Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Amy Bradshaw, Environmental Educator at Haw River State Park Completes NC Environmental Education Certification

Amy Bradshaw, an environmental education instructor at Haw River State Park recently completed the NC Environmental Education Certification. Amy provides programs for students and facilitates team-building activities for students and adults. “I teach students about the environment through hands-on outdoor activities that align with the North Carolina K-12 Standard Course of Study. The wetlands are one of my favorite parts of the park to show students because of its beauty and biodiversity. I also enjoy the wetlands as a birdwatching spot.”

Amy says one of her favorite things about the program were the instructional workshops and the opportunity to meet other environmental educators and to collaborate with them during the workshops. “I really enjoyed the instructional workshops. Environmental educators know how to make training and professional development fun.” 

The community partnership project was the part of the certification experience that stood out for Amy.  “It enabled me to take the lead on a topic that I am passionate about and create engaging curriculum that will help people connect with nature.”

For her project, Amy developed a bird curriculum that will be used in future programming at Haw River State Park with visiting school groups. “Haw River State Park is a great birding spot, so I wanted to add programming specifically focusing on birds to increase visitor knowledge about birds and to inspire visitors to develop an appreciation for the diversity of birds in our area. One part of the curriculum I created was a bird hike around the park. Due to COVID-19, I had to make adjustments but I was able to provide a self-guided bird hike for visitors at the park during August. Visitors enjoyed spending time outdoors looking and listening for birds along the trails. Because this year has been so different with how environmental education programs are able to serve audiences, I also included digital components in the curriculum which include a virtual bird hike video that can be shared with school groups so they can still enjoy having a park experience even if they are unable to physically visit Haw River State Park.”

Amy said the certification program helped her find a balance in her approach to teaching. “Participating in this program helped me to find a balance between content and fun when teaching others. Content should be engaging! When learning, people – especially kids – should have opportunities to explore, make discoveries, and have meaningful experiences.” She also said the program changed the way she views environmental issues. “Instead of stressing about environmental issues, I now look at them as learning and teaching opportunities. Working with community members and other environmental educators, we can make small changes that are impactful. Also, if you want people to care for the environment and help solve environmental problems, you first have to give them opportunities to connect with the environment and learn about it.”

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