Thursday, May 31, 2018

DEQ Secretary Regan Recognizes Park Ranger Jacob Fields

DEQ Secretary Michael Regan was in Cumberland County last week and visited Carvers Creek State Park to recognize Jacob Fields for completing the department’s Environmental Education Certification Program. Fields took Regan on a tour of the park’s longleaf pine habitat and the historic Rockefeller house. Like most park rangers, Fields wears many hats. In addition to leading educational programs for school groups and the public, he is also responsible for trail maintenance, law enforcement, prescribed burns, search and rescue and other duties.  

When asked about the program experiences that stood out for him, Fields cites the Basic Interpretive Training provided by N.C. State Parks at Singletary Lake and a herpetology training offered through the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Fields says the certification exposed him to a lot of different programs offered by a variety of instructors. “The diversity helped strengthen my knowledge about conservation and why programs such as these are vital to our future,” said Fields.

In addition to recreation and conservation, Carvers Creek State Park has a mission to educate the community and visitors about the importance of the longleaf pine ecosystem that once was prevalent in the sandhills region. Fields incorporated this educational focus into his community partnership project that is required for the certification program.

For his project, Fields led a wiregrass conservation effort which involved transplanting native wiregrass on a park road that was scheduled to be widened. He worked with Boy Scouts, volunteers and staff to restore the wiregrass in an area visible to the public near the park office. 

“Educators like Jacob are essential for preserving our rich ecological heritage and for educating the public about the significance of our state’s unique ecology such as our longleaf pine ecosystem,” said Secretary Regan. “Our state park rangers manage these important lands while providing important educational opportunities for students and the public.”

By providing a readily accessible area that contains wiregrass and other native plants, it provided Fields the opportunity to teach and lead programs for the public and school groups on the longleaf pine and wiregrass ecosystem. This area is burned on a one to two-year rotation providing a unique opportunity for park staff to educate the public about the importance of prescribed fire and how restoration through fire is possible. 

“Many visitors were unaware of this unique habitat that is slowly diminishing in size due to human development and fire suppression,” said Fields “Featuring this restored plot of land allows visitors to better understand the importance of wiregrass and prescribed fire to the longleaf pine ecosystem.”  

Fields says the program changed his approach to teaching. “My approach to teaching others has incorporated more of an outline and list of objectives, which is much more organized than the programs that I taught before. At the end of my programs I have begun tying everything to the bigger picture of why we teach. If Mr. Rockefeller had let his land become developed instead of the state park that it is today, then we could not have been able to have this unique experience.”

Monday, May 14, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Janet Harrison

Janet with Sam Trogdon, Director of Bond Park, Andrew Marsden, Boat House Manager at Bond Park and John Donachie who works at Boat House with a Dogwood Tree and sign in front
Janet Harrison recently completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. Janet works part time at Walnut Creek Wetland Park developing and leading nature programs for all ages. Janet credits the certification program with allowing her to change careers.

When Janet isn’t teaching or preparing lessons, she interacts with park visitors, helps maintain the park's nature center, its trails and bird feeders. She also cares for the wide array of animals at the center including a corn snake, king snake, box turtle, blind frog and Madagascar roaches.

Janet’s favorite part of earning her certification was going to the classes, networking with other educators and experiencing different teaching methods. Janet said everyone worked together to enhance the experience of each participant. 

Working on a tree identification project at Bond Park in Cary for her community partnership project was the experience in the program that stood out for Janet. “Each person I talked with asked different questions and expressed both interest and excitement for the project. As I took pictures and analyzed them, I loved the challenge of playing with sunlight at different times of day to gain the best effect.” 

For her tree trail project, Janet used a section of trail at Bond Park that has a good sampling of the native trees in the area. She identified the trees and developed a brochure that provides key facts about the trees, their roles and benefits. Each tree was identified with a sign giving the common name of that tree. The Tree ID Trail will be centrally located along an existing trail that is close to parking, the boathouse, a picnic area and one of the existing shelters making it convenient for both organized programs and self-guided observation.  

“Many visitors come to Bond Park to enjoy walking, running and biking the trails through the trees.  With a Tree ID Trail at the center of their paths we can open a door to enhance visitors’ awareness, knowledge and understanding of trees, the role they play and where and how they are best planted to thrive.”

Janet says participating in the certification program changed her approach to teaching others. “Experiential education has always been one of my favorite ways to teach and the process of participating in the environmental education classes taught me a multitude of new techniques to add to my portfolio.  I am relishing the opportunity to apply these techniques as I develop new classes in my new role.”
Find out more about Fred G. Bond Metro Park in Cary. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Corinne Rizzo

Corinne Rizzo recently completed the Department of Environmental Quality’s N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. Corinne is a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association of Interpreters and works as an environmental educator with a focus on homeschool audiences.

Corinne says the favorite part of earning her certification was getting to see all the different host sites for our classes and meeting people from all over the state who are working toward the same goal. She does note an experience in the program that really stood out. “The experience that stands out for me is the opportunity to work closely with Tanya Poole, Emily Walker and Michelle Pearce at the Methods of Teaching Environmental Education in Chimney Rock. Being able to learn from them and then immediately turn around and receive feedback on facilitating the MOTEE workshop was very fulfilling. We are even working together again in May to co-facilitate the MOTEE program for the Central Carolina Master Naturalist Program.”

For her community partnership project, Corrinne created NatureCache, a geocaching program that focuses on nature at a local nature preserve. “The preserve was lacking a program where technology is incorporated into an experiential learning environment. The center now has a geocache rich trail, under one mile, where participants can use earth science related clues in conjunction with GPS devices to find caches and cache cards.” In addition to activities for the public, the program has modifications for school groups which includes connections to North Carolina’s curriculum standards and activities for field trips,” says Corinne.

Corrinne says the certification changed the way she thinks about environmental issues. “I think the thing that resonates with me more than anything about the program is the idea of not taking the role of advocate, but instead as the informer. Taking this role encourages conversation. Understanding that by presenting information and facilitating an outdoor experience goes beyond advocacy and is more impactful than any other approach to understanding/resolving environmental issues.”