Tuesday, January 30, 2018

EENC Hires Executive Director

The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs is pleased to welcome Lauren Pyle as the new Executive Director for Environmental Educators (EENC) of North Carolina. Below is the announcement from EENC's Board of Directors. 
Environmental Educators of North Carolina is thrilled to announce the hiring of an Executive Director, Lauren Pyle. A former board member and professional life member of EENC, Lauren has been active in the environmental education community in North Carolina for over eight years. Lauren has worked as part of the education team at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, where she wears many hats. She has wrangled teen volunteers, helps the public navigate the online registration system, leads public wildlife demonstrations including feeding otters, and has experience writing grants to fulfill "pie-in-the-sky" programs. 
Previously, Lauren worked with youth education at The North Carolina Arboretum, has contributed to strategic planning processes with three different organizations, simultaneously taught college freshman biology/8th grade physical science/telemark skiing during her undergraduate and masters programs at Cornell University, and spent five summers catching bats as a wildlife biologist for an environmental consulting company. 
The Board of Directors have been working towards this goal for many years to help build the capacity of our organization, and Lauren is excited to help advance the mission and vision of EENC. The Executive Director position is currently part-time, with the intent to become full-time through additional grant funding. We are so excited to be taking this step to help our organization be a leader in the field of environmental education within North Carolina, the southeast, and the nation.
Please join us in welcoming Lauren. She can be reached at eencexecdirector@gmail.com
EENC Board of Directors

Friday, January 26, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Cathleen Reas

Cathleen Reas recently completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification while working on a Master of Science in Environmental Education (MSEE) Degree at Montreat College. Cathleen serves as a  4-H volunteer on the development team for the Clemson Extension Service’s 4-H Junior Naturalist Program and works as a part-time assistant naturalist at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina.

In addition to her education roles, she is involved with many conservation organizations including Foothills Trail Conservancy, S.C. Master Naturalists, S.C. Native Plant Society, Friends of Jocassee and Lake Hartwell Association. “I am a Leave No Trace Master Educator and love to hike and backpack especially with my family and friends.”

When asked about her favorite part of earning her certification, Cathleen has a difficult time choosing just one. “My favorite part was all of it! I loved learning the foundations of environmental education, the workshops and outdoor experiences, visiting environmental education centers, my community service project and my teaching hours. “This program provided the elements to help me learn, grow, and refine skills to be the best environmental educator I can be.”

Cathleen attributes a lot of her success in the certification program to the support of her professors at Montreat. “I gratefully acknowledge and appreciate the Montreat College MSEE professors for all the exemplary education, support, and guidance through this process. My path was made clearer with the goals to reach for this certification with rich and deep education thanks to MSEE.”

Cathleen says that the instructional workshops were an experience in the program that stood out for her. “I enjoyed learning from inspiring teachers alongside amazing educators taking the workshops with me; we were all learning together as colleagues in environmental education. The diversity and depth of the workshops helped me improve my knowledge and teaching methods throughout the certification experience.”

For her community partnership project, Cathleen developed a Water, Wildlife and Wildflower program to protect water quality and restore wildlife habitat in the Lake Keowee watershed and Keowee-Toxaway State Park located in the foothills of South Carolina. As part of the program, community members volunteered for multiple projects which included planting a native plant pollinator garden, installing a rain garden/bioswale, removing invasive plants, maintaining trails for erosion control and installing habitat homes. “This day brought community groups and individuals together to protect and restore watersheds and habitats. Friends of Jocassee, S.C. Native Plant Society, Upstate Master Naturalists, Friends of Lake Keowee Society, and Foothills Trail Conservancy came out to help with environmental projects at Keowee-Toxaway State Park, home to the Jocassee Gorges Visitor Center. These projects addressed erosion, pollution, habitat restoration, and providing for wildlife!”

Cathleen says the program changed her approach to teaching. “I now better understand not only what I am teaching, but why I am teaching and how to best connect students to the environment." She feels the program changed the way she thinks about environmental issues. “I think more evenly and impartially on issues. I also now work to understand the many pathways of why people think what they do about environmental challenges. This helps me to make personal connections about what I think and feel, which helps me as an educator.”

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

North Carolina Adapts NAAEE Guidelines for Excellence to Create AmeriCorps Program Development Toolkit

The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) has established guidelines for developing balanced, scientifically accurate and comprehensive environmental education programs and materials. These guidelines were made possible through the National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education.
In addition to using the Guidelines
for Excellence to assess new instructional workshops for its Environmental Education Certification Program, North Carolina recently adapted the guidelines to create a toolkit for AmeriCorps members who are tasked with creating environmental education programs in their service areas.

