Thursday, April 17, 2014

People invited to join state environmental agency in celebration of Earth Day

RALEIGH – From the mountains to the coast, people are invited to join staff with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources for celebrations of Earth Day and Earth Week.
Earth Day is April 22, but throughout April DENR staff members will be participating in events aimed at celebrating this special day, which is the world’s annual party to show support for environmental protection and sustainability. Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970. The following is a list of public events in which DENR staff will be participating. 
Eastern/coastal North Carolina
April 19, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Staff in the state Division of Marine Fisheries and the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores will participate in the Crystal Coast Earth Day Celebration at the Fort Macon State Park visitor center. Aquarium staff will have traveling touch tanks that put live animals such as sea stars and horseshoe crabs at your fingertips during the event.
April 19, 9 a.m. – noon: Staff in the Division of Coastal Management will participate in a coastal cleanup at the Rachel Carson Reserve in Beaufort. Boat transportation to the reserve and cleanup supplies will be provided. People are required to register for the cleanup to ensure boat space is available. Interested? Please contact Paula Gillikin at the reserve at 252-220-0776. Also, the town of Beaufort will lead a town-side cleanup from the corner of Front and Turner streets, and a paper-shredding event will be held at the First Citizen’s Bank in town.
April 26, noon – 6 p.m.: Staff in the state divisions of Marine Fisheries and Coastal Management, and the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher will be educating people about the fisheries and the coastal environment at the Earth Day Festival at Hugh McRae Park in Wilmington. The event features more than 60 informational booths, a Kid’s EcoZone hosted by aquarium staff, live local music, food and drinks. For more information, contact Natalie Martz
April 26, 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.: Staff with the Division of Coastal Management will participate in the Bioblitz at the Outer Banks. The event will be at 300 Audubon Drive in Corolla. Join the Pine Island Audubon Center and staff from the N.C. Coastal Reserve for wildlife identification sessions and discovery events. Contact Scott Crocker, the Northern Sites Coastal Reserve manager, at 252-261-8891 for more information. 
April 26, 10 a.m.: Join state parks staff and others to clean, prune and add plantings to the historic home site of Civil War General James Johnston Pettigrew at Pettigrew State Park in Creswell. Meet in the gravel parking lot at the end of Magnolia Road. Bring gloves, insect repellent, close-toed shoes and hand tools. Dress for the weather. For information, call 252-797-4475.
April 26, 1-4 p.m.: Staff with the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island will participate in the Earth Fair OBX III at the UNC Coastal Studies Institute, 850 N.C. Hwy. 345 in Wanchese. Aquarium staff will bring Enviroscape, an interactive model that illustrates how water can become polluted when it travels over land, streets, yards and through storm drains. This model will also point out how peoples’ actions can affect the health of our waterways. 
Piedmont/central North Carolina
April: Charlotte Air Awareness is coordinating a Race to the Beach contest in which participants are eligible for prizes based on their use of carpooling, public transit, cycling, walking and other “clean commutes.” The program will have information about the race at Earth Day events in Charlotte, Matthews, Huntersville, Cleveland and other areas. A complete list of events can be found at the NC Air Awareness website,
April 17: Triangle Air Awareness will have an ozone season kickoff luncheon on April 17 at the Research Triangle Park Foundation in Research Triangle Park and an Earth Day event at IBM in the Research Triangle Park. Air Awareness is a cooperative program between the state Division of Air Quality and local air programs in metropolitan areas. It educates and informs people about the causes of air pollution and ways to prevent it. A complete list of events is
April 17 & April 24, 5–9 p.m.: Every Thursday in April, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleighwill host a different conservation-related topic. Come see exhibitors, listen to guest speakers and participate in activities and learn more about ways you can make the Earth a better place. More information can be found The events are held in the museum’s Nature Research Center and are free. The April 24 event will feature exhibitors, discussions and activities related to biodiversity and conservation.
April 19, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.: Join us in Lillington for the Raven Rock Earth Day Celebration at Raven Rock State Park. Visit with exhibitors and learn about air quality, shopping locally, recycling, composting and buying organically-raised food such as eggs and pasture-raised chicken and pork from local farmers.
April 22: Triad Air Awareness will have exhibits at Earth Day fairs at Kernersville, High Point University and Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. Air Awareness is a cooperative program between the state Division of Air Quality and local air programs in metropolitan areas. The program educates and informs people about the causes of air pollution and ways to prevent it. A complete list of events can be found at the NC Air Awareness website,
April 23,3 p.m.: William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh hosts its Junior Ranger Earth Day Celebration.
April 26, 1 p.m.: In celebration of Earth Day, park rangers invite the public to join them at Morrow Mountain State Park in Albemarle to search for butterflies. People should bring binoculars and field guides. Meet at the Bridle Trailhead Parking Lot at 1 p.m. Participation is limited, so please register in advance by calling the park at 704-982-4402.
April 26, 8 a.m. – noon: The N.C. Zoo will participate in the Randolph County Water Quality Task Force’s Electronic Recycling Day at the Randolph Mall in Asheboro. People are urged to bring all electronics such as cell phones. Rigid
plastics, including lawn chairs and coolers, are also welcomed. Members of the Asheboro Police Department and Randolph County Sheriff’s Office will be collecting old, unwanted medicine and prescription pills.
Mountains/western North Carolina
April 26: State parks officials host the following Earth Day events:
· 1 p.m., meet park staff at the Education Center to begin a guided hike along the Balsam Nature Trail in Mount Mitchell State Park in Burnsville. Be sure to wear hiking shoes and be prepared for all types of weather, including wind, rain and snow. 
· 11 a.m., planting native trees inNew River State Park in Laurel Springs. Bring work gloves and water for drinking. All tools will be provided. Meet at U.S. Hwy. 221 Access Visitor Center.
· 11 a.m., join state parks staff, biologists and other environmental educators at Chimney Rock State Park to learn about the great work being done to protect the landscape in the park. The event is free. Booths will be in the Chimney Rock Village behind the Old Rock Café. Meet at the Riverwalk behind the café.
· 2 p.m., meet at the Cicero Branch parking area in South Mountains State Park in Connelly Springs.There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the grand opening of the Kids in Parks TRACK Trail at South Mountains State Park. The ceremony will be followed by a ranger-led hike and Animal Olympics games. For more information, visit or call 828-433-4772.
DENR staff and many of its environmental companions will be involved in Earth Day events in North Carolina. For a more complete list of what’s happening in your area, check out the calendar of events on the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs’ website at:

