Thursday, December 6, 2018

Educator Spotlight: Kelly Nields

Congratulations to Kelly Nields on completing the N.C. Environmental Education Certification. Kelly is a zookeeper at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. Kelly has worked at the zoo for over 12 years taking care of grizzly bears, black bears, elk, bison, and American red wolves.

When asked about highlights from the certification program, Kelly said, "My favorite part of earning my certification was having my eyes opened to all the great educational and outdoor experiences that our state offers! The best part was that for most of my experiences that earned my certification, I was able to bring along my family to experience it with me." Kelly has a young son, and she enjoyed the opportunity to get him involved in environmental education. "Being able to share in those experiences with him and to see his excitement about nature and the environment was something I will always be grateful for and will never forget!"

For her community partnership project, Kelly created a pollinator garden at her son's school, the Childcare Network of Adams Farm in Greensboro. The lessons she learned in the certification program helped Kelly recognize a need for environmental education at her son's school. "After speaking with my son's PreK teacher, I learned they didn't have a lot of outdoor environmental curriculum.  I spoke with individual teachers as well as directors about creating an outdoor learning environment that could benefit the children and teachers long after my son graduates to kindergarten."

To pay for the materials for the pollinator garden, Kelly applied for and received a grant from her local chapter of the American Association of Zookeepers. She also partnered with the All-A-Flutter butterfly farm in High Point. Kelly provided the school with a planter box and the student helped with planting and maintaining the garden. In addition, Kelly helped the school's teachers develop resources for teaching students about the importance of pollinators. "We also saw [the garden] as a great way to encourage parents to talk to their kids about pollinators and ways they could help at home once outside the classroom."

Kelly said that by completing the certification program, she developed "...a commitment to provide accurate and balanced factual information. To not muddy the message with a particular view point." Most importantly, she concluded, "I better understand my responsibility as an environmental educator."

To learn more about the N.C. Environmental Education Certification, visit the Office of Environmental Education website

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