Monday, September 21, 2015

A New GIS River Basin Map Available to Educators

The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs now provides an online GIS River Basin map for educators. The new interactive map allows you to explore your river basin or learn more about any of the 17 river basins in North Carolina. You can click on each basin to learn about the diversity of plants and animals found in our beautiful state.

A version of the map that focused on the Tar-Pamlico River Basin was used by teachers during UNC’s Institute for the Environment’s EGRET (Exploring the Geographical Region and Ecosystems of the Tar-Pamlico Watershed) Fellows Program this summer. The summer institute was held for 5th grade teachers at Goose Creek State Park in Washington and A Time for Science in Greenville.

“The interactive GIS river basin map is an excellent tool for educators to use with students or anyone who wants to better understand the ecological features and important resources in their river basin,” said Sarah Yelton, Environmental Education Coordinator with the institute’s Environmental Resource Program. “We used it specifically with 5th grade teachers in our EGRET Fellows Program who are exploring the natural and cultural resources of the Tar-Pamlico River Basin. The teachers liked having the ability to turn on and off layers of information and target in on a specific basin. We created a web scavenger hunt, or web quest, for the Tar-Pamlico River Basin to go along with the GIS based map and the teachers loved it,” she said.

The map is now available online at The online map has many potential uses for schools that utilize electronic tablets and other multi-media tools in the classroom. The office hopes that more educators will use the map in the classroom to help students make connections to the rivers and streams in their own communities.
There are more North Carolina River Basin resources at, including river basin lesson plans developed by North Carolina classroom teachers, nonformal educators and office staff. The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs welcomes new lesson plan or activity ideas based on the new GIS map or existing river basin materials. Please share your ideas with us on Twitter, Facebook or email Tracy Weidert, River Basin Education Program Manager at 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Celebrate Take A Child Outside Week

Celebrate Take a Child Outside Week September 24-30

The N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs invites you to take part in a nationwide effort to connect children to the natural world. “Take a Child Outside” is designed to help children develop an appreciation for the outdoors by giving parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers information on nature activities and places to visit.

Take a Child Outside Week is held in conjunction with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and partner organizations throughout the U.S. and around the world. The program encourages all citizens to participate in outdoor activities from September 24-30, 2015.

Organizations and agencies across the state including parks, nature and science centers, museums, aquariums, botanical gardens, etc. are hosting events during the week. There are many opportunities to take your child, grandchild or students outdoors. You can visit the North Carolina Environmental Education Calendar to search for Take a Child Outside activities being offered across the state.

You can also participate by making a pledge to take a child outside and help them experience the natural world on the Take a Child Outside website. The program is designed to help break down obstacles that keep children from discovering the natural world, and to provide resources and recreational activities for exploring local habitats.

Many state attractions and other environmental education centers have events planned. You can view all the events and programs going on during the week on the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website.

Here are a few highlights of some of the Take a Child Outside Events hosted by state agencies:

N.C. State Parks will feature special events and ranger-led programs including fun hikes and nature education programs that introduce children and families to the outdoors. Children will be working towards earning their North Carolina Junior Ranger certificate and patch at some parks. State Parks offer many activities for memories to be made including picnicking, canoeing, camping and hiking. Check out all of the Take a Child Outside events happening at State Parks online at

The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher is hosting a Salt Marsh and Crabbing Program for ages 7 and up. This hands-on, outdoor program introduces participants to the challenge of catching blue crabs. Lessons in crab biology and crabbing equipment prepare participants for an exciting expedition through the salt marsh to catch and release crabs. For more information, visit

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is hosting seven Wildlife Expos and other events to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day on September 26, at various locations from Corolla to Brevard. There will be free, family-oriented events that highlight the state’s extraordinary hunting and fishing heritage and remarkable wildlife conservation efforts through the years. Interactive activities and demonstrations vary for each event, but all provide unique opportunities for participants of all ages to connect with nature and test their outdoors skills. For more information visit the commission’s website at

The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences' Prairie Ridge EcoStation invites families to explore the outdoors on Saturday, September 26, 2015. Come at any time during the event to visit the Nature PlaySpace to enjoy some hands-on nature activities. Activities also include: 10:00 am, Nature Stories, in the amphitheater; 10:30 am, Citizen Science Saturday walk, entrance kiosk (best for children 8 years+); 11:15, Nature Stories-Music, in the amphitheater. For information contact: Cathy Fergen at or 919-707-8878.

