Audrey Dunn, Outreach and Programs Officer at Cape Fear River Watch recently completed her NC Environmental Education Certification. Audrey manages Cape Fear River Watch’s citizen science water quality monitoring program, CreekWatchers and their Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement program in partnership with the New Hanover County chapter of the NAACP. She coordinates monthly watershed cleanups, teaches about stormwater runoff and pollution to middle schoolers, trains interns on field and lab work to monitor water quality, and gives outreach presentations to community groups. In her personal time, Audrey serves on the board of Keep New Hanover Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, and enjoys hiking, camping, paddling, reading, and practicing yoga.
Audrey says her favorite part about certification was meeting other educators. “I mostly just enjoyed meeting other environmental educators and learning about what sort of work they do and gaining inspiration from them. I also particularly immensely enjoyed reading Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv which spurred me on to finish my certification and to be the best environmental educator possible.”
When asked about an experience that stood out for her, Audrey says it was the two-day Methods of Teaching Environmental Education Workshop that she took. “I attended with quite a few of my Americorps cohort educators, and it was just really great to be surrounded by like-minded people, learn more about my friends, and spend time at Haw River State Park.”
For her community partnership project, Audrey developed the Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement program at Cape Fear River Watch. “I think the project has been helpful in amplifying the voices of people of color in front of our predominantly white membership-base, and in creating space for knowledge sharing and discussion about issues not typically acknowledged or realized by many older, environmentalists in our town. We hosted a seminar, film screening and panel discussion about environmental justice, I wrote an article for a local publication about EJ issues in our town, and we held a couple of events at a local park to facilitate discussions about environmental injustices experienced by community members here in Wilmington. I'm not sure how it's affected our community so far, and the project is still ongoing, but I hope it opened some people's eyes to the deeply entrenched connection between environmental issues and social justice issues.”
When asked if the program changed her approach to teaching, Audrey says it changed her entire approach. “I never taught environmental education prior to participating in this certification program, so my entire approach to it was really guided by the workshops I took and the educators I met while getting my certification. It definitely affected how I posed questions, how I structured activities, and it increased my own enjoyment of seeing kids playing out in nature.”
Audrey says it also changed the way she viewed environmental issues. “I definitely think about all of these issues as less so about 'environmentalism' and more so as about providing skills, knowledge, and tools to the people around me so that they can make informed decisions about how they are going to live their lives.”