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Professor's Project Provides Environmental Education to Children and Families in Watauga County


Laura England
Laura England teaches environmental science courses at Appalachian State University. She was already involved with mentoring and outreach to teachers and students in her community, so working with undergraduate students to establish a new student organization for environment education was a logical fit for her environmental education certification project.

Laura led a group of ASU students in founding a new organization, the Sustainability andEnvironmental Education Club. “As an instructor and academic advisor, every semester I had a number of students from various majors tell me that they were interested in environmental education.” The club’s membership now includes more than 100 university students from twelve different departments within the university, including students majoring in education, recreation management, sustainable development, appropriate technology, environmental science, biology, geology, geography, anthropology and more.

The club reaches children throughout Watauga County and has partnered with a variety of community-based organizations such as Kiwanis Kids, The Children’s Playhouse (the local children’s museum) and the Valle Crucis Extended Learning Center to engage youth in the community and increase environmental awareness. Last year alone the club reached two thousand local children and families.

Some of the ASU club members
In addition to giving students hands-on environmental education experience, club members are involved with community-based projects such as installing a learning garden at a local preschool. Members engaged the students with lessons throughout the process of planning, building and caring for the garden. Laura also helped the student leaders secure a small grant to expand the learning garden initiative.

When asked what certification experience stands out for Laura, she said, “I was fortunate to earn many of my hours for outdoor experiences through the museum’s Yellowstone institute. It was such a once in a lifetime trip and learning opportunity that renewed my passion for environmental education.” The trip to Yellowstone National Park is one of the Educators of Excellence Institutesoffered to outstanding educators by the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

Laura said that participating in the certification program had led to changes in her approach to teaching. “Much of my teaching has been, by necessity, lecture-based and in the classroom. But just this summer I taught a new watershed protection course that was all outdoors and hands-on. I hope to do more of this kind of teaching in the future.”

“I am even more committed to education and outreach on environmental issues than before. I feel buoyed by the growing network of educators who share this commitment, and feel more optimistic that we are collectively making a difference.”

To read more about Laura, visit the website here.

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North Carolina Student Receives President’s Environmental Youth Award


Congratulations to Sharon Chen from Durham on receiving the President’s Environmental Youth Award!

Today, the White House Council on Environmental Quality together with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized the winners and honorable mentions of the annual President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) and Presidential Innovation Awards for Environmental Educators (PIAEE). Sharon Chen, a junior from Durham, N.C., was among the 44 students and 27 teachers from across the country who were honored during a ceremony at the White House for outstanding contributions to environmental education and stewardship.

“To solve our future environmental challenges, young people need to understand the science behind the natural world—and create a personal connection to the outdoors,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “These teachers and students are demonstrating the important role of environmental education, and showing how individual actions can help address climate change, protect the air we breathe, and safeguard the water we drink.”

Chen was the recipient of a PEYA award for her project, “A Green and Novel Technology for Recovering Copper and Wood from Treated Wood Waste—Part 1.” The PEYA awards celebrate student leadership in service projects to protect the environment and build a livable, sustainable global community. The technology Chen developed has the potential to save millions of tons of wood and copper from the landfill—protecting the environment, saving natural resources, and benefitting generations to come. Chen, now a junior at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, completed the project while she was a sophomore at North Mecklenburg High School.

From the EPA press release. Go here for the full press release and to read
more about Chen’s project and about all the recipients visit EPA’s website 
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Brunswick Community College To Offer Nature & History Interpretive Guide Program


Did you know the BCC mascot is the Dolphins?
Here is another community college partnership related to environmental education! Brunswick Community College's Continuing Education and Economic and Workforce Development Program is offering several classes this fall that focus on ecotourism. One of the new offerings is a 114-hour course that provides a Nature and History Interpretive Guide Certificate. The program is designed for job seekers looking for employment in nature-based tourism and for those interested in starting ecotourism businesses. 

The college also plans to encourage their program participants to enroll in the N.C. Environmental Education Certification program. The college has worked with the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs to ensure that most of the individual ecotourism classes, as well as most of the hours in the Interpretive Guide program, can also count as credit hours toward N.C. Environmental Education Certification. 