The toolkit was adapted from the North American Association for Environmental Education’s Guidelines for Excellence - Nonformal Environmental Education Programs and serves as an aid to AmeriCorps members who develop and administer environmental education programs in North Carolina.

The toolkit was developed through a partnership between the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and AmeriCorps programs hosted by Conserving Carolina (Project Conserve) and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC AmeriCorps). These AmeriCorps programs are supported by grants from the N.C. Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service in the Office of Governor Roy Cooper.

Both AmeriCorps programs have extensive reach into underserved regions of North Carolina and address community needs in education and environmental stewardship. Their training equips members to be successful in their current service and in future careers in conservation and education. 

To download the AmeriCorps Program Development Toolkit, visit the North American Association for Environmental Education's website through eePRO at https://naaee.org/eepro/resources/north-carolina-adapts-naaee-guidelines

Monday, January 8, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Kim Kelleher

Kim Kelleher, a retired school counselor and educator, recently completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program.

Kelleher says one of her favorite parts of earning her certification was traveling the state to visit environmental education facilities and the people she met along the way. She also credits the program with helping her start an “encore” or post-retirement career.

“I retired on July 1st after a forty-year career as a school counselor and educator. I am now being asked to speak at schools, meetings, community events and colleges to describe the positive impact environmental education programs and events have had on my students and school. I have been traveling since July 1st to New England, to Florida for deep sea fishing and we went to Shenandoah National Park three times for hikes and educational programs.” Kelleher is currently volunteering for multiple programs in her community and has enrolled in Duke University’s Lifelong Learning Institute.

When asked if the program led to changes in her approach to teaching, Kelleher says she saw a positive change in her students when she began taking them outdoors. “ I have been a school counselor for many years and have used various approaches in helping children, staff members and parents. When I started taking the students outside to build a nature trail, grow plants in our greenhouse and lead interpretations for other children and visitors, it changed my students in positive ways. We had an increase in attendance, a decrease in office referrals and improved academic performance, motivation and attention.”

For her community partnership project, Kelleher wrote and taught a 16-week environmental education curriculum for students at her school. “Twenty students in grades 3 - 5 participated in my program I called The Great Outdoors. My club was extremely popular and many children wanted to participate. I am currently working on publishing my program for other educators to use in their settings.”

Kelleher was awarded the N.C. Wildlife Federation’s Environmental Educator of the Year and was recognized at the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards Banquet in September 2017. She also recently accepted the award for Environmental Educator of the Year from Environmental Educators of North Carolina.

“I learned a lot from all the classes that I took. I have a better understanding of environmental issues than ever before. I myself did not receive the best science instruction growing up and therefore was never interested in many science fields as a career. I have a much better understanding of environmental issues now and the way science should and should not be taught,” says Kelleher.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Educator Spotlight: April Byrge

Non-formal educator April Byrge recently completed the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification program. April is a seasonal National Park Service ranger at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In this role, she delivers curriculum-based environmental education and citizen science programming for students of all ages – both within the park and in the classroom. She also holds interpretive programs for park visitors.

April’s favorite part of earning her certification was the community partnership project. Through this project, certification candidates get practical experience applying what they have learned. They lead partnerships that have positive and lasting effects on communities and increase environmental awareness and understanding. For her project, April started a birding program with 3rd and 4th graders at New Kituwah Academy, a Cherokee language immersion school in Cherokee, NC. 

Working with the student’s science teacher and fellow NC Certified Environmental Educator, Jessica Metz-Bugg, April developed several days’ worth of activities including birding in the field and setting up a feeder station on campus. April even coordinated a live Bird of Prey program performed by Balsam Mountain Trust. April reports that the activities went over well with the students. “The students are very excited to go birding and talk about birds and have even taught me the Cherokee names for several species.” April particularly liked that her community partnership project allowed her to spend extended time with a group of students, rather than just doing one program a year or semester with students. 

Through participating in the EE Certification program, April gained new tools that influenced how she plans for programs: “Learning about the EE curriculum guides that are available has really helped me in planning for certain programs. Now, I can look up the grade's curriculum, then find a guide like Project WILD or Project Learning Tree and find cool activities that will correlate with what they are learning in the classroom. Going through the program has given me the knowledge of many different tools that are out there that can really enrich EE programming.”

While the program reinforced April’s wildlife knowledge, it introduced her to new information about water and water conservation: “Many of the wildlife topics I was already pretty familiar with, but Project Wet was really enlightening for me. I had no idea how much water I used on a weekly basis. Going through that workshop really made me take a look at how and why to conserve water.”

To find out more about Great Smoky Mountains National Park, check out their website: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm. To learn more about the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and our certification program, visit us at www.eenorthcarolina.org.