Thursday, July 17, 2014

Environmental Education Certification Recognition Ceremony November 22, 2014

Mark your calendars! This ceremony will honor those certified since the last EE Certification Recognition Ceremony in 2010. 

If you are being honored and have not sent in your RSVP card, please go to this link asap and let us know you will be attending. Note, the dinner and ceremony is free for those being honored, but there is a fee for guests. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

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!

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 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

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. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

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!" 

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. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kingsley Credits North Carolina EE Certification Program as Inspiration for Outdoor Preschool

Mary Kingsley of Raleigh recently opened a new business endeavor, the Kinder Garden Preschool, and credits the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification as the inspiration for the business. She also notes that the program was the provider of much of the needed training and resources used to create the preschool's curriculum. Best wishes to Mary! Here is what she related to us:

A "Mud Kitchen" in the Outdoor Learning Area
"As an early childhood educator I have always been in love with the outdoors and helping children discover the wonder of being outside and enjoying nature.

I met and befriended a mentor, Dawn Mak*, who understood my love of nature and teaching, and introduced me to the environmental education certification program. Since then my teaching path has changed. I enjoyed every workshop that led to my certification and now get to put all of my knowledge to work.

Because of the EEC program I have been encouraged to start a different kind of preschool program, an “Outdoor Preschool”.

I have been able to incorporate all of the EEC materials with a traditional curriculum to create outdoor-based curriculum for preschool children. Children will learn concepts needed for standard school entry with nature as their teacher."

*Another N.C. Certified Environmental Educator!

N.C. DPI Continues Tradition of Cooperation with Environmental Educators

N.C. DPI science consultants strategize with environmental and non-formal science educators from around the state.
In December of 2013, nonformal educators from environmental education centers and science museums from across the state met with the science consultants from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. This was the third of these meetings that provide an opportunity to network, share information and strategize on how to better align programs to the N.C. Essential Standards. These meetings are a partnership between N.C. DPI, the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, the Environmental Educators of North Carolina and the N.C. Association of Environmental Education Centers. Meeting powerpoint presentations, teacher survey results and resources from N.C. DPI can be found on the "Beyond the Field Trip" resource page.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

EE Centers, Parks, Science Museums Dominate Carolina Publishing Associates "Most Visited" List

The numbers are in...Carolina Publishing Associates has released it's list of the top 30 most-visited attractions in North Carolina. Eighteen of them are listed as N.C. Environmental Education Centers on our list and offer some type of environmental education and/or natural sciences programming for the public. (Facilities in bold are listed as N.C. Environmental Education Centers on

1. Biltmore, Asheville, 1,210,138. 

2. NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, 1,026,177.

3. North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, 739,943.

4. Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, 722,260.

5. Discovery Place, Charlotte, 705,845.

6. Marbles Kids Museum, Raleigh. 648,450.

7. Fort Fisher State Historic Site, Kure Beach. 614,158.

8.Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, 489,123.

9. NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Kure Beach, 447,892.

10. Museum of Life and Science, Durham, 421,095.

11. NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, 389, 612.

12. Jennette's Pier, Nags Head, 308,786.

13. North Carolina Arboretum, Asheville. 332,748.

14. Greensboro Science Center, 325,536.

15. NC Maritime Museums (Beaufort, Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, Hatteras, NC Maritime Museum at Southport), 325,921.

16. NC Museum of History, Raleigh. 288,800.

17. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 287,605.

18. NC Aquarium at Roanoke Island, Manteo, 275,141.

19. Fort Raleigh National Historic Park, Manteo, 264,942.

20. Grandfather Mountain, Linville, 314,127.

21. Battleship North Carolina, Wilmington, 211,724

22. Chimney Rock State Park, Chimney Rock. 194,073.

23. Duke University Chapel, Durham, 182,215.

24. Tryon Palace, New Bern 181,350.

25. NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte, 173,024.

26. Linville Caverns, Marion, 170,689.

27. Old Salem Museums & Gardens, Winston-Salem, 146,900.

28. Cherokee Cultural Attractions, Cherokee, 145,778.

29. Morehead Planetarium, Chapel Hill, NC 142,135.

30. Mint Museums, Charlotte, 142,057.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Author, Educator Sobel to Keynote Southeastern EE Alliance Annual Conference in Asheboro

Exciting news! Our friends the Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) will be hosting the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA) Annual Conference at Caraway Camp and Conference Center near Asheboro, North Carolina on Sept. 19-21. The SEEA is a network of state affiliates of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) located in the southeastern region of the U.S. Member states include AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, and TN. SEEA is one of only two regional affiliates of NAAEE. For more information on the conference, visit the EENC website. 

