E.J. Dwigans, an Educational Ranger with the NC Forest Service at Holmes Educational State Forest in Hendersonville recently completed the NC Environmental Education Certification.
E.J. helps manage the 235-acre property that includes educational exhibits as well as picnic and camping facilities in addition to providing public and school programming. “We educate students of all grade levels as well as the general public about a variety of nature related subjects including forest management, fire ecology, water quality, wildlife, and the history of our site going back to the 1930's.”
E.J. says his favorite part of the program was meeting other nonformal educators from across the state and learning from their experiences. “Listening to some of the limitations and challenges others face at their site has helped put some of the things I consider problems here at Holmes ESF into perspective.” He particularly enjoyed the overnight workshops such as the Investigating Your Environment and Project Learning Tree facilitator trainings. “I've made some great friends in the EE community by talking around a campfire after hours.”
E.J. said that no one at the school could tell him the name of the creek that flowed through the property and that the trail crossed over so he handmade a "Perry Creek" sign for the bridge crossing the creek and provided educational resources to school staff to help them teach students about their local watershed.
E.J. says the program also changed the way he views environmental issues. “I've advocated for environmental issues since I was a kid. If anything, this program has expanded my understanding of complex environmental issues and helped me think more realistically when it comes to solutions as opposed to reading about an issue and its suggested solutions without knowing anyone that is affected by the issue.”