For more information on the programs or to find out how to enroll, see the Brunswick Community College CHOICES publication (page 6, under "EcoTourism) or contact Marilyn Graham, Coordinator of the Sustainability through Innovation Leadership Center. 
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What a Hoot! Texas Park Ranger Completes Her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification


Kate Boysen served as an AmeriCorps member for North Carolina State Parks doing education and outreach for adults and children. While she was working on her environmental education certification in North Carolina, Kate was hired as an park ranger at Blanco State park with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Kate continued to earn credits towards her certification after relocating to Texas and as part of her community-based project, she became the leader of the Owl Watch Program at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The center needed someone to develop and lead programs about the great horned owls that nest on a ledge near the entrance to the gardens.  

The owl had nested at the center in the past, but the center did not have the staff to provide regular programming. Kate not only led some of the programs but she developed interpretive materials and trained volunteers to lead programs on their own. “The program educated and gave the public an opportunity to see an owl raising her owlets. It taught the community to respect wildlife and how to observe wildlife properly,” Kate said.

When asked how participating in the Environmental Education Certification Program led to changes in her approach to teaching, Kate said, “One way my approach changed was now I always relate my program to the audience. Before going through this program I would get caught up in giving too much information. This certification has also taught me about themes and organization.”

To read more about Kate’s experiene in the program, go here
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Community College Partners with N.C. Zoo on Outdoor Learning Course


Randolph Community College’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education Division is partnering with the North Carolina Zoo’s Playful Pedagogy program to offer “Play, Learning, and the Outdoors,” a class for teachers and other professionals who work with children to acquire fresh perspectives on their approach to engaging with young people outdoors.

Participants will explore the importance of wondering alongside children as a way of encouraging and guiding exploration and discovery of the outdoor environment. The primary focus of the 5-hour course is to connect theory with practice using hands-on activities and informal discussions.

The course will meet from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at the North Carolina Zoo. Participants can choose one of the following dates: Friday, June 26; Friday, July 10; Friday, July 24; Friday, Aug. 7; or Monday, Aug. 10. The cost is $25.

To learn more and to preregister, contact RCC at 336-633-0268. Preregistration is required.

Playful Pedagogy, part of the North Carolina Zoo’s Education Division, functions as an umbrella for the Zoo’s play programs.

(reprinted with permission from the RCC website) 
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Teacher with Orange County Schools Earns Certification


Eric McDuffie recently completed his N.C. Environmental Education Certification. In addition to being an eighth-grade science teacher at C.W. Stanford Middle School in Hillsborough, Eric describes himself as an environmental scientist, nature lover, and avid fisherman. "I also consider myself a conservationist and naturalist who is working hard to reconnect our children to their natural world in every way I know how," Eric says. He recently finished his master's degree in Environmental Management at Duke University and this summer he will begin pursuing a doctorate in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England.

Highlights from Eric's experience in the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification program include a Methods of Teaching Environmental Education workshop held at at Fort Macon State Park and working with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences UTOTES (Using the Outdoors to Teach Experiential Science) program. Through the UTOTES program, teachers at his school discovered how to get their students outside on their school grounds to learn while having fun. "I enjoyed learning from the museum staff and seeing our butterfly/hummingbird perennial garden come to life here on our school campus for all to enjoy and become more connected to nature," Eric says.

Read more about his experience in the certification program here.

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W. Kerr Scott USACE Rangers form Environmental Education Partnership with local Child Care Centers


This is such a great concept and we hope that other environmental education centers and programs will model it. U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Rangers at W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir and the Wilkes Community Partnership for Children have formed a partnership to promote outdoor education in early childhood development centers. Rangers will be visiting child care centers throughout the community offering environmental education programs. Wilkes Community Partnership for Children will in turn work with child care centers and will help rangers promote programs and encourage outdoor activities. The Visitor Assistance Center at W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir will also be a training location for child care teachers to conduct classes and host meetings. 

Many of our readers may not realize that the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers rangers also provide environmental education at their Visitor Assistance Centers. As a matter of fact, many USACE rangers in our state are N.C. Certified Environmental Educators! In North Carolina, you can visit the USACE rangers, view exhibits and participate in programs at the Falls Lake Visitor Assistance Center, the Jordan Lake Visitor Assistance Center, and of course, the W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir. 

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Registration Opens for 24th Annual Environmental Educators of North Carolina Conference


Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) will be hosting their 24
th annual conference, Sound Choices in EE, at the Eastern 4-H Environmental Education and Conference Center, September 25-27, 2015.