EENC is also proud to announce that well-known educator and author David Sobel will keynote the event! Sobel is Senior Faculty in the Education Department at Antioch University New England in Keene, NH and he consults and speaks widely on child development and place-based education. He has authored seven books and more than 60 articles focused on children and nature for educators, parents, environmentalists and school administrators in the last 25 years. In 2007, he was identified as one of the Daring Dozen educators in the United States by Edutopia magazine.

He has served on the editorial boards of Encounter, Community Works Journal and Orion and writes a regular column for Community Works Journal. His articles and essays have appeared in Orion, Encounter, Sierra, Sanctuary, Wondertime, Green Teacher, Play Rights, Harvard Education Letter and other publications. His articles and essays have been included in Father Nature, Education, Information and Transformation, Stories from Where We Live-The North Atlantic Coast; Place-based Education in a Global Age; and The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion published by The University of Chicago. His most recent books are Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators published by Stenhouse and Wild Play, Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors published by Sierra Books.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

NC Beautiful Announces Windows of Opportunity Grant Recipients

NC Beautiful, a provider of environmental education and beautification opportunities that elevate the quality of life of North Carolinians, has announced this year’s recipients of the organization’s environmental education grants. Thirty schools were awarded Windows of Opportunity Grants that are available to certified, full-time K-12 teachers in the state of North Carolina.

Windows of Opportunity provides up to $1,000 grants to NC teachers to reward their creativity fostering environmental stewardship, leadership, and awareness and initiating a sense of community service. Since 1999, NC Beautiful has awarded tens of thousands of grant dollars to schools all across North Carolina—from the mountains to the coast. NC Beautiful Executive Director, Steve Vacendak, says that the goal of NC Beautiful is to annually offer a Windows of Opportunity grant in all 100 counties in North Carolina. “Promoting and fostering environmental stewardship is a state-wide commitment,” says Vacendak. “By rewarding our teachers throughout our state for their innovation and hard work, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren are participating in a project that sparks a lifelong interest in nature. They will appreciate this beautiful state even more for having had a teacher who went above and beyond to give them a hands-on, real world experience. We are proud to be a small part of that discovery.” 

The Windows of Opportunity Grants were created to cultivate an appreciation of natural environments by helping children get out of school and into natural settings. The grants also build leadership awareness, develop environmental educational mentors and ambassadors, create materials and resources that can be used by other K-12 students, and develop a sustainable, outdoor program, which will continue well after the grant period ends. 

Entries for next year’s Windows of Opportunity Grants will be accepted online starting July, 2014. For more information, visit

NC Beautiful has been part of the state’s environmental preservation community for over 40 years—supporting awareness, education and beautification efforts that affect our quality of life. Today, NC Beautiful concentrates on hands-on and merit-based programs designed to empower citizens to preserve the natural beauty of the state of North Carolina. Whether it’s school children building outdoor classrooms, graduate students developing cutting edge research, or a Boy Scout troop planting azaleas at an elder care facility, NC Beautiful makes it possible for North Carolinians to keep NC Beautiful. 

Celeste Maus, teacher at Perquimans High School in Hertford, accepts her Windows of Opportunity Grant award from NC Beautiful board member Tim Aydlett and NC Beautiful Executive Director Steve Vacendak. 

Name School City
Nancy Bryant Burlington Christian Academy Burlington
Tyler Mitchell Alexander Central Taylorsville
Lee Ann Smith Glen Arden Elementary Arden
Britta Gramer Morganton Day School Morganton
Mark Patton Terry Sanford High School Fayetteville
Rebecca Johnson and Rodney Metters North Davidson Middle School Lexington
Keith Stanek Tyro Middle School Lexington
Jake Pittillo Clear Creek Elementary Hendersonville
Richele Dunavent and Courtney Ruiz Sugarloaf Elementary Hendersonville
Kathy Bosiak Lincolnton High School Lincolnton
Tracy Rettig/Kim Kelleher New Hope Elementary School Chapel Hill
Carla Wilkins Helena Elementary Timberlake
Nancy Pepper Green Valley Elementary Boone
Sherry Maines Glade Creek School Ennice
Tricia Gaible Sparta Elementary Sparta
Tiffany Mayo West Carteret High School Morehead City
Paul Gainey ASPIRE Program New Bern
Alison Edwards School for Creative Studies Durham
Bess C. Adcock Granville Central High School Stem
Richele Dunavent, Courtney Ruiz Sugarloaf Elementary Hendersonville
Lisa Chestnutt Mattamuskeet Early College                     Swan Quarter    
Debra H. Jones Clayton High School Kinston
Cliff Hudson Contentnea/Savannah School Williamston
Amy Alexander Riverside High School Elizabeth City
Stacey Pierce Perquimans Central School Hertford
Celeste Wescott Maus Perquimans High School Hertford
Catherine Rohrbaugh Perquimans County High School Raleigh
Jennifer E. Schwachenwald Holly Grove Middle School Wake Forest
Jason Hunning Dillard Drive Middle School Raleigh
Heather Hale Wake Forest Elementary Raleigh

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mountains to the Sea AmeriCorps Members Participate in MLK National Day of Service

RALEIGH – Twenty members of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ new AmeriCorps program participated in three community-based service projects as part of the nationwide Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service on Jan. 20.

The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the president's national call to service initiative. 

Fifteen members of DENR’s Mountains to the Sea AmeriCorps program worked with the town of Cary’s Spruce program to do environmental projects at the Middle Creek Community Center in Cary. The Spruce program connects volunteers with beautification, cleanup and other environmental projects in the Cary area. Volunteers picked up litter, sorted recyclables, conducted trail maintenance and performed other tasks.

Three AmeriCorps members worked with FoodCorps and Volunteers in Service to America, or VISTA, in Wilmington. They helped revitalize an urban farm operated by Leading Into New Communities, or LINC, a 501(c)3 organization that operates an urban farm to provide work and management experience for residents of the M.E. Roberts Transitional Living Facility. 

One AmeriCorps member partnered with Project Conserve, an Asheville-based AmeriCorps program, to help with clean-up efforts and invasive species management on a Blue Ridge Conservancy property near Foscoe. Project Conserve is hosted by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and aims to increase land and habitat conservation and support conservation efforts in western North Carolina.

The 20 members of the Mountains to the Sea AmeriCorps Program have committed to a 10-month term of service at DENR. The members serve as interpreters at state parks, as tour guides at the state aquariums, and in other roles aimed at increasing environmental literacy and natural resource stewardship in rural and underserved communities. The Mountains to the Sea AmeriCorps Program is administered by DENR’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

AmeriCorps program aims to improve environmental outreach in N.C.’s underserved areas

RALEIGH – Members of the federal AmeriCorps program have started their serice with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to improve the state agency’s environmental education efforts in North Carolina’s underserved areas.

The 20 Mountains to the Sea AmeriCorps Program members will serve as interpreters at state parks, tour guides at the state aquariums and other functions aimed at increasing environmental literacy and natural resource stewardship in rural and underserved communities. 

“Educating people about the importance of the environment is a crucial part of our mission to improve customer service in DENR,” said N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Secretary John Skvarla, who spoke with the new AmeriCorps members during an orientation the department held this week. “This program enables us to put service members in areas where environmental programming would not otherwise exist. Increasing environmental literacy helps ensure we all have clean air, water and land for future generations.”

The Mountains to the Sea AmeriCorps Program will be administered by the department’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. The Mountains to the Sea AmeriCorps Program includes 20 service members and a program director, Abby Van de Bogert. The AmeriCorps program in DENR will be paid for using a $256,956 federal grant and $180,498 from the state agency. AmeriCorps is a domestic version of the Peace Corps. More than 5,000 people have served in North Carolina with AmeriCorps.

The new service members were trained by department staff during a three-day orientation at Haw River State Park in Browns Summit. Service members will work for about a year carrying out the following duties: 

Three members will lead tours, provide interpretive programs and presentations at the state’s coastal aquariums in Pine Knoll Shores, Fort Fisher and Roanoke Island.
Six members will provide interpretative programs, tours and educational presentations for visitors at six state parks, including New River State Park in Laurel Springs, Haw River State Park in Browns Summit, Eno River State Park in Durham, Carvers Creek State Park in Spring Lake, Cliffs of the Neuse State Park in Seven Springs and Falls Lake State Recreation Area in Raleigh.
Four members will host hands-on science lessons at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. 
Two members will conduct research, create educational materials and use social media to communicate about the programs in the divisions of Air Quality and Water Resources. They will be based in Raleigh.
One member will develop and conduct public outreach programs on estuaries and coastal ecology for the state Division of Coastal Management in Wilmington and another member will provide programs on coastal habitats for the Division of Marine Fisheries in Morehead City.    
One member will expand recycling materials and public outreach campaigns for the Office of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service.
Two members will lead field trips, workshops and outreach events on important natural areas and resources for the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program and the Office of Land and Water Stewardship.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Great Loss to the Environmental Education Community

We must, with very heavy hearts, report the loss of a wonderful friend and environmental educator. Ross Andrews suddenly and unexpectedly passed away on Friday, October 25th. Ross was most recently the executive director of the Center for Human-Earth Restoration (CHER), was a certified environmental educator and also served as the first director of the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center in Raleigh. He remained active with the Partners for Environmental Justice in Raleigh and had served in several other environmental education and environmental science capacities. Ross had also published scientific papers and was a published poet as well. You can view his obituary and online guest book at this link.

Please see the information below from Randy Senzig, the president of CHER, who together with Ross developed a unique program that connected adults and children to the natural world on conservation lands and other wild places around the Triangle. Ross lived his commitment to the environment and the people that live in it. He will certainly be missed by us at the office and many, many others.

January 12, 2014
Triangle Land Conservancy and the Center for Human-Earth Restoration  will host a hike on the new Walnut Hill Farm in part as a memorial to Ross Andrews on January 12, 2014 from 1 to 4 pm. See The Triangle Land Conservancy website for detail or call Randy Senzig, 919-270-9682.
January 25, 2014
The Partners for Environmental Justice, Walnut Creek Wetland Center and the Center for Human-Earth Restoration will host a memorial service for Ross Andrews at the Walnut Creek Wetland Center on January 25 from 1 to 4 pm.

CHER has also been using their Facebook page for updates and  information:
You may also want to sign up for CHER’s newsletter list for updates on services:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Alamance Partnership for Children Opens Outdoor Learning Environment

The Alamance Partnership for Children recently opened an outdoor learning environment adjacent to their office in the Historic Glencoe Mill Village. This is already an area rich in cultural history and environmental education--the office is near the Haw River, Great Bend Park and the Textile Heritage Museum. Some of the play area's structures and elements were designed to complement the culture, history and environment of the area. 

The area was designed the Natural Learning Initiative, a program of the N.C. State University’s College of Design. The project was initiated with funding from a grant from Shape NC, a partnership between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and the N.C. Partnership for Children. Shape NC is a three-year, $3-million program aimed at childhood obesity. Read the full story in the Times-News, and this pdf gives brief overview of the OLE's goals and featured. 

Natural playspaces and outdoor learning environments like this one are a growing trend and offer numerous health and academic benefits. For young children, they are also a great way to introduce environmental education and build on the essential awareness component.

Congratulations Alamance Partnership for Children on this great accomplishment!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

DENR awarded grant for 20 Mountains to the Sea AmeriCorps members

RALEIGH – Twenty AmeriCorps members will be joining the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to improve education and outreach efforts, thanks to a $256,956 federal grant received by the N.C. Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service in Governor Pat McCrory’s Office.

“Many North Carolina communities stand to benefit from the service projects we can accomplish with the help of these AmeriCorps members,” said John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “This program will enable DENR to more effectively reach our customers, empower these future leaders, and give them a greater sense of the value of public service.”

The 20 people joining DENR this fall are part of the Mountains to the Sea AmeriCorps Program, which is administered by DENR’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs.

The program will place the AmeriCorps members in nine North Carolina counties to increase environmental literacy and natural resource stewardship among communities in rural and underserved areas. The AmeriCorps members will perform many duties, including organizing and conducting public workshops on fish habitat issues for the Division of Marine Fisheries, presenting programs on wetlands for the Division of Water Resources, and maintaining trails and removing invasive exotic plants in state parks. 

The AmeriCorps members also will work with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, North Carolina’s three state-operated aquariums, the divisions of Air Quality, Coastal Management and Environmental Assistance and Customer Service. Members also will work with the department’s Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program and the Office of Conservation, Planning and Community Affairs.

AmeriCorps is a domestic version of the Peace Corps. More than 5,000 AmeriCorps members have served in North Carolina since the program began in the early 1990s. 

Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs 
Phone: 919-707-8626 -- 1601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1601
Jamie Kritzer, Public Information Officer, 919-707-8602,
Pat McCrory, Governor -- John E. Skvarla, III, Secretary
An Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action Employer

Reprint of N.C. DENR Press Release

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Environmental Education Is...

From time to time we like to share quotes from the responses to our Basics of Environmental Education online workshop. This workshop is required for the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program, but the materials are open to anyone. This one caught our eye:

“I would describe environmental education as more than just teaching a student (adult or child) about the natural world. I would broaden that definition. Environmental education is about using lessons structured around the natural world to  pique a student’s interest in and concern for their environment, and to teach them to develop the ability, skills, and knowledge base to make educated decisions regarding the environmental issues of today and tomorrow.”

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

N.C. Botanical Garden Program Featured in National STEM Magazine

No, it's not a magazine about woody plants--the N.C. Botanical Garden's Earth Partnership for Schools Institute is featured in STEMwire, a nationally distributed digital news service for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. The Institute trains teachers to restore their own schools' natural landscapes, while providing them with training on native flora and ecosystems. The institute also trains them on how to use the outdoors as a place of learning.

Article: Earth Partnership for Schools puts land restoration in the hands of teachers

The Earth Partnership for Schools Institute is also a Criteria I Workshop in the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. For more about the institute, contact Grant Parkins, NCBG Natural Science Educator or visit

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Environmental Educator in the Field

The story below is the first in what may be an ongoing feature on N.C. Certified Environmental Educators. Below, Joy Fields, an environmental educator with the Piedmont Triad Regional Council tells how a recent conference enhanced her skills and broadened her knowledge of the environment. Environmental educators never stop learning!

Environmental Educator in the Field: Cullowhee Native Plant Conference

By Joy Fields

As an environmental educator, I am constantly looking for ways to learn novel approaches to reach new audiences and help them relate the environment to how they work and play. With so many concerns pulling at our audiences, this can be difficult.  Fortunately, the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., which I recently attended, provided me with a wealth of new information to include in programs I provide on riparian buffers and native plants. 

The conference, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year,  offers network and education opportunities  about native plants for the nursery trade, educators, landscape architects, master gardeners and others concerned about preserving America’s natural heritage.  Educational opportunities from this year’s conference included, presentations, workshops and field trips that focused on mushrooms, native pollinators, maintaining curb appeal with native plants, edible natives and much more.  

One highlight of the conference that was especially exciting to me as a gardener and an environmental educator was a presentation by Nancy Adamson with the Xerces Society, who spoke about how one in every three bites of food that we take requires pollinators.  To produce vegetables and fruits, many plants require the help of pollinators to move pollen from one flower to another.  With the non-native honey bee populations plummeting, it is very important to encourage native pollinators so commercial crops, and our backyard gardens, continue to produce vegetables and fruit.  Many native pollinators rely on native plant species for habitat or food during times when agricultural crops may not be in bloom.  By encouraging native plants in riparian buffers and hedgerows, we can ensure habitat for pollinators and foster their presence around our farms and gardens.  This knowledge makes it much easier to address the economic benefits farmers and homeowners obtain by planting native plants along streams and hedgerows. 

The Cullowhee Native Plant Conference Steering Committee values education and annually makes scholarships available to educators who may not otherwise be able to attend this informative meeting.  I was the lucky recipient of one of those scholarships this year, and for that I am deeply grateful.  As an educator for Stormwater SMART, I speak to diverse groups about the importance of using native plants in rain gardens and riparian buffers. I focus on native plants because they tend to have longer roots than European or Asian introductions, and they are able to survive without the application of fertilizers and pesticides, which protects our rivers and streams from pollution caused by excess application and runoff of chemicals or manures.  The Cullowhee Native Plant Conference gave me additional tools to add to my communications to help landscapers, gardeners and farmers understand the importance of native plants and the economic benefits received by supporting our native pollinators.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Update: "STEM Consolidation" Would End Funding for NOAA Environmental Literacy Grants, other EE Grant Programs

There is a current effort on the federal level to consolidate a number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs by removing their funding and starting new programs at the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian. Many in the environmental education community are concerned, as this consolidation of programs would end funding for NOAA's Environmental Literacy Grants program and Bay-Watershed Education and Training program. The EPA Environmental Education Program is not mentioned in this consolidation, but the President's current budget proposal does not provide any funding for it. An overview of the Administration proposal can be found at

Many organizations that promote and support both STEM and environmental education, such as the North American Association for Environmental Education, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the National Wildlife Federation and the American Meteorological Society signed on to a letter that addressed their concerns with eliminating the NOAA and EPA programs, which are the only three federal grant programs that are dedicated to environmental education. The  letter notes:

 "Consolidating the funds from these three programs into a much broader STEM education pool of funds ignores the specific need of the federal government to foster environmental literacy. Eliminating the NOAA and EPA programs would also leave the environmental education community without any federal funding program that understands the particular needs and opportunities in our field."

For more information, visit

Update 7/24/2013

U.S. House and Senate subcommittees are not looking favorably on the proposed STEM consolidation (see:  Congressional Panels Dump on STEM Reshuffling Plan in AAAS Science Insider). While it is too early to confirm, this may mean that the federal environmental education funding may continue to operate at current levels. We'll continue to keep you updated as the process unfolds.