Friday, October 9, 2020

Lillie Reiter, Instructor at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher Completes Her Environmental Education Certification

Lillie is a nonformal environmental educator with a background in marine biology and ecology. She is an outreach instructor at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher currently on furlough due to the pandemic. Her work at the aquarium includes taking ambassador animals and other educational experiences out to students and adults in the surrounding community. Lillie is an AmeriCorps alumni and serves on the board of the Mid-Atlantic Marine Education Association as scholarship chair. She is interested in issues related to environmental justice, equity, and inclusion. In her personal time, she likes to bake, garden and to go on outdoor adventures. 

Lillie says one of her favorite things about earning her certification beyond the knowledge she gained was the networking opportunities. “I met wonderful environmental enthusiasts and educators which led to making friends and career network connections. I'd look forward to seeing the same people class to class and would often fall into a comfortable discussion of the topic quickly.” She says another exciting part of certification was the actual fieldwork included in the classes. “I've participated in activities such as bat mist netting, dissecting owl poop and counting flower buds for national data collection. I was able to put the skills into use after having just learned them and it was very helpful.”

The community partnership project was the aspect of the program that stood out for Lillie. Her project was at Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve in Wilmington NC. The nature preserve is used for recreation as and as a learning forest for the college of UNC Wilmington. Hurricane Florence flooded a large section of the preserve which devastated recently planted native longleaf pine trees and changed the course of the many walking trails. “Working with my Conservation Trust of North Carolina AmeriCorps host site, The Coastal Land Trust, and UNCW's Environmental Studies program, I organized multiple volunteer workdays to plant hundreds of new longleaf pines, clear trails, and bring awareness to the wonderful teaching space. Members of the community engaged in place-based environmental volunteering, the Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve got a spotlight in the community for being a teaching forest, and native trees were given a boost in the ecosystem.”

When asked how the certification changed her approach to teaching Lillie says there was one workshop that really had an impact. “Multiple classes during this process had a hand in shaping the way I teach environmental education currently, however, I feel the biggest impact came from K-12 Guidelines for Excellence (offered by Environmental Educators of North Carolina). The main lesson I learned was how to teach for environmental literacy, going beyond the state standards. I also learned how to assess my own environmental literacy, encourage critical thinking skills in students, and how being interdisciplinary can improve programs.”

Lillie says the program changed the way she thinks about environmental issues. “The way I think about environmental issues has deepened and become more multi-faceted. I'm able to research topics more thoroughly because I have more resources and engage in a discussion considering all sides. One big topic I've become aware of that's changed my life drastically is single-use plastics. I've changed the way I store food, the items I purchase at grocery stores, and the way I talk about it to students after learning so much through this certification.”

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