The center is located on beautiful Bulls Bay overlooking the Albemarle Sound in Columbia North Carolina. There will be lots of opportunities for hiking, canoeing and enjoying the amazing forests, estuaries, and creeks around the center.

This year’s conference strands follow the values of the 4-H program: Hands, Head, Heart and Health. There is also a strand for those new to the environmental education field. Conference strands will highlight program management techniques, the therapeutic benefits of nature, opportunities for community service, hands-on learning and citizen science and connections between environmental education and human health.

On Thursday, you can find out more about the most recent research in the field during a research symposium. The conference will also feature two full-day workshops and field trips to the Scuppernong River and salt marshes.

Early Bird Registration closes on July 24, 2015 so don’t miss this opportunity to meet other professionals working in environmental education!

For more information about the conference or about membership in EENC, visit the website at
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Environmental Educators in Action: Keeping Workers and Wildlife Safe


Environmental education in action... Environmental educators serve many roles beyond the traditional nature center or park programs for the public. This is not the first time we have seen North Carolina environmental educators called in to give instruction and consulation that not only educates, but also provides practical safety knowledge and skills for people who work outdoors. 

Recently, Mecklenburg County Environmental Education Manager, Stephen Hutchinson, was invited to the City of Concord to teach local snake ecology and safety to 213 City of Concord Service Crew members. Sessions like these help outdoor workers safely perform their vital duties and also help protect wildlife. Thanks to Mandy Smith-Thompson, environmental educator with the City of Concord, for sharing.

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Camera Traps: Effectively Using Technology to Connect to Nature


As you may have noticed, trail cameras are increasing in popularity. This technology is also a great way to connect students and adults to the wildlife around them. Since last summer, a Kenan Fellows project has been working on ways to use camera traps in the classroom to teach science and engage students with their local environments.

This group has now published its first lesson plan on using camera traps in (and outside of, of course!) the school classroom. This lesson was produced by the Kenan Fellows Program Students Discover Team who work with the N.C. State University Your Wild Life project and the Biodiversity Lab at North Carolina Museum of Natural SciencesYou may recognize Kenan Fellow Kelsie Armentrout--she's also a N.C. Certified Environmental Educator and talks about using camera traps in our EE Certification video! Also on the team are teachers Dave Glenn and Dayson Pasion. The project researchers are Dr. Roland Kays and Dr. Stephanie Schuttler. 

Learn more about the Camera Trap Stakeout Project and view the lesson plan on the Students Discover website

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Jesse Pope named Grandfather Mountain Executive Director


A widely known and respected member of the environmental education community in North Carolina was just named Grandfather Mountain’s executive director after a nationwide search.

LINVILLE, NC — After an exhaustive nine-month search, the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation Board of Directors has named Jesse B. Pope Jr. of Newland the nonprofit’s next executive director.

Pope, a 13-year employee of Grandfather Mountain, most recently served as assistant vice president and director of education and natural resources. During his time at Grandfather Mountain, Pope also worked as a seasonal trail ranger and on the animal habitats staff before launching the park’s naturalist program, which he led for six years.

“It has been a pleasure to watch Jesse mature within our organization,” said Jim Morton, chairman of the Board of Directors. “He has done a wide variety of jobs extremely well, and we are confident he will be a superb executive director.

“Jesse appreciates the powerful influence that Grandfather Mountain can have on people, and he understands the importance of preserving the experience here for future generations,” Morton said.

A native of Mouth of Wilson, Va., Pope holds a bachelor’s degree in biology with a naturalist concentration from Lees-McRae College and a master’s degree in environmental education from Montreat College. He lives in Newland with his wife, Michelle, and three children.

“I’m honored to be selected by our Board of Directors,” Pope said. “I very much look forward to the opportunity to work with our incredible staff to guide the organization into the future.”
Grandfather Mountain formed as a scenic travel destination in 1952 under the leadership of founder Hugh Morton and enjoyed more than six successful decades of private ownership.

After Morton’s death in 2006, his heirs sold 2,600 acres of the rugged backcountry to the state of North Carolina, leading to the creation of Grandfather Mountain State Park. They also formed the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, in 2009 to operate the prudently developed 700-acre portion that includes the Mile High Swinging Bridge, Nature Museum and Animal Habitats.

As executive director of this relatively young nonprofit, Pope will be responsible for the overall management of the park’s staff and programs and execution of the organization’s strategic plan.

