She teaches a variety of science and nature programs for students PreK through 5th grades, both in the school setting and at various parks throughout the city. “Most of our students are visiting the parks on a field trip, and I absolutely love helping the young people (as well as their adult chaperones) discover and explore nature with hands-on activities! I simply can't get enough of dip-netting in a pond, looking for insects in a meadow, or sharing our reptiles with eager learners.”
Laurie’s favorite part of earning her certification was working with the City of Raleigh Teen Outreach Program (TOPS) to complete her community partnership project. She worked with young people in the TOPS program and their counselors to paint murals of North Carolina native butterflies on the concrete sewer risers along a section of the Greenway trail south of Shelley Lake. Laurie’s project was featured on an ABC Channel 11 news broadcast, “Citizen-led public art project turns sewer risers on Raleigh greenway into a canvas.”
“I was surprised to hear so many positive comments from Greenway users, saying that they enjoyed and appreciated the nature art in this much-used space. I was glad to help arrange a project that benefited the young artists, many of whom had not been aware of the greenways before, and that helped beautify and provide nature awareness for a range of greenway users for years to come! Her project helped the teens spend meaningful time outdoors learning about native species, beautified outdoor structures along a well-visited corridor, and educated the public about some of the butterflies they may glimpse while using the Greenway.
Laurie says that one experience that stood out for her was from a bird identification program. Over a period of about four hours, her group identified approximately 50 species of bird within Durant Nature Preserve. “It was an amazing experience for me because about half of those species were migratory ones I'd never seen before. It was a special experience to bond with others who were equally excited about exploring nature, and the first time I officially went birding."
After completing the certification program, Laurie says she is much more aware of the components of effective environmental education. “I know that environmental education goes beyond sharing information, and that it can ideally lead to changes in participants’ attitudes and empower people with the skills to make changes. It provided me with so many ideas to make lessons effective for different audiences!”