The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs is proud to join with the Museum of Natural Sciences in this effort, and believes children want to embrace and explore their world. This exploration shapes their lifelong relationship with their parents and the environment. Stress reduction, greater physical health, more creativity and a sense of play are just some of the many benefits for a family when it invites nature into their lives. Take a Child Outside is held annually, September 24-30.

Be sure to check out the environmental education calendar for events going on near you on the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs' website. You can search the calendar using your zip code or city. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Kelsie Armentrout to Receive Governor's Conservation Achievement Award for Environmental Educator of the Year

Kelsie Armentrout, a former Wake County teacher and Kenan Fellow will be awarded with the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award for Environmental Educator of the Year on September 12.

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation presents the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards each year to honor individuals, associations, businesses and others who have exhibited an unwavering commitment to conservation in North Carolina.

“These are the highest natural resource honors given in the state. By recognizing, publicizing and honoring these conservation leaders – be they professionals, volunteers, young conservationists or life-long conservation heroes – the N.C. Wildlife Federation hopes to inspire all North Carolinians to take a more active role in protecting the natural resources of our state,” said Tim Gestwicki, chief executive officer with the N.C. Wildlife Federation.

Kelsie is being honored for her innovation as a classroom science teacher and for connecting her students with wildlife in North Carolina. Before leaving the classroom this year to pursue a master’s degree, Kelsie taught middle school science at Hilburn Academy, a Wake County Public School in Raleigh and was a 2014-2015 Kenan Fellow.

Kelsie worked on “Students Discover,” a cooperative mammal research project with the Your Wild Life program at N.C. State University and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences that that is helping citizen scientists survey the animals in their region with camera traps (trail cameras). Working with Dr. Roland Kays and Dr. Stephanie Schuttler from the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Kelsie also participated in the eMammal program as a way of bringing citizen science into the classroom.

As part of this experience, Kelsie traveled with the team to Mexico to train with teachers in Guadalajara. Kelsie applied this knowledge as soon as the school year began, and had her students use camera traps at Hilburn to do their own research. Kelsie helped created lesson plans for using the camera traps in the classroom and aligned them with middle school curriculum standards. These lesson plans are now online on the Students Discover website in addition to a short video of Kelsie’s experience in the program. 

Kelsie says her experiences with the eMammal program helped engage her students in science. “Having the opportunity for the students to see their research and their data collection directly impact actual scientists can really open a whole new door for them,” she said.

Kelsie earned her N.C. Environmental Education Certification in 2012 and was featured in a short video on the program in 2014. She had demonstrated an ongoing enthusiasm for bringing the environment into the classroom and credits the program with providing her with resources to successfully teach science.

“Getting my environmental education certification during undergrad really shed new light on science. I ended up becoming a science teacher and wanting to be a science teacher because I saw the importance of student discovery and open-ended questions,” said Kelsie.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

As school begins, let’s keep children in touch with nature

From Amber Veverka, a master naturalist and N.C. certified environmental educator in Charlotte:

The kindergarteners that day were wide-eyed.

We’d gathered in a courtyard outside their Charlotte classroom for a hands-on lesson in investigating the natural world. I was a volunteer, eager to explore alongside them.

“What is nature?” I asked the kids seated around me. They peppered the air with their answers. But the one I can’t forget was from the little girl in ponytails who said, solemnly, “Nature is something you should never, ever touch.”

If I ever needed confirmation that we – and our children – are alienated from the natural world, that little girl’s response supplied it.

School is back in session, and families like mine are again swept along in a rush of drop-offs, bus rides and after-school activities. If we aren’t intentional, the school year tide can pull all of us into an indoor life. It’s dark in the morning. Kids are loaded down with homework at night. In between, they’re in classrooms and we’re in offices.

We’re born loving creation, recognizing instinctively that we belong in the grass, under the trees, within earshot of birdsong. But the entire arc of our culture – particularly the culture of an overscheduled, urban center such as Charlotte – veers away from these first loves. We get jobs. We get busy. We live our days in cubicles and cars.

I urge all of us to make this school year one in which we and our children spend more time in nature. It’s not always easy. But it’s possible...

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