He also will serve as the public face of the Stewardship Foundation while educating the public about its purpose, deepening its community involvement and embarking on a targeted fundraising campaign to raise the organization to the next level.

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You May Be Surprised....


What do a PhD in education, an accountant, a banker, a builder, an English as a second language teacher and an employee at a major IT company have in common? They are all enrolled in the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program.

For many years, the North Carolina program has trained full-time professionals in the environmental education field, such as park rangers and nature center educators. However, the the program also attracts some individuals who could be termed "non-traditional enrollees" to environmental education certification.

Why? Various reasons. Some work as volunteers or part-time staff at nature centers, parks and forests and want to be adequately prepared to instruct environmental education programs when called upon. Others are planning to work in environmental education as an "encore" or second career after retirement. Some are public or private classroom teachers and college professors who enroll to learn more about environmental education pedagogy and outdoor teaching techniques so they can incorporate them into traditional classroom settings.

So, don't assume this program is not for you! Find out more about some of your state's certified environmental educators at 

Stan. Accountant during the week,
environmental educator all the time. 

(And he makes an awesome snow cone.) 

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North Carolina Spotlighted in National Report on State Environmental Literacy Plans


The North American Association for Environmental Education released an updated 2014 status report on State Environmental Literacy Plans this week.  This report details the current status of environmental literacy plans throughout the U.S., highlighting several states with exemplary plans and providing recommendations for successful plan development.

The report highlighted North Carolina’s successful efforts to align its environmental literacy plan (ELP) with its statewide plan for environmental education and to integrate environmental education into core subjects. It also praised the alignment of the literacy plan with educational priorities in the state, touting the Department of Public Instruction’s efforts to integrate environmental literacy into its Essential Standards for Science and Social Studies.  “The Department recognizes that integrating environmental education is important for meeting state and national standards, while also developing critical thinking and citizenship skills. Furthermore, the ELP also supports North Carolina’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education Strategy’s goals and key priorities.”
North Carolina's environmental literacy plan has been developed by the Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in partnership with Environmental Educators of North Carolina, the state professional association for environmental educators, and the NC Association of Environmental Education Centers, with additional input from a wide range stakeholders in the education and environmental communities.Read the full NAAEE report 

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NC Teens Exhibit at the White House Science Fair!


Congratulations to the Bee Aware team! They recently exhibited (March 23, 2015) at the White House Science Fair. The text below is from the Bee Aware team entry from the White House Blog 

The “Bee Aware” team from North Carolina is working to help revitalize honey bee populations and to inform the public and businesses about the harmful effects of specific chemicals on honey bee populations and the harmful ramifications to human, animal and plant life. As part of their project, the group has presented to local garden clubs, Christmas tree farms, businesses, visitors, and tourists about honeybee science. They’ve also presented scientific information about honeybees to school across the region, educating more than a thousand High Country elementary schoolers on the importance of honeybees and what can be done to protect them. The Bee Award Team was awarded the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant for their project, which will include the opening of a bee sanctuary in their community this spring.

More information about the Bee Aware team and all of their current projects in on their website, 
and also in this article in the Mountain Times

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White House Launches “Every Kid in a Park” Initiative


Excerpt from the White House Fact Sheet, February 19, 2015

Every Kid in a Park
In the lead up to the 100th birthday of the National Park Service in 2016, the President’s Every Kid in a Park initiative is a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America’s unparalleled outdoors. Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces.  At the same time, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens instead of outside.  A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that young people now devote an average of more than seven hours a day to electronic media use, or about 53 hours a week – more than a full time job.
America’s public lands and waters offer space to get outside and get active, and are living classrooms that provide opportunities to build critical skills through hands-on activities.  To inspire the next generation to discover all that America’s public lands and waters have to offer, the Obama Administration will provide all 4th grade students and their families free admission to all National Parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year, starting with the 2015-2016 school year.  The initiative will also:
  • Make it easy for schools and families to plan trips:  The Administration will distribute information and resources to make it easy for teachers and families to identify nearby public lands and waters and to find programs that support youth outings.
  • Provide transportation support to schools with the most need: As an integral part of this effort, the National Park Foundation (NPF) – the congressionally chartered foundation of the National Park Service – is expanding and re-launching its Ticket to Ride program as Every Kid in a Park, which will award transportation grants for kids to visit parks, public lands and waters, focusing on schools that have the most need. 
  • Provide educational materials: The initiative will build on a wide range of educational programs and tools that the federal land management agencies already use.  For example, NPS has re-launched a website with over 1,000 materials developed for K-12 teachers, including science labs, lesson plans, and field trip guides. And a number of federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Education, and NPS participate in Hands on the Land, a national network of field classrooms and agency resources that connects students, teachers, families, and volunteers with public lands and waterways.
To further support this effort, the President’s 2016 Budget includes a total increased investment of $45 million for youth engagement programs throughout the Department of the Interior, with $20 million specifically provided to the National Park Service for youth activities, including bringing 1 million fourth-grade children from low-income areas to national parks. This increase will also fund dedicated youth coordinators to help enrich children and family learning experiences at parks and online.
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NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE ACT Introduced in Congress (2/11/2015)!