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. 

New Community EE Website and Guidelines Ready for Review and Feedback

The EE Capacity Project is seeking feedback on the Community Environmental Education Guidelines it is developing for the North American Association for Environmental Education. 

This document will join the other NAAEE  EE Guidelines as part of the organization's efforts to encourage best practices in the field. Last September, the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and the Environmental Educators of North Carolina teamed together to host one of the Community EE Roundtables that provided input and guidance for the new guidelines. 


Community EE Website

Community EE is an evolving practice that considers the value of intentional, authentic relationships with communities and environmental outcomes that consider community health and neighborhood wellness. This site was set up to collect your thoughts and feedback on Community EE to ensure the practice is inclusive and reflective of a broad range of perspective. Your constructive feedback is welcome. Please share this site with others you feel would have a stake in Community EE.

Community EE Guidelines Ready for Review
EECapacity encourages you to review the third draft of the Community EE Guidelines. As we continue to work through the development of the Guidelines we need your constructive feedback. Please follow the link below to take a look at current draft. You will notice a red link after each "effort". That link will take you to a survey where you can read the key character in more detail and contribute your thoughts. There are seven efforts (previously known as key characteristics) we believe lead to authentic relationships with communities, and ultimately to authentic learning and practice of EE with communities. Feel free to invite others in your circle to participate. 

Community EE Guidelines Review Feedback

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

No Child Left Inside Act Reintroduced: Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Strengthen Environmental Education

The following press release was issued today (7/17/2013) by Senators Jack Reed and Mark Kirk, and by Congressmen John Sarbanes and Mike Fitzpatrick:

Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Strengthen Environmental Education:
Reed, Kirk, Sarbanes, Fitzpatrick Reintroduce The No Child Left Inside Act

WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort to reconnect more kids with nature and address critical environmental challenges, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S. Representatives John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA)  are introducing legislation to strengthen and expand environmental education in America’s classrooms.  The No Child Left Inside Act of 2013 will help expand environmental education in schools across the country by bringing locally developed, high-quality environmental education programs to more schools and providing federal assistance to states to develop and implement environmental literacy plans.  

