Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Educator Spotlight: Carrie Harmon

Carrie Harmon recently earned her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification. She is an education ranger with the North Carolina Forest Service at Turnbull Creek Educational State Forest in Elizabethtown, North Carolina. When Carrie is not managing the forest through prescribed burns, weed control, and soil and water management, she is teaching visiting groups about forestry.

Carrie said that her favorite part of the program was exploring new Environmental Education Centers across the state and learning about existing environmental education resources. A workshop at the Carolina Beach State Park especially stands out, where she took a bat workshop and skulls, tracks and scat workshop. "The identification handouts were really helpful, and I have used the information given when I teach classes at the forest."

Her community partnership project focused on increasing environmental literacy within Bladen County. She did this by setting up a Little Free Library at Jones Lake State Park and organizing a Summer Read and Hike Day to celebrate the official opening of the Free Library. "By stocking the library with books geared toward environmental literacy, citizens will hopefully become more aware and sensitive to problems in the environment and will have the knowledge to tackle them." Community members donated books focusing on nature and the environment and were integral in the success of Bladen County's first Little Free Library. "I wanted residents of Bladen County to have something that they could claim ownership of; something that was a lasting impact on the community. The out-pour of book donations from community members and local organizations has been incredible."

The Environmental Education Certification program provided Carrie with new resources and methodologies that she can apply to her work as a ranger. "I have gained so many resources for teaching thanks to EE Certification. I would never have attended all the fascinating workshops at all the various EE Centers if I hadn't gone through the program. Now, I have a plethora of guides, fact sheets, web links, workbooks, and tools to use in my teaching. This helps to broaden the information that I give in my classes."

Carrie also says that the program impacted her own interactions with the environment. "'I've definitely become more aware of the interrelationships of systems within the environment. A change in one thing, whether it's a population of an insect species or the temperature of a stream, can cause a ripple effect and change other things. This awareness has evolved my own interaction with the environment, hopefully for the better."

Monday, July 29, 2019

Educator Spotlight: Diane Mason

Congratulations to Diane Mason for completing the Environmental Education Certification program! Diane is a nonformal educator at Agape Center for Environmental Education where she leads field trips and teaches hands-on activities for all grade levels, from Kindergarten through high school.

Diane loves being outside and helping students experience "the wonders and mysteries of nature." Her favorite part of the certification process was the variety of classes offered and the opportunity to learn new teaching techniques. "I have loved all the different criteria and am so glad the program has multiple facets of learning."

For her Community Partnership project, Diane created a curriculum entitled "Monarch and Milkweed" for schools in the Triangle area including Lincoln Heights Magnet Elementary, an Environmental Connections Magnet School in Wake County. Diane's lessons centered around teaching students about Monarch butterflies and the importance of milkweed. Diane provided materials for students to plant their own milkweed plants and materials for teachers to develop pollinator gardens, along with associated lessons. "I saw an opportunity to really connect the lesson to [students] through hands-on models and the planting of seeds for milkweed plants and coneflowers. I was able to work with a variety of age groups and abilities at area schools. The feedback from the students, teachers and parents allowed me to see the positive ripple effects of the project."

Diane says that the program broadened her approach to teaching. "The two required workshops, Basics of Environmental Education and Methods of Teaching Environmental Education, challenged me to reevaluate my teaching methods. They have caused me to be more broad-minded and more adaptable in my teaching. More often now, I find myself trying to look at the lesson as a child might perceive it."

As an environmental educator, Diane believes it is important to instill a love of nature in children through these hands-on experiences. "On seeing the caterpillar and chrysalis on the milkweed for the first time, one fourth-grader kept saying, "Is this really real? I mean really, really real? Like alive and real?"

Friday, July 26, 2019

Asheville Teacher Receives Governor's Conservation Achievement Award for Environmental Educator of the Year

Congratulations to Lily Dancy-Jones for winning the Environmental Educator of the Year Award. This award is a part of the Governor's Conservation Achievement Awards presented by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. Each year, the N.C. Wildlife Federation honors individuals who work to protect North Carolina's wildlife and natural resources.

Dancy-Jones, a high school biology teacher in Asheville was recognized for her efforts to increase awareness of pollinators their habitats in her community and surrounding areas. Dancy-Jones completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification program in 2018 and for her community partnership project, she created an educational pollinator garden at Erwin High School and worked with students and other local organizations to build awareness about the importance of pollinators. Along with this work, she also founded an Eco Club at her school and chairs the steering committee for Youth for Environmental Stewardship.

You can read more about this year's Governor's Conservation Achievement Awards here and see more details about Lily's experience with the Certification program here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Secretary Regan Recognizes Ranger at Crowders Mountain State Park

Secretary Michael Regan visited Crowders Mountain State Park last week to award the North Carolina Environmental Education Certificate to park ranger Joshua Oksnevad.

“I was inspired by ranger Oksnevad’s passion for the mission of North Carolina’s state parks,” said Regan, who was given a tour and overview of the park on his visit. “I thank ranger Oksnevad for his service, sharing his journey, and for educating our young people.”

Oksnevad created programming for the park service’s Interpretation and Education database so park rangers will have access to materials on issues ranging from camping and safety to waterfowl, owls and elk. Whether it’s at Jockey’s Ridge at the coast or Elk Knob in the mountains, every park will benefit from the new programming.

Oksnevad is especially proud that while these programs will be directly utilized by other rangers, ultimately they will enhance the experience of visitors of all ages by engaging them on subjects that are fun, diverse and related to environmental education.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Educator Spotlight: Lauren Huffstetler

Lauren Huffstetler recently earned her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification. Lauren is a natural resources assistant at McDowell Nature Center in Charlotte where she provides environmental programming for school groups, summer camps and visitors.

Lauren says the best part of earning her certification was the diversity of science topics offered. “From birding to plant identification to stream investigations, I was able to explore so many different types of ecosystems from the mountains to the coast. Receiving resources to use in my own programming as well as networking with fellow environmental educators was so beneficial.”

When asked about a stand-out moment in the program, Lauren notes an Advanced WILD workshop on raptors provided by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. “I was able to meet a beautiful Red-tailed hawk and learn more about the sport of falconry. Participants were even able to practice falconry skills by handling some of the raptors with trained professionals.”

For her community partnership project, Lauren coordinated Alamance Creek Week, an opportunity for many organizations throughout Alamance County to engage in a week-long observance of the importance of our local wetlands and waterways. She coordinated the participation of local businesses, families, clubs, schools, and neighborhoods associations in volunteer activities such as paddle cleanups and litter pickups, educational events such as waste management tours, interpretive trail walks, and rain garden workshops as well as recreational activities that ranged from wine and design with a water theme to fun water-themed trivia. “Creek Week events gave residents the opportunity to get their hands dirty, do some hands-on learning, and have some fun contributing to the health of their watershed.”

Lauren said the program led to changes in the way she approaches teaching. “Environmental education should spark curiosity of the natural world and create spaces for students to participate in experiential learning. The environmental education courses were a great reminder that I am an ambassador for the environment and it's my job to instill a love for nature and the outdoors in my audiences, so they too will choose to protect and preserve our natural spaces.”

Lauren also says the program changed the way she views environmental issues. “While I was an avid environmental enthusiast before starting the certification, the courses and programs I attended broadened my horizons to new ideas and deepened my knowledge on topics I had not previously studied.”