Washington, DC – Today, Senators Jack Reed (RI-D) and Mark Kirk (IL-R) and Congressmen John Sarbanes (MD-R) and Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-R) introduced legislation aimed at improving environmental education in our nation’s public schools...the No Child Left Inside Act would provide grants to school districts, support teacher training and promote the integration of outdoor learning into the regular school curriculum. Read the complete press release from the Outdoors Alliance for Kids.

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New North Carolina Certified Environmental Educators Recognized


The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently recognized 223 educators who have completed a comprehensive certification program in environmental education. This accomplished group of individuals truly reflects the diversity of educators in the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program, as it includes nature center and museum educators, naturalists, teachers, park rangers, academics and many other professionals in the private and public sectors.
The honorees were all smiles!
The program is administered by the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and is a partnership between DENR, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, Environmental Educators of North Carolina, the N.C. Association of Environmental Education Centers and the Wildlife Resources Commission.

Honorees and guests from around the state attended a Nov. 22 ceremony at Embassy Suites in Cary. The keynote was given by Pat Simmons, 

Pat Simmons, incoming director of
of the N.C. Zoo, gave the keynote
(and it was great). 
former director of the Akron Zoo and the new deputy director and chief operating officer for the N.C. Zoo. She is slated to become the N.C. Zoo director in 2016. 

Simmons thanked the honorees for their dedication and challenged them to continue their innovative collaborations that bring nonformal educators and classroom teachers together to educate children and adults about our state's natural resources. Her sentiments were echoed by Bill Cobey, Chairman of the State Board of Education, and Beverly Vance, Section Chief of K-12 Science for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. Chairman Cobey noted: "The fact that we are honoring both classroom teachers and nonformal educators tonight is proof of the important partnership between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Public Instruction in promoting environmental literacy in our state." 

Guests and honorees were able to see the premier of this short film that explains the certification program from the first-hand experiences of four certified educators. The film was created by Martin Kane with the Division of Parks and Recreation.

( Vimeo link: )

A slide presentation featuring quotes from more than 40 honorees was also shown during the ceremony and can be viewed on the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs website.

Other special guests at event included DENR Secretary John Skvarla, Wildlife Resources Commission Executive Director Gordon Myers, Division of Parks and Recreation Director Michael Murphy, Environmental Educators of North Carolina President Dr. Brad Daniel and North Carolina Association of Environmental Education Centers President-elect Sarah Kendrick.

The North Carolina Environmental Education program was the first of its kind in the nation and has served as a model for other states following North Carolina’s lead. The North Carolina Environmental Education program establishes standards for professional excellence in environmental education while recognizing educators committed to increasing environmental literacy. Individuals must complete 200 hours of professional development to be certified, which includes 70 hours of instructional workshops, 50 hours of outdoor environmental education experiences, 30 hours of experiences that promote awareness of the state’s environmental education resources and 30 hours of teaching experiences. 

The program also requires an environmental education partnership project that addresses a need in educators’ communities. These projects have had far-reaching impacts on communities throughout the state, providing projects such as interpretive trails, recycling programs, school and community gardens, outdoor classrooms and even small ecological restorations. Examples of these projects can be viewed on the EE Certification blog.

For more information about the program or to enroll, visit

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Montreat EE Masters Program One of Four to Recieve First Special NAAEE Accreditation


Congratulations to Montreat College! Montreat's Master's Degree in Environmental Education is one of four institutions to receive the first accreditation from the North American Association for Environmental Education. 

This new NAAEE new initiative is designed to formally
recognize distinguished 
college and university environmental education programs that are developing the kinds of environmental educators that are needed in the field. Graduates of these programs are experiencing curriculum and training that will translate to best practices in EE across a variety of learning contexts.

