Secretary Michael Regan joined a group of educators last week to award Jenna Hartley her N.C. Environmental Education Certificate. Hartley was at the Department of Environmental Quality’s Green Square Building to facilitate an EPA EnviroAtlas workshop for 25 educators from across the state.
Hartley--an ASPPH (Association of Schools and Programs for Public Health) Environmental Health Fellow hosted by the U.S. Protection Agency Office of Research and Development--was at Green Square facilitating a day-long EnviroAtlas educator workshop in partnership with DEQ’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs.
The recognition by Regan during the training was especially fitting as Hartley developed the EnviroAtlas workshop as part of earning her DEQ Environmental Education Certification.
For her fellowship at EPA, Hartley translated high-level EPA science into fun, easy-to-use K-12 educational resources, lesson plans and materials. Her N.C. Environmental Education Certification project was to design, orchestrate, and then run an educators' workshop based on the EnviroAtlas educational materials that she developed.
“The workshop is six hours long and teachers leave the workshop with access to hands-on activities that all involve a portion using technology and a portion outside in nature,” says Hartley. The workshop was also held earlier in the month at the EPA campus at Research Triangle Park, and will serve as a model for future workshops.
“We appreciate Jenna for her work taking EPA science and creating K-12 educational resources that help teachers make critical connections for their students between ecosystems and health,” said Regan.
Hartley says participating in the certification program changed her approach to teaching others.
“At every workshop that I attended, I took notes on what I considered to be ‘Best Practices.’ I then used those best practices to build my own workshop, so the programs for the certification directly fed into my teaching and my work.”
Hartley’s ASPPH fellowship at EPA concludes in August. From there, she will begin a PhD program in the College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University, working specifically on environmental education research. She credits the DEQ Environmental Education Certification Program with changing her career path. “This program has obviously made me a better teacher, but it has also empowered me to feel like I can make other teachers more confident about using the freely-available, high-tech EPA tools in their classroom. That has been indescribably rewarding.”
Hartley was pursuing Spanish and soccer in college when a chance trip to help a roommate sample invasive species along the banks of the Colorado River resulted in her changing her major to geology and later getting a Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences and Engineering.
She credits that one outdoor experience with changing her life. Now in her role as an environmental educator, she encourages other educators to provide those pivotal hands-on environmental experiences for their students.
“Keep creating tangible, awe-inspiring moments of environmental education that might change the lives of kids that look back fondly fifteen-plus years later and can remember the exact environmental education moment that changed the entire course of their lives.”