Monday, July 27, 2020

Union County Educator, Breanna Walker, Completes the N.C. Environmental Education Certification

Breanna Walker, education specialist for Union County Soil and Water Conservation District recently completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program.

As the environmental educator for her department, Breanna is responsible for creating and providing programs and workshops for both children and adults. She also does community outreach and education within her county which includes festivals and field days. When Breanna isn’t working she enjoys reading, crocheting, and exploring new places.

Breanna says being able to travel to new locations and meet other wonderful environmental educators was the most enriching part of the certification program for her. “As a new resident of North Carolina, this program allowed me to quickly build connections with other like-minded people and provided me with the opportunity to see more of what the state has to offer overall in the field of environmental education.”

When asked what experience in the program stood out to Breanna, she said it was the extremely quick response that other educators and the Office of Environmental Education had to the COVID-19 shutdown. “Several of my certification hours were acquired during this time, and I was particularly impressed with the Criteria II (outdoor instructor-led) programs that were provided virtually by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Having these activities to focus on during the shutdown helped me stay centered and focused on environmental education. As this pandemic continues, I look forward to seeing what other ideas and opportunities emerge.”

For her community project, Breanna wanted to find a way to reach various small communities within her county during the COVID-19 pandemic. She put together a DIY Bird Feeder Contest for elementary school students and partnered with Union County Public Schools to get the information about the contest to the teachers and children. Once the students had submitted their feeders and the contest was complete, the feeders were placed at various nursing homes, senior centers, and assisted living facilities throughout the county. The residents at these facilities were provided with educational materials on common birds and the significance of feeding songbirds. She was even able to present to one group of seniors via Zoom. “It was a great experience, and I feel that it not only provided the children with a way to get involved with environmental education, but it also provided joy to the senior citizens in our county,” says Breanna.

Before participating in the certification program, Breanna says she often focused on environmental issues when teaching environmental education, but the program changed her approach to teaching. “This program has helped me take a step back and look at the communities that I am working within and has enhanced my understanding of how I can connect with them to provide programs that are better suited to their needs while still teaching about the environment. I have gained so much knowledge about different programs that can be used, and I have so many ideas for the future!”

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