Studies show getting kids outside and teaching them about nature helps them raise achievement in other subjects and has important health benefits too.  Yet studies also show the amount of time children now spend outdoors has declined significantly in the past 20 years.  Today, many schools are being forced to scale back environmental programs and curtail outdoor activities.

“Teaching children about the environment and giving them a hands-on opportunity to experience nature makes them smarter and healthier.  Environmental education should be an important part of the curriculum in our schools.  This legislation will help reconnect more kids with nature and raise student achievement in core subjects like math, science, and reading,” said Senator Reed.  “Environmental awareness should be second nature for our young people and protecting the environment is crucial to future economic growth.”

“To prepare American students to compete in the 21st century global economy, this bill uses an innovative approach to teaching science and bringing the benefits of outdoor activity to more children,” Senator Kirk said.  “Our bill promotes hands-on learning and an integrated curriculum, while bolstering important science, technology, engineering and math education programs."

“Environmental education must be a national priority,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Hands-on, outdoor interaction with the environment enhances student achievement – not only in science, but also in reading, math, and social studies.  By investing in education that will grow the next generation of innovators, scientists and environmental stewards, we will prepare our workforce of the future to meet the many economic, environmental, and energy-related challenges our country is facing.”

“This bill reflects a larger, overall responsibility to promote environmental stewardship across generations,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “Incorporating environmental learning is a down payment on our future. Research shows that promoting a hands-on approach to teaching kids about the environment improves student achievement in science as well as reading, math and social studies – all which directly strengthens our global competitiveness.”

The No Child Left Inside Act would provide funds to encourage partnerships between school districts, colleges, parks, and non-profits and other community-based organizations to implement the improved curricula and provide professional development for teachers on the use of field-based, service, and experiential learning.

Additionally, the bill will add environmental education as an authorized activity under other traditional federal grant programs and require cooperation, joint planning, and reporting by federal agencies involved in environmental education. 

NCLI is supported by over 50 million citizens from 2,200 local, regional, and national organizations in the No Child Left Inside Coalition, including the League of Conservation Voters, National Education Association, National Science Teachers Association, National Wildlife Federation, and the Outdoor Industry Association, as well as hundreds of colleges, universities, businesses, and health care organizations.

The bill numbers for the No Child Left Inside Act are S. 1306 in the U.S. Senate and H.R. 2702 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Friday, July 12, 2013

N. American Association for Environmental Education Conference Registration and Awards Nominations Now Open

A message from the North American Association for Environmental Education EE-NEWS:

Register Now!
It’s time to register for the 2013 NAAEE conference in Baltimore (October 9-12). With prices lower than last year’s, you’ll want to make sure to join us for a diverse slate of thought-provoking keynoters, exciting concurrent sessions, outstanding workshops and field trips, and endless opportunities for networking and professional development.

Register at

Conference information:

Exhibits and Ads
Promote your programs and resources, reach more than 1,000 environmental educators, and support NAAEE by purchasing your exhibit booths and program advertisements soon. Exhibit booth purchases include one free conference registration, so it’s a great deal and a wonderful way to interact directly with your primary target audience. And surely you want your ad noticed as every conference participant receives and reads the program!
Sign up online at

Session Notification Update
Review results have been sent to all conference proposal submitters; research symposium results will be sent soon. The online conference management system will reopen to all later this week. Session scheduling is underway and specific session dates and times will be announced and posted online within about a week.

2013 Call for Nominations: NAAEE Excellence in EE Awards

Nominations Deadline: August 16, 2013
Help NAAEE recognize individuals and organizations that excel in EE by nominating them for one of our annual awards, including our highest honor: the Walter E. Jeske Award.

The Call for Nominations is now open; the awards will be presented on October 12 at the Annual Awards Luncheon at the 2013 NAAEE Annual Conference. Online nomination forms are linked here: