Education is Good for All of Us

We are always on the lookout for news and commentary on environmental education. This piece caught our eye and we thought it warranted a feature in News Tips. Andy Hart is the executive director of the Nevada Outdoor School. Andy begins:

Twenty years ago, the term Environmental Education left a sour taste in most people’s mouths.  Perhaps it still does for some, but it shouldn’t.  Most everyone in my current profession will agree that Environmental Education hasn’t always been done well and in the 1980’s and 90’s, even when it was; the term had been hijacked in popular culture by agenda-based organizations and lobbying groups. 

Moreover, anything accompanied by the word environmental was often assumed to indicate a negative for industry, agriculture or progress in general.  It is long overdue for us to recommit to the word ‘environment’ for what it really is, the space in which we all live and rely upon as an endless provider. Read the rest of Andy's opinion piece in the Silver Pinyon Journal. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The EE Grants Page Pays Off Again (and Again and Again)

We recently received great news that two organizations applied for and were awarded grants they found on the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs EE Grants page. It's an honor to help great organizations and agencies locate grants that further environmental education and help their communities. Please let us know if you receive a grant you found on our website or email listserv. 

Kendyll Collins, environmental educator and outreach coordinator for the Bald Head Island Conservancy recently announced they had received Outdoor Nation's Paddle Nation Grant. The Conservancy was one of only 25 projects in the nation to receive the grant and the only recipient in North Carolina. It will fund the Women Paddling Into Science project that will offer kayaking expeditions for month and daughter pairs over a seven month period. The trips will focus on kayaking skills, estuary ecology and water quality. It will also involve a salt marsh clean-up. Congratulations Kendyll!

Kendyll doing some early scouting for their upcoming Women Paddling Into Science Program, funded by a grant they found on the EE Grants page. 

Leslie Van Hoy, grants director for Johnston Community College, also learned of the National Wildlife Federation's Tree Bank program through our site. The college was able to use this program to continue the long leaf pine restoration at its Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center. This is the second grant JCC has found an applied for from our page. The first, from the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, allowed the JCC Arboretum to plant a working fruit orchard to provide produce for local food charities. 

Volunteers plant long leaf pine seedlings at Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center. The  trees were provided by the National Wildlife Federations Tree Bank Program that Johnston Community College learned of on the EE  Grants page.

Alexander Wilson Elementary E.C.O. Campus Opening Featured on News 14 Carolina

On Earth Day, Alexander Wilson Elementary (Alamance-Burlington School System) officially cut the ribbon on its new E.C.O Campus. Time Warner Cable News 14 Carolina was on the scene:

Click photo to view the video
The E.C.O. (Educating Children Outdoors) Campus features a butterfly garden, a frog habitat, a nature trail, a bird sanctuary, an air quality monitoring station and an outdoor classroom. The school also plans to use more native plants on campus, increase on-site recycling and several other conservation initiatives.

Alexander Wilson is listed as one of the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs   "EE Schools."   Follow the link to learn more and to find out how other schools can apply.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Remember: Love of Nature Precedes Caring for the Environment

This post written by Mariah Grant originally appeared on our EcoSmart Parent blog, but we thought out EE News Tips readers would also find it of interest. EcoSmart Parent (always available on provides information and N.C. environmental education events and resources of interest to parents, caregivers and educators of younger children.

Remember: Love of Nature Precedes Caring for the Environment

Source: Nature Explorers
Given pressing environmental concerns, we have to remind ourselves not to relay these world burdens to impressionable young children. It is during early childhood that experiences form the values and attitudes about the world that children carry with them through life. Before a certain age, children are unable to think in abstract terms but rather learn through sensory engagement with the world. Allowing open-ended, interactive and sensory play in natural settings is recommended for young children. This is more likely to nurture a positive relationship with nature and foster empathy for the environment than trying to relay knowledge of environmental systems. Presenting problems about the environment that are beyond their cognitive ability can cause children to develop fear and anxiety of the natural world, exactly the opposite of the intended effect.

The appropriate age for imparting knowledge about environmental systems and concerns depends entirely on the individual, but most research says not until at least fourth grade or even middle school. Here is a good article that summarizes much of the research:

Source: "Forts, land trusts, and conservation behavior"
In the past, environmental education programs have received criticism for providing education too early on abstract concepts such as endangered species, acid rain and rainforest destruction. Among the network of educators and environmental education centers in North Carolina, the research has been so widely distributed that most have adopted the age appropriate perspective into their practices.

Quality environmental education events for children that focus on exploration and discovery of the natural world help foster a love of nature in children. Good examples of these types of programs can be found on the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs' calendar.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Connecting environmental education and STEM

This year's theme for National Environmental Education Week was "Greening STEM: Taking Technology Outdoors." This is part of a multi-year "Greening STEM" focus by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) to show that hands-on environmental education projects can enrich learning in science, technology, engineering and math education. 

Recently, Jennifer Tabola, senior director of education for NEEF, was featured in following guest blog for Change the Equation, a "nonprofit, nonpartisan, CEO-led initiative that is mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning in the United States." 

Here it is below, reprinted in its entirety with permission from Change the Equation and NEEF. 

What are the learning goals of environmental education? How are they best accomplished? How do they support the broader goals of improving students’ STEM skills?

