Emma Refvem a graduate student, working toward a PhD in Science Education at NC State University completed the state’s Environmental Education Certification program this week. Emma is a research assistant for Dr. Gail Jones and is researching how family science experiences influence career choice and why people are motivated to choose science teaching as a career.
Before pursuing her graduate degree, Emma worked for eight years at Riverside High School in Durham as an Earth/Environmental Science teacher and spent a summer serving as the naturalist at the Eno River State Park. She currently serves on the Teacher Advisory Committee for the NC Energy Literacy Fellows. “My teaching passions include incorporating technology into science lessons, organizing large groups of people with spreadsheets, and capitalizing on the joy and genius of high school students.”
One experience that stands out for Emma during her certification was a Box Turtle class at Medoc Mountain State Park in which she found and marked box turtles around the park. “I had never been given an opportunity to participate in that kind of field science and especially didn't feel confident I would know how to find a turtle. But I found one! It was a lot of fun to work on that team throughout the morning.”
Emma says that as a formal educator, she was very uncomfortable with informal science education at first. She didn't know what to do with non-captive willing adults who just wanted to learn for the sake of learning but instead was more familiar working within a curriculum and learning to spark excitement and wonder in all types of students. “I have since learned to see how to capitalize on the willingness of the people who come to informal settings to learn, and have seen the importance on creating amazing spaces for families and people of all ages to enjoy and learn from nature. It helped my formal education to remember that figuring out how to incorporate outdoor learning and activities that capitalize on our local environment can only help these students by getting them excited and engaged.”
Emma says she has developed a deeper understanding of how to approach different types of learners, which helps her to think about the best ways to communicate to people about the importance of protecting our environment. “Figuring out how to approach and overcome barriers that different people may have to certain areas of environmental science (like climate science, for example) has helped me to think more critically about environmental education initiatives, and now that I am in the role of a researcher, it helps me analyze research on how people approach environmental education more critically.”