The other three programs are located at Eastern Kentucky University, Nova Southeastern University, and the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. We applaud their efforts and hope this is the start of expanding high quality EE in higher education. For more information, visit
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Gastonia Students Win President's Environmental Youth Award


Congratulations are in order! Students at Gaston Day School won the PEYA award for EPA Region 4. This is a big honor! Read more about the award

Team of 3 Students: Katie Danis, Mary Hunter Russell & Grace Wynkoop

The Pollution Solution team found a major threat to the Catawba River in the form of polluted stormwater. The discovery was the catalyst for Team Pollution Solution, a grassroots effort by the teens to “Save the Catawba River: One yard at a Time”. Informational kits, built by the girls from household items they had on hand, are being used in classrooms to teach students about what causes stormwater pollution and how it can be stopped. The team tested the program with the Gaston Day School fourth-grade students. Kids loved watching how everyday living creates pollution and learning how simple steps, like picking up after your dog or bagging your yard waste, keep the stormwater drains clean and the river healthy. (From the PYEA Award Site
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Allison Woods Program Using EE to Teach STEM Lessons


Article by Preston Spencer, Statesville Record and Landmark. Reprinted with Permission.

Lake Portal offers STEM-based lessons at Allison Woods

Allison Woods wants to see the students of Iredell County on a boat, surrounded by science. A couple months ago, the Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center, situated off of Turnersburg Highway, began offering a program called Lake Portal, in which students, Scouts and adult groups can learn about the ecosystem of a pond on the property and take and test water samples while on a boat. 

“This is a little more than just a lab exercise,” said Brain Fannon, education program coordinator at Allison Woods. “Because it’s an open-ended environment, the results are not pre-determined here. Not every group will have a cookie-cutter experience. This is actual research.” 

Lake Portal is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) based program, with the goal to introduce students to using scientific tools to gather information about the world around them. The program is open to middle and high school groups, and Fannon said he hopes they find students who have never been on a boat or done hands-on experiments. 

“We’re hoping to give students the chance to experience that, and certainly not all are going to go into oceanography or marine biology, but it broadens their experiences,” Fannon said. “It’s not just about teaching science. It’s about providing experiences that you don’t have in the Piedmont, North Carolina.”

Allison Woods is using a 24-foot “research vessel” for the offered excursions. Upon arriving, visiting groups learn about the interface between the land and the water, and then hop aboard. On the boat, Fannon aids in the use of an underwater camera and sonar unit to teach about how water changes with depth. Those on the field trip also take water samples and test for various factors.

“Most people just see lake sand ponds as a flat surface and never really think about what’s going on beneath that surface,” Fannon said. “With the tools on the boat, we open a window to look down.” 

To schedule a Lake Portal trip, call Allison Woods at 704-873-5976. The program is designed for groups of eight to 20 people. Cost is $15 per person. Community and private groups are welcome, and two weeks to a month’s notice is needed. The whole program takes about an hour-and-a-half for a group of 10, and twice that for a group of 20. 

Fannon, a former marine biologist who worked on commercial fishing boats in Alaska, said Lake Portal is “not intended to be just another field trip,” but rather a chance to see research “as it is done professionally.” “It’s not just asking the question,” Fannon said. “(It’s) how do we answer it? How do we look at our environment and get information?”
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Guide to Correlating Non-formal EE Programming in NC Now Available


Have you ever struggled with correlating your environmental education programs to the N.C. Essential Standards? Never fear--now there is an easy-to-use guide that even seasoned environmental educators will find helpful.

Sarah Ludwig, a student at the Duke Nicholas School of the Environment, compiled an excellent 2-page guide to assist environmental education centers and programs with correlating programs and classes to the N.C. Essential Standards and Common Core. The guide highlights why correlation is important for public school teachers, explains common terminology, points to helpful resources from the Dept. of Public Instruction, and outlines the correlation process, all specific to North Carolina.

Sarah developed this guide while doing research at Harris Lake County Park (Wake). It is based on feedback from many environmental educators, agencies and organizations, including the Environmental Educators of North Carolina, the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and the Department of Public Instruction Science Section. The guide is available for print or download in our online resource database. Thank you Sarah!
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Congratulations to New NC Certified Environmental Educators!