Students have an innate curiosity – even wonder – about the natural world around them. Environmental education (EE) taps into their enthusiasm and provides them the knowledge and skills to solve 21st-century challenges. Early connection with the environment also equips students to make everyday decisions that improve the quality of their lives and the health of our planet.
The goals of EE can be accomplished well through project-based learning and hands-on exploration of the outdoors. Local, place-based environmental projects provide relevant learning experiences for students and an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in their communities.
Through EE, students learn not only STEM content, but also develop the critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills that are critical for success in STEM careers where substantial growth is expected. Further, studies indicate that young people who experience the natural world and have more opportunities to play and learn within it are more likely to choose science or related fields as careers.

What are the opportunities and obstacles to introducing students to environmental education?

While field trips and opportunities to explore nature centers and other nonformal education settings are valuable to sparking interest and deeper knowledge about the environment, lack of time and resources can make it challenging for teachers to provide those opportunities. Increasingly, schools are investing in enriching the more accessible laboratories for learning that exist right outside the classroom door, in a nearby park, the schoolyard, school garden -- even the school building itself. Recognizing the national priority on successfully engaging more students in STEM, significantly more environmental science content is being integrated across multiple disciplines. There are expanded opportunities within the new Next Generation Science Standards to emphasize science learning through an environmental context, through content on human impacts on the natural world.

What do policymakers and decision makers need to know when thinking about STEM learning and environmental education?

Research and survey findings indicate young people have a strong interest in the environment. Total employment in STEM jobs is expected to increase by twice as much as all other jobs by 2018 and environmental science jobs are expected to grow by 25% by 2016 – the fastest among the sciences. Sources and additional statistics can be found in the new Tech & Our Planet infographic.
In 2011 the U.S. Department of Education developed the Green Ribbon Schools recognition award, which honors schools that are exemplary in reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and providing effective environmental and sustainability education, which incorporates STEM, civic skills and green career pathways. This year, as part of National Environmental Education Week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan did a PSA that speaks to the important connection between EE and STEM.(See previous post)

Monday, April 15, 2013

U.S. Education Secretary Talks Environmental Education/STEM for EE Week

In honor of National Environmental Education Week (April 14-20), U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan takes a few moments to address the benefits of environmental education and how it complements and strengthens STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math). 

Monday, April 8, 2013

NCSU Researchers Release Environmental Literacy Study

Researchers in the N.C. State University College of Natural Resources have released a study on environmental literacy among North Carolina middle school students. Environmental, Institutional, and Demographic Predictors of Environmental Literacy among Middle School Children can be found in the in the online, open access peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE. 

CNR Research Fact Sheet 

CNR News Release: Outdoor Education Helps Minority Students Close Gap in Environmental Literacy

Complete article in PLOS ONE

The study shows that several factors have a positive effect on environmental literacy for various student groups, including time spent in outdoor learning experiences, the use of published environmental education curricula and teacher experience and education level. 

This project was funded by North Carolina Sea Grant. Kathryn T. Stevenson and Dr. Nils Peterson in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at N.C. State University partnered with members of the N.C. Environmental Literacy Plan working group during the research process. The partners plan to use this study as a baseline of environmental literacy in future research and program planning.

For more information about the N.C. Environmental Literacy Plan go to the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website:

EE Certification is Really Hopping!

Jenny Fuller from the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell

The North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program is really on the move! New enrollments arrive weekly and the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs has recently awarded several certificates. You can read about some of our state's certified environmental educators at on our blog:

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

The North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program has certified more than 1,000 individuals. This 200-hour program recognizes professional development in environmental education and establishes standards for professional excellence in the field for formal and non-formal educators. It consists of workshops, field experiences, teaching experiences and an environmental education community partnership project.

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

Thursday, April 4, 2013

NAAEE Releases Status Report on State Environmental Literacy Plans

The North American Association for Environmental Education has released a report on state environmental literacy plans. Forty-eight states (including the District of Columbia) responded to the survey about the progress of their state plan. According to NAAEE, state environmental literacy plans are "comprehensive frameworks that support school systems in expanding and improving environmental education programs." The report can be viewed here: 

North Carolina's environmental literacy plan was developed by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resoruces Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, in partnership with Environmental Educators of North Carolina and the North Carolina Association of Environmental Education Centers, with additional input from a wide range stakeholders in the education and environmental communities. The final draft form of our state plan is currently available on the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

National EE Week 2013 April 14-20, 2013

National Environmental Education Week is here!

Hosted by NEEF, the National Environmental Education Foundation, EE Week is the nation's largest celebration of environmental education held each year the week before Earth Day and inspires environmental learning and stewardship among K-12 students. The 2013 theme, Greening STEM: Taking Technology Outdoors, will explore how technology can enhance environmental learning both inside and outside the classroom. Part of NEEF's series on Greening STEM.

As part of Taking Technology Outdoors, EE Week will highlight the growing opportunity to engage today's students in learning about the environment by "plugging into nature" through new technologies that enable scientific research and 21st century skills including creativity, innovation, communication, and collaboration.

Educators who register for EE Week 2013 will be able to take advantage of:

  • Free educator webinars and toolkits offering tips, tricks, resources, and ideas for using the latest technology to excite students about environmental learning in their community
  • Case studies, success stories, and examples of technology in action and the teachers who are using it to enhance environmental learning and achievement in core subject areas
  • Discounts, giveaways, and special offers from NEEF partners
Registration is free and easy and, in addition to the benefits above, connects you to a national network of educators dedicated to increasing the environmental knowledge of K-12 students.