Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Educator Spotlight: Jane Shrader

Jane Shrader, a retired teacher and volunteer librarian for a school in Pitt County, has completed the NC Environmental Education Certification. In addition to volunteering as a librarian, Jane also volunteers for the after-school program and occasionally substitute teaches for the school’s upper elementary math and science teacher. In her personal time, Jane enjoys the outdoors, hiking, and learning to bird.

Jane says her favorite part of earning her certification was meeting other educators. “I enjoyed all the classes and meeting folks of like mind. I love being outdoors and learning more about our environment.” She said the instructional workshops really stood out. “The hands-on, instructional (Criteria I) classes were always a joy and well taught - from Fort FisherAquarium to Becky Skiba (NC Wildlife Resources Commission) and birds.”

Jane’s community partnership project reflected her enjoyment of the outdoors and birding. She brought citizen science programs like theGreat Backyard Bird Count and Project FeederWatch to students at the Third Street Education Center in Greenville. Jane describes Third Street Education Center’s property as an “urban forest” with 20 or more mature hardwoods, magnolias, dogwoods, green space and fruit trees.

“During my occasional volunteer times at the school, I noticed that the students, in casual conversation, knew very little about birds, habitats, or thought much about animal needs, or the effect of seasons, etc. Their ability to enjoy and understand the ‘inner-city forest’ that existed on their school grounds never went beyond playing tag and racing around. In general, the students did not appear to have much “environmental experience” let alone understanding. Many had not been to large parks, or forests, were not particularly observant of the setting around them.”

Jane’s project made a lasting impact on the students. “The use of birding activities simply opened the door for greater conversations about nature, about the environment, about specific life needs by bringing it directly into their daily setting. I am told, that even during recess, students are "looking up" and examining the trees and fence rows, looking for the different types of birds.” Her project has also impacted the adults at the school and has led to building and grounds conversations between staff about the uniqueness of their location and about how to preserve and adequately maintain the unique school site. “The adults are beginning to express an understanding of the need to preserve this place and to maintain the health of the trees.”

Jane said the certification program changed her approach to teaching. “I'm a retired teacher and I've always used hands-on lessons. But this has inspired me to be more explicit in how I teach environmental ed. I particularly love the new PLT (Project Learning Tree) book - Explore YourEnvironment - and Project WET (Water Education for Teachers). The lessons were clear and easy to use. Also loved the adaptability to different age groups.”

“The environmental education programs have had many underlying social and emotional learning emphasis. I'm more concerned about the numbers of people who never get to experience or appreciate the importance of the outdoors to our mental health. Working with inner city kids, I've been caught up in the need for kids to get out, to touch, to see, to breathe. If they never have those opportunities, they may never recognize how important the natural world is to their well-being.”

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