Thursday, March 30, 2017

DEQ Partners with NCSU to Offer Environmental Education Credits

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality is working with N.C. State University to prepare a new generation of environmental educators.

Beginning this 2017-2018 academic year, the N.C. State College of Natural Resources will partner with the N.C. State College of Education to offer two courses in environmental education--Environmental Education Teaching Methods and Environmental Education in Practice.

Taught by Kathryn Stevenson, assistant professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, and Gail Jones, professor of science education in the College of Education, the courses will boost students’ knowledge of natural science concepts and enhance communication and outreach skills.  As part a partnership with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, students will also earn hours toward their North Carolina environmental education certification in addition to the course credit hours.

A core team at NCSU had been working on the idea of an environmental education curriculum for a few years, including Gail Jones and Sarah Carrier from the College of Education and Kathryn Stevenson and Renee Strnad from College of Natural Resources. Now their work is paying off.

Stevenson says environmental education is an important topic for students at the College of Natural Resources and College of Education to study.

“Many students majoring in natural sciences see the need for communication and education, but have a hard time finding that training within the university. Additionally, many jobs in conservation, parks and recreation require an environmental education certification, and we saw this as an opportunity to offer courses that would let students work toward this certification. Likewise, environmental education and science education are a great fit, but there haven’t historically been many opportunities for pre-service teachers to get training in things like taking students outside while they’re enrolled here. This program offers wonderful professional development opportunities for teachers,” said Stevenson.

Gail Jones, alumni distinguished professor of Science Education, noted the benefits of the course for teachers.

“This new course offers a unique opportunity for students in the sciences to develop teaching skills that will pay off in their future careers,” Jones said.

Lisa Tolley, program manager for the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, has seen the benefits of incorporating environmental education in teacher preparation programs.

“UNCG’s School of Education provides credits for environmental education certification as part of their coursework,” Tolley said. “Those teachers come out the program with resources and training that allows them to teach science outdoors and to connect students to real-world opportunities in STEM.” 

Tolley says by offering environmental education courses, NCSU will prepare their educators to provide hands-on experiential science, something that has been shown to increase student academic achievement and engagement with science concepts and careers.  

She agrees with Stevenson that these courses will provide CNR students with curriculum resources and communication tools that will be helpful for furthering their careers.

“We look forward to working with NCSU students and to providing opportunity for professional growth,” Tolley said.

For more information about the new courses and to view the full interview with Dr. Stevenson, visit the N.C. State Colleges of Natural Resources News at:

To learn more about North Carolina’s Environmental Education Certification Program, visit the N.C.  Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs at:

Friday, March 10, 2017

CTNC AmeriCorps Member Completes NC Environmental Education Certification

Nina Quaratella, a Conservation Trust for North Carolina AmeriCorps member serving with the N.C. Coastal Federation recently completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program.

As the coastal community engagement specialist for N.C. Coastal Federation, Quaratella plans and conducts education programs with a focus on underserved communities. Her programs are focused on coastal topics such as oysters, salt marshes and stormwater runoff and Quaratella enjoys working at the coast. “I am very grateful that I am able to teach students about the coast since the coast as always been a huge part of my life.”

Quaratella says her favorite part of earning her certification was the instructional workshops. “I really enjoyed learning about different topics from agriculture to wetlands to forestry. The activities that I was taught were very adaptable to different topics and age ranges and I have translated some activities to the federation’s education materials. I also like playing outside like a kid!”

For the community partnership project required for certification, Quaratella worked on a project that coincided with her AmeriCorps term. She and several other members of her AmeriCorps cohort designed a trail building and environmental education event at Tar River Land Conservancy near Durham. “The volunteer day was a great turn-out we had our fellow CTNC AmeriCorps members and a Girl Scout Troop working on building a trail to help the conservancy open a new conservation area for public use.” Girl Scouts were taught about Leave No Trace principles that Quaratella hopes they will carry with them as they continue learning more about environmental leadership and becoming environmental stewards.

Quaratella says the program changed the way she approached teaching. “The EE Certification program has definitely improved my teaching abilities. I have learned how to better engage a diverse range of audiences.” She also found a new appreciation for the agricultural field and how it is connected to environmental conditions. “I have never really had any exposure to agriculture and food production in school or in my current or previous work experiences. The Food, Land and People Workshop helped me to understand that food production is completely dependent on the balance of the environment. It also helped me to understand that coastal work which I am most involved with has an indirect impact on agriculture.”

