Monday, April 28, 2014

EE Certification Workshop Leads to Solar-Powered Classroom, A DOE Video and a Tweet from the President!

I guess it goes to show you never know where the workshops will lead!

That is what fourth grade teacher Aaron Sebens told to us about Central Park School for Children's ongoing solar energy project. Aaron tells us the idea to use solar energy to power his classroom was the result of a Project Learning Tree Energy and Society Workshop he took at the Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch Library in Greensboro. Aaron is currently enrolled in the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. 

The workshop was in 2012. Since then, Sebens and his students have converted the classroom into a working solar learning experience. It has also resulted in a video about the project produced by the U.S. Department of Energy, which was then tweeted by President Obama! The video was also shown during a recent Red Sox game in Boston and his class has been visited by Congressmen David Price and J. K. Butterfield. The project has been featured in several news articles, such as this one in the Durham Herald Sun

We look forward for more updates from Aaron's class. So, consider enrolling in the N.C. Environmental Education Certification program if you have not. "You never know where the workshops will lead!" 

Raleigh's Exploris Middle School Receives 2014 Green Ribbon Schools Award

Exploris students participate in the Adopt-A-Stream program. Photo from City of Raleigh 

Congratulations to Exploris Middle School for winning the 2014 U.S. Department of Education's Green Ribbon Schools Award! This award "honors schools and districts 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."

Exploris, a charter school located in downtown Raleigh, is one of 48 schools in the nation that are being honored this year. 

Below is an excerpt from the profile of Exploris that is featured in the 2014 Green Ribbon Schools Highlights. See the Green Ribbon Schools page for the complete highlights document and more information on the program: 

Exploris Middle School is a model global-education school in North Carolina. Exploris’ articulation of its core values ground the school in its approach to education. These are: Curiosity, Reflection, Craftsmanship, Engagement, Collaboration, Relationships, Connections to Nature, Social Empowerment, Innovation, and Balance.

 In Exploris’ 16-year history, the school has been particularly interested in reducing its environmental impact. Exploris used EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to calculate a 25 percent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions. Trash has been reduced to about one bag per grade level through color-coded recycling bins, which include TerraCycle containers. In collaboration with the school’s landlords, an electrical timer was installed so that lights and the computer network automatically turn off during non-working hours. Additionally, new plumbing was installed in 2009 to prevent lead from being in the school’s drinking water, and a new white roof was installed in 2010 to help limit heat absorption in the building and the need for air conditioning during warmer months. Based on analysis of the water invoices since moving into the current building, Exploris has reduced domestic water usage by 19 percent, and has no irrigation water usage. 

Exploris is dedicated to improving the health of its school’s students and staff. The school’s cleaning service cleans late at night, and stores no cleaning products at the school. If a pesticide must be used in the building, it is done after school hours to limit staff and student exposure to it. The school participates in numerous health and wellness programs, including the USDA's Healthier US School Challenge and a Farm to School program. Exploris also has an on-site vertical food garden, which supplies food to the community. The school’s students spend at least 120 minutes per week in supervised physical education, and at least 50 percent of the students' annual physical education takes place outdoors.

 Exploris uses an interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum. In alignment with the school’s core values, the bulk of each grade-level’s work centers on issues of environmental sustainability and STEM pathways. Teachers frame instruction around current, complex issues, which serve as a compelling lens for covering the curriculum standards. Guiding questions, two to three case studies, hands-on project work, and a culminating, public event serve to further engage students. Each student completes research, collaborates on group projects focusing on elements of design, and has access to primary documents and local experts, including former North Carolina Governor James Hunt, the staff of North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the staff of Raleigh City Farms. Students are regular presenters at regional conferences, such as the North American Association of Environmental Educators, the North Carolina Service Learning Coalition, and the North Carolina Scaling STEM Conference. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kingsley Credits North Carolina EE Certification Program as Inspiration for Outdoor Preschool

Mary Kingsley of Raleigh recently opened a new business endeavor, the Kinder Garden Preschool, and credits the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification as the inspiration for the business. She also notes that the program was the provider of much of the needed training and resources used to create the preschool's curriculum. Best wishes to Mary! Here is what she related to us:

A "Mud Kitchen" in the Outdoor Learning Area
"As an early childhood educator I have always been in love with the outdoors and helping children discover the wonder of being outside and enjoying nature.

I met and befriended a mentor, Dawn Mak*, who understood my love of nature and teaching, and introduced me to the environmental education certification program. Since then my teaching path has changed. I enjoyed every workshop that led to my certification and now get to put all of my knowledge to work.

Because of the EEC program I have been encouraged to start a different kind of preschool program, an “Outdoor Preschool”.

I have been able to incorporate all of the EEC materials with a traditional curriculum to create outdoor-based curriculum for preschool children. Children will learn concepts needed for standard school entry with nature as their teacher."

*Another N.C. Certified Environmental Educator!

N.C. DPI Continues Tradition of Cooperation with Environmental Educators

N.C. DPI science consultants strategize with environmental and non-formal science educators from around the state.
In December of 2013, nonformal educators from environmental education centers and science museums from across the state met with the science consultants from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. This was the third of these meetings that provide an opportunity to network, share information and strategize on how to better align programs to the N.C. Essential Standards. These meetings are a partnership between N.C. DPI, the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, the Environmental Educators of North Carolina and the N.C. Association of Environmental Education Centers. Meeting powerpoint presentations, teacher survey results and resources from N.C. DPI can be found on the "Beyond the Field Trip" resource page.