Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Educator Spotlight: Stephanie Francis

Stephanie Francis, a nonformal educator in Western North Carolina, recently completed her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification.

When asked about her favorite part of earning her certification, Stephanie says it was the outdoor environmental education experiences. “I loved all of the outdoor experiences I took and getting to go outside and naturalize and become better acquainted with the world around me.”

Stephanie says her community partnership project was the experience that stands out for her. “My project was a special experience. I got to reconnect with one of my former employers, and provide a service for her that she had been wanting to do but didn't have time for in her busy schedule.”

For her project, Stephanie worked with the interpretive ranger at Paris Mountain State Park in South Carolina to create an educational sign for the Sulphur Springs stream access site at the park. The park, which sees 500,000 visitors a year, was having trouble with visitors building rock dams on the stream.  In addition to the signage that educates visitors on the animals living in the stream and explains why it's important not to move the rocks, she also hosted a program at the park that included a stream study and a dismantling of rock dams created by previous visitors. “The participants that came to my event received in-depth information on specific stream organisms and why those specifically benefit from the ecosystem the rocks in the stream provide. We believe that most of the people building dams and cairns in the creek are not aware of the ecological ramifications to the stream ecosystem. This project will introduce them to the fact that animals depend on the rocks for survival, and that they should stay in place.”

Stephanie says the one of the most impactful courses she took was the Universal Design for Learning workshop offered by Environmental Educators of North Carolina. “I have taken the concepts I gained from that course into all of my teaching since then, giving students more freedom of choice and hopefully making my content more accessible for all.”

Stephanie says the program changed the way she thinks about environmental issues. “It has become clearer to me that the best way to inspire environmental change is to create opportunities for people to have positive experiences in the environment.”


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