Friday, August 20, 2021

Melissa Kennedy, Land and Water Access Specialist at the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, Completes NC Environmental Education Certification

Melissa assists with coordinating the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) land acquisition process by working with WRC field staff, external partners, and the State Property Office. She also helps write and manage land acquisition grants. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring trails and waterways across the state.

When asked about her favorite part of the certification program, Melissa says it was developing new personal and professional relationships. “I met so many people who are passionate about conservation and environmental education through this program. I particularly enjoyed seeing the same people at different workshops; it created a sense of community and camaraderie. It also exposed me to resources I didn't know about and provided professional contacts for future collaborations.”

Melissa says there were many experiences that she wouldn’t have had without the certification program, but one that stands out: the two-day NC Aquatic Data Hub stream monitoring workshop. “I learned so much about aquatic invertebrates and water quality which helped me understand our waterways better while giving me more context to teach water quality programs. One of my favorite programs to teach was a stream studies program because many kids would start out not wanting to get wet or they would be intimidated by looking for invertebrates, but by the end they wouldn't want to leave the stream. I felt that program was a great intro into bigger picture ideas, was engaging, and was highly educational. The NC Aquatic Data Hub workshop provided me with personal knowledge that helped me teach stream studies better.”

For her community partnership project, Melissa partnered with Duke Gardens and worked with Kavanah Anderson and Kati Henderson to create a virtual "bingo sheet" of activities that could be done outside anywhere and encourages all ages to participate. “The goal was to have accessible self-guided activities to engage a variety of audiences. We launched the activity in conjunction with the Triangle Learning Days festival. The activities are now available on Duke garden's website for anyone and can be used on- site to explore the garden. Our hope is that the community in Durham/the Triangle area would feel empowered to explore the nature right outside their homes and would in turn feel more connected to it and seek to make changes to protect it.”

Melissa says the certification program changed her approach to teaching in many ways. “I was an inexperienced educator when I began the program. Taking the workshops, especially any of the WRC’s Advanced Wild workshops, increased my knowledge of North Carolina ecology which made me more confident in my ability to convey that information accurately. The certification gave me many fun activity ideas which I implemented across all age groups. Working with others and hearing their perspectives and advice provided me with new tools for handling groups and challenging situations. I am now a much more confident and effective educator because of the certification program!”

Melissa says the program changed the way she viewed environmental issues. “Prior to the certification I knew that I cared about environmental issues and that education was an effective tool for teaching others to care, but I didn't see how connected those issues were to so many facets of everyday life. I also didn't understand as much about environmental justice and the implications of environmental issues for people of color. The classes, activities, and especially talking with other educators showed me just how far-reaching environmental issues can be.”

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