North Carolinians (and a few outside the state that participate in the program) earn their North Carolina Environmental Education Certification throughout the year, but we've had a large number of completions recently. Read more about some of them and learn how their certification and partnership projects have made a positive impact on their communities. Our N.C. Certified Environmental Educator Blog:

The North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program, managed by the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, has certified more than 1,000 individuals. This 200-hour program recognizes professional development in environmental education and establishes standards for professional excellence in the field for formal and non-formal educators. It consists of workshops, field experiences, teaching experiences and an environmental education community partnership project. To more about the program, including the enrollment process, are available at

Marc, one of several newly certified North Carolina environmental educators 

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The Jennette's Pier "Sea Monster": One Whopper of a Teachable Moment


"Scary, Fanged Cannibal Lancetfish Washes Up Alive"
"Rare Cannibal Fish Washes Up On A North Carolina Beach" 
"Photo Shows Rare Cannibalistic Deep Sea Monster"
               "Photos of mysterious lancet fish going viral on social media"

Seemed like a simple tweet at the time...
These are a small sampling of headlines from the multitude of stories about a lancetfish found on a beach in Nag's Head, North Carolina. As one headline notes, the photograph of the fish went viral on social media on May 16th, just minutes after we posted it in our regular Twitter and Facebook feature we call "#NCNatureFriday." The photo was originally posted on Facebook and Twitter by Jennette's Pier, an educational and recreational facility in Nag's Head that is operated by the North Carolina Aquariums. At last check, their original photos on Facebook have been shared almost 3,000 times.  

The lancetfish photo made the evening television news across North Carolina on May 16th. It is featured on Animal Planet's blog, at least two major US network news websites and is still being shared on news outlets around the world. (Just do a search for "lancetfish" to see what we mean.) Honestly, we thought it would get some retweets but had no idea it would fuel a social and online media frenzy. This event certainly made us learn a lot about the lancetfish, but it also reminded us once again of the power of social media and the importance of solid, science-based environmental education. 

Here are some clarifications on some of the more interesting comments that have been made in reference to the lancetfish photo and our thoughts on some of the things we've learned. 


Alepisaurus ferox can certainly be described as a ferocious looking fish, but it's an open ocean predator after all. Note that lancetfish have a large dorsal fin, but in this photo it was folded down. That along with the close-up of the head probably enhances the "scary sea monster" quality a bit, and we didn't really anticipate that when it was posted. Not a very strong or fast swimmer, lancetfish ambush their prey which consist of slow-moving fish, crabs, squid, etc., and sometimes other lancetfish (see "CANNIBAL," below). Our research shows no reports of lancetfish injuring humans. As a matter of fact, lancetfish are sometimes eaten by humans, but the flesh is said to be soft and not very palatable: and


Well, that does make them sound scary. However, cannibalism (eating members of their own species) in animals is not uncommon, especially in fish. 


Sort of. It is rare to see a lancetfish on shore or near the shore, and the sighting at Nag's Head is certainly something to note. Lancetfish live in the open ocean--they are "pelagic," which means they live in the zone of the ocean that is not near the shore or bottom. While it is rare to find them on the beach, they may not be that rare in the open ocean. They are distributed worldwide and are sometimes taken as by-catch by fishing fleets. As a matter of fact, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences has lancetfish specimens in its research collection. When they turn up on shore it is likely they are dead or at least sick or injured and no longer able to swim well. This was the case with our lancetfish--Jennette's Pier reported that it washed up alive and was returned to the water, but washed back up again later: ; and


Yes, this is a fish story that went viral and we totally did not expect it. We were thinking "neat fish that washed up near Jennette's Pier" and much of the social media world saw it as a scary sea monster which started a flurry of retweets and shares. It shows the power of social media and the fact that all of us that do social media outreach need to be prepared in case this happens. We always need to think before we post and to make sure we have quick access to research and information to share with the news media and the public if something does go viral.


There were a lot of NOPES* and other negative comments on social media, not only in reference to the fish, but also in reference to North Carolina's beaches, the world's oceans and nature in general. We know a lot of it was in fun and not to be taken seriously, but this in itself can be a lesson to environmental educators that we have a continual duty to provide the public with accurate, up-to-date and balanced information about nature and the environment. We also have to make sure we do this in a clear and consistent manner that is based on the best science.  


The lancetfish experience has reminded us of why awareness and sensitivity to the environment is the first, and possibly most important, component of environmental education. We hope this one wayward lancetfish helps us all increase the public's awareness of our oceans and the many amazing species that live in it.   