In addition to her work with education and outreach Quaratella also assists with the Coastal Federation’s restoration efforts. When she isn’t at work, Quaratella enjoys going to the beach, hiking, traveling, reading and cooking.

For more information about the Conservation Trust for North Carolina’s AmeriCorps program in environmental education and outreach, visit their website at For more information about the NC Environmental Education Certification Program, visit the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs’ website at

Monday, March 6, 2017

Environmental Educator - What Does That Mean?

This is a guest post by Lindsey Bijas. Lindsey is a CTNC (Conservation Trust for North Carolina) AmeriCorps member serving at the Piedmont Triad Regional Council as an environmental educator and outreach coordinator. Lindsey's post was originally featured in the Stormwater SMART  blog.

"Environmental education is, at its heart, an integrative undertaking. Instructors teach across disciplines, linking the methods and content of natural and social sciences, arts, mathematics, and humanities to help learners fully understand and address complex environmental issues." (Source: North American Association for Environmental Education's Guidelines for the Preparation and Professional Development of Environmental Educators) 

When someone asks me what I do, I have to choose my words carefully. How can I explain what I do within 2 minutes or less without losing their attention and completely confusing them? My usual response is, "I'm an AmeriCorps member serving at the Piedmont Triad Regional Council as an environmental educator and outreach coordinator for their Stormwater SMART program *and cue deep breath* which is made possible through a partnership by the Conservation Trust for North Carolina and the NC Commission on Volunteerism." After I've just spewed out everything I could think to best explain my position, I usually look at their face and see an expression of "I have no idea what you just said, but I'm going to smile and nod anyway!" You know what? That's fine, because environmental education is truly a complex subject to try to explain, especially since it can be interpreted differently from one person to the next. So, I'm going to try to explain to you what being an environmental educator means to me.

That's me a year ago holding a leucistic red-talked hawk
Usually, someone has a pivotal moment in their life when they realize "this is it, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life." I can honestly tell you that didn't happen for me until about my second year of attending community college, but I've been obsessed with and immersing myself in nature for as long as I can remember. Whether it was seeing how high I could climb the large evergreen tree in my front yard, or bringing injured box turtles into my house; I loved everything there was to love about nature and have carried that passion with me throughout my life.  So, how did I get exposed to environmental education specifically? I'm glad you asked! 

Over 2 years ago, I packed up my bags and traveled over 900 miles away from my home in New Jersey to a college town in the mountains of North Carolina. It was here that I had finally found my niche. For the next two years, I majored in wildlife biology with a concentration in wildlife rehabilitation and got plenty of exposure to environmental educational programs. I provided programs mostly focusing on wildlife, conservation, and human impact on the wildlife found in North Carolina. Now, how did I go from talking about animals to stormwater and pollution? Very easily! You see, once you have an understanding that everything in the environment is connected (i.e. wildlife, humans, natural resources), you want others to be able to make that connection as well. Although my initial passion was with wildlife, I soon realized that educating people about the environment as a whole (especially water quality) was the bigger picture at hand.

That's me now educating boy scouts about pollution and runoff 
Even when providing programs on different topics, I still see the same results in my audiences. That little "a-ha" moment, or someone coming up to you and saying, "That was so interesting!" or even better, "You've inspired me to make a change, how can I help?" My absolute favorite reaction from an audience member, typically students, is when they come up to me and ask, "How did you get to where you are today?" Those right there, are just a few of the reasons why I'm passionate about environmental education. Education is one of the most powerful tools we have, but often times it's overlooked and taken for granted. Those small moments could some day lead to the differences we're looking to be made in our environment. To me, environmental education is being able to reach out to at least one person and make them realize that they can make a difference. Then, inspiring them to go out and be the change. Currently, I'm working towards my environmental education in North Carolina so that I can continue to do what I love, and do my part in impacting our environment.

Click here to learn more about environmental education in North Carolina!

Lindsey Bijas
AmeriCorps Member, Environmental Educator Stormwater SMART Outreach Coordinator
PTRC Regional Planning Department