Mary Hannah Cline recently completed the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. Cline is a first grade teacher at Pioneer Springs Community School, a nature-based charter school in Charlotte.
Cline says her favorite part of the program was meeting other educators at the instructional workshops. “I always really liked the sense of camaraderie and friendship at all of the instructional workshops. I always met the most fascinating and like-minded people, and each time I found myself searching for some program or unique school that I learned about from meeting somebody at the workshop.”
The night hikes and owl prowls are environmental education experiences that stand out for Cline. “It’s so peaceful walking in the dark by moonlight once your eyes have adjusted, even though you don’t think they will at first! When an instructor calls an owl and they actually respond back? Pure magic. I get chills every time.”
For her community partnership project, Cline applied for and received at PTA grant to establish a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat at Green Hope Elementary School in Wake County. She noticed that the students were seeking out ways to connect with the natural world and hoped that the creation of an outdoor education space would provide an opportunity for the students to have a meaningful experience with nature that they may not get otherwise. “I believe adding this feature to the school will provide a venue for teachers to meet curricular goals through authentic experiences in nature,” said Cline. Cline encouraged the staff at the school to use the habitat for citizen science projects such as Project FeederWatch, The Great Backyard Bird Count and eBird.
Cline says participating in the certification program made her more of an “out of the box” teacher who encourages students to engage in activities that are purely exploratory in nature. “While I feel that I have grown tremendously in my knowledge of the natural world through completing this program, I feel that this program has also shown me that curiosity is more important than knowledge. Closely inspecting the features of a found mystery creature together with a child to figure out what to search for is such a powerful experience.”