Thanks to the following for their feedback and review of this post:

Paige Brown, From the Lab Bench at SciLogs, @FromTheLabBench 

Dr. Wayne Starnes, Research Curator of Fishes, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences 

* "Nope" is an internet meme: "On the web, this emphatic expression is used to indicate fear, disgust or general distaste towards something" From

Based on SumAll, our @NorthCarolinaEE Twitter account had a mention reach of more than 600,000 on that day. 

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EE Certification Workshop Leads to Solar-Powered Classroom, A DOE Video and a Tweet from the President!


I guess it goes to show you never know where the workshops will lead!

That is what fourth grade teacher Aaron Sebens told to us about Central Park School for Children's ongoing solar energy project. Aaron tells us the idea to use solar energy to power his classroom was the result of a Project Learning Tree Energy and Society Workshop he took at the Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch Library in Greensboro. Aaron is currently enrolled in the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. 

The workshop was in 2012. Since then, Sebens and his students have converted the classroom into a working solar learning experience. It has also resulted in a video about the project produced by the U.S. Department of Energy, which was then tweeted by President Obama! The video was also shown during a recent Red Sox game in Boston and his class has been visited by Congressmen David Price and J. K. Butterfield. The project has been featured in several news articles, such as this one in the Durham Herald Sun

We look forward for more updates from Aaron's class. So, consider enrolling in the N.C. Environmental Education Certification program if you have not. "You never know where the workshops will lead!" 

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Raleigh's Exploris Middle School Receives 2014 Green Ribbon Schools Award


Exploris students participate in the Adopt-A-Stream program. Photo from City of Raleigh 

Congratulations to Exploris Middle School for winning the 2014 U.S. Department of Education's Green Ribbon Schools Award! This award "honors schools and districts that are exemplary in reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and providing effective environmental and sustainability education, which incorporates STEM, civic skills and green career pathways."

Exploris, a charter school located in downtown Raleigh, is one of 48 schools in the nation that are being honored this year. 

Below is an excerpt from the profile of Exploris that is featured in the 2014 Green Ribbon Schools Highlights. See the Green Ribbon Schools page for the complete highlights document and more information on the program: 

Exploris Middle School is a model global-education school in North Carolina. Exploris’ articulation of its core values ground the school in its approach to education. These are: Curiosity, Reflection, Craftsmanship, Engagement, Collaboration, Relationships, Connections to Nature, Social Empowerment, Innovation, and Balance.

 In Exploris’ 16-year history, the school has been particularly interested in reducing its environmental impact. Exploris used EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to calculate a 25 percent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions. Trash has been reduced to about one bag per grade level through color-coded recycling bins, which include TerraCycle containers. In collaboration with the school’s landlords, an electrical timer was installed so that lights and the computer network automatically turn off during non-working hours. Additionally, new plumbing was installed in 2009 to prevent lead from being in the school’s drinking water, and a new white roof was installed in 2010 to help limit heat absorption in the building and the need for air conditioning during warmer months. Based on analysis of the water invoices since moving into the current building, Exploris has reduced domestic water usage by 19 percent, and has no irrigation water usage. 

Exploris is dedicated to improving the health of its school’s students and staff. The school’s cleaning service cleans late at night, and stores no cleaning products at the school. If a pesticide must be used in the building, it is done after school hours to limit staff and student exposure to it. The school participates in numerous health and wellness programs, including the USDA's Healthier US School Challenge and a Farm to School program. Exploris also has an on-site vertical food garden, which supplies food to the community. The school’s students spend at least 120 minutes per week in supervised physical education, and at least 50 percent of the students' annual physical education takes place outdoors.

 Exploris uses an interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum. In alignment with the school’s core values, the bulk of each grade-level’s work centers on issues of environmental sustainability and STEM pathways. Teachers frame instruction around current, complex issues, which serve as a compelling lens for covering the curriculum standards. Guiding questions, two to three case studies, hands-on project work, and a culminating, public event serve to further engage students. Each student completes research, collaborates on group projects focusing on elements of design, and has access to primary documents and local experts, including former North Carolina Governor James Hunt, the staff of North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the staff of Raleigh City Farms. Students are regular presenters at regional conferences, such as the North American Association of Environmental Educators, the North Carolina Service Learning Coalition, and the North Carolina Scaling STEM Conference. 

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