Thursday, August 22, 2019

Educator Spotlight: Chandler Holland

Congratulations to Chandler Holland for completing the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification program. Holland is a sophomore at Warren Wilson College, where she is pursuing an Integrated Studies major and Business minor. She is also developing a community organization called Red Ridge, NC which serves to engage, educate and employ the local community through their programs and micro business opportunities.

The multi-day workshops that Holland participated in stood out as her favorite parts of the certification program. She found the "Heart-Based Environmental Education Training" at Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute particularly influential. In this workshop, Holland learned about the 8 Shields Program, which she credits with increasing her connection to nature and providing her with tools to share that connection with others. Holland also enjoyed the Certified Interpretive Guide training because "the focus on interpretation rather than education opened up an entire other part of sharing  information and creating engagement that I hadn't really thought about before."

For her community partnership project, Holland created the Saxapahaw Island Park Nature Bingo activity which uses the local flora and fauna on bingo playing cards. These cards use photographs from the trails and riverbanks of the park to encourage both children and adults to engage directly with the nature on the island." The project will enhance each visitor's experience in the park, as it encourages exploration beyond the playground and onto the many trails through the more natural areas." Additionally, participants are encouraged to share their findings on Instagram and Pinterest to increase the reach of the project and catalog findings.

The certification program provided Holland with a structure to further develop her teaching experiences and taught her different forms of teaching. "Though I have been a non-formal educator since I was 10 years old, I had never really been given a structure to form my teaching experiences around. Through the certification program, I have been given access to multiple formats to mold and combine into what I need and they are invaluable resources into developing my approach to teaching."

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Educator Spotlight: Erin Crouse

Erin Crouse recently earned her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification. Crouse is a conservation manager with The Conservation Fund, working on community projects that focus on conservation and economic development. Through this role, she leads environmental education programs that connect people to local agriculture at Good Hope Farm

When asked about her favorite part of the program, Crouse said that she enjoyed learning more about North Carolina flora and fauna and connecting with other educators through the courses. In particular, she enjoyed teaching third graders about vermicomposting and pollinators, putting the skills she learned to practice. 

For her community partnership project, Crouse created a native plant arbor at the Merriwood Apartments' community garden in Cary. She worked with the Town of Cary and property management at the apartment complex to identify a high impact project. The garden is a new project between the partners and the arbor brought an integral educational component. Crouse also worked with Boy Scouts and Cary Teen Council members to construct the arbor. "The arbor build raises awareness of the importance of pollinators to our environment and allows Merriwood residents to learn more about the native plants that support pollinators. It also increases knowledge of how pollination works, and how pollinator species pollinate crops in the garden, helping grow food."

Crouse also found that, as she spends more time out in the field, she better understands "the complexity of the issues we face with our environment, and that there is not one solution, but many people working together." She also found that the certification program increased her confidence as an educator. "I'm now more relaxed in a teaching setting and am better able to handle questions that come my way."

Monday, August 12, 2019

Educator Spotlight: Bruce Young

Congratulations to Bruce Young on completing the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. Young is a board member for the Virginia Association for Environmental Education, the Virginia state affiliate of the North American Association for Environmental Education.

Young currently serves as director-at-large for the association and chairs the association’s communications and outreach action team, serves as co-chair for their 2020 conference and represents the association on the Virginia Environmental Education Certification Advisory Board.

In his free time, Young designs costumes and props for local community theater productions and is a volunteer with the Rivanna Conservation Alliance providing instruction during field trips with local school groups. He also enjoys exploring Virginia’s local parks and nature centers such as Shenandoah National Park with his camera, binoculars and field guides.

When asked about his favorite part of earning his certification, Bruce says there was so much that stood out for him. “I think that being able to attend trainings across North Carolina and explore my home state's natural and cultural history was really exciting for me. Also meeting so many wonderful people at various trainings and events was really exciting for me.”

Bruce did note two specific experiences that stood out for him during the certification process. One was a Colonial and Native American Games Workshop at Stone Mountain State Park with Brian Bockhahn, a regional education specialist with North Carolina State Parks. The other experience was a trip to the Sandhills to learn about the longleaf pine ecosystem. Young was able to see a red-cockaded woodpecker at Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve and to view a pitch, tar, and turpentine demonstration while learning about the history of the naval store industry in North Carolina.

For Young’s community partnership project, he used the North American Association’s Environmental Education Guidelines for Professional Development to create a workshop for Virginia’s Environmental Education Certification program. Young says the workshop serves as the "kick-off" for educators interested in becoming Virginia Certified Environmental Educators and provided a baseline for best practices in environmental education. “Prior to this workshop, there was very little professional development available for non-formal educators that weren't purely curriculum or programmatic in focus. This workshop provides the tools for environmental educators at all levels to self-assess their work, programs, and teaching styles to see where they may excel or may want to explore areas of growth.”

When asked if participating in North Carolina’s certification program led to any changes in his approach to teaching, Young said it had brought his focus closer to home. “Much of my teaching is very focused now on the bioregion that I am in which previously would have focused on ecosystems or animals elsewhere. I also have increased my comfort working with early child audiences due to the various workshops like Growing Up WILD and the PLT Early Childhood Guide that have become the backbone of much of my freelance work.”

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Educator Spotlight: Ashley Meredith

Ashley Meredith just completed her N.C. Environmental Education Certification. Ashley is the program coordinator at the Durham Public Schools Hub Farm, an outdoor educational facility for the school district.

Her favorite part of earning her certification was "meeting other folks working towards their certification... I enjoyed networking with others as well as brainstorming to fix common issues that arise at our workplaces." Ashley also found the Methods of Teaching Environmental Education course to be useful since she didn't previously have any formal training in education. "It was nice to have a more formal class to learn about some childhood developmental stages as well as different techniques for teaching outdoors."

For her community partnership project, Ashley planned and hosted the Hub Farm Spring Festival on World Bee Day, an event that highlighted teachers' outdoor education projects and fun on the farm. Ashley wanted to raise awareness of the Hub Farm and the resources it offers to community members and teachers. She partnered with BOLD (Building Outdoor Learning in Durham) fellows, teachers who had won mini-grants to do outdoor education projects at their schools. She also worked with other community groups in outdoor education to provide activities like canoeing, tree climbing, and arts and crafts. "By providing space and activities for families and individuals to have positive experiences outdoors, especially younger children, we hope that we helped shape their values and attitudes regarding the outdoors."

Ashley found that the certification program impacted how she plans for lessons. "I see the value in planning and practicing lessons as well as preparing an exceptional learning environment. I also know that there is a lot of curriculum out there, so when looking for something new, I don't try to reinvent the wheel, but instead try to modify other lessons that already exist."