After months of work and review, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has released the first draft of the revised K-12 Science Standards - and they are looking for feedback.
Help ensure that environmental education is a strong part of our state’s science curriculum by sharing your feedback. Complete the 2023 Draft #1 K-12 Science Standards All Stakeholder Survey by December 18, 2022.
Consider your breadth and depth of knowledge when getting ready to do this survey. If you’re most familiar with a single grade, you can probably complete this survey in 15-30 minutes. If you have a breadth of knowledge spanning K-12 science, plan to allocate more time.
To help you prepare, EENC has compiled a survey preview of all the draft standards.
During this survey, you’ll review one grade level at a time, but can review as many grades as you would like all within a single survey entry.
Be as specific as possible in your comments.
Consider planning a meeting with your team to discuss your review as a group. But be sure that each person on your team enters their own responses to the survey!
EENC is co-hosting a network-wide working session on December 13 to discuss these standards .
This year EENC staff were able to attend and present at the NAAEE Research Symposium and Conference in Tucson, AZ.
The first opportunity to present came at the Research Symposium where the Universal Design for Learning in EE course was shared and attendees were sourced for ideas on how they would like to see the impacts of this course shared in a research to practice format.
EENC staff also go to meet the rest of the UDL in EE design team (in person!) and share a teaser session of the course during a 90 minute hands-on presentation. The room was full of 25 participants and lots of incredible conversations with educators from across the country.
With the recent introduction of the No Child Left Inside Act, EENC joined leaders from Colorado and Washington DC to talk about processes and lessons learned for updating statewide environmental literacy plans for a third session. EENC shared our approach, currently underway with the NC Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and the NC Department of Public Instruction.
And to wrap up the trip, EENC and Silver’s Lining Consulting were able to share a two day Collaborative Learning Opportunity using the UDL in EE course materials with the education staff at the Cooper Center for Environmental Education. The team of ten educators, interns, volunteers, and leadership staff worked together to reflect on their teaching locations and pedagogies, finding ways to make them more inclusive and accessible for all learners.
EENC strives to be a leader in the field of environmental education at the state, region, and national levels. Opportunities like this when we can share our experience and expertise with leaders from across North America are just one way we put this goal into action. These efforts were made possible in part due to support from NAAEE’s ee360+ program.
In the United States, the southeast receives only 8% of the $116 million in philanthropic investments for environmental literacy, outdoor experiences, and connections to nature. This disparity of funding in the region, unfortunately, mirrors inequities in access to green spaces, education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. With this in mind, the Blue Sky Funders Forum, Pisces Foundation, and Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA) recently hosted a forum for peer-funders and experts to explore findings from a recent landscape analysis of environmental literacy in the southeast. With insights into the assets and barriers to furthering environmental literacy in the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, the funders briefing also provided a space for attendees to connect with peer-funders to explore opportunities for collaboration.
Jason Morris, Senior Program Officer at the Pisces Foundation, said the event was designed “to highlight some of the amazing work going on in the southeast and to share about how an increased investment and a slightly different frame of reference can strengthen and build environmental education and outdoor learning in this area.”
The conversation also highlighted how an investment in environmental education and outdoor learning not only leads to positive educational and conservation outcomes but also positive health and wellness, social justice, and youth development outcomes. “When children engage in this type of learning in meaningful ways, our communities become stronger and our world becomes a more diverse and equitable place,” Morris said.
To plan the event, Morris was joined by Berkeley Bryant, Program Coordinator at the Blue Sky Funders Forum; SEEA Executive Director Ashley Hoffman; and Environmental Educators of North Carolina Executive Director Lauren Pyle. The goals were to help funders learn about current needs and trends within environmental education (EE) across the southeast; to explore how funders can explore and make use of data from a recent regional landscape analysis; to offer a space for funders to network with one another; and to collaboratively discuss solutions and strategies for funders to help advance the field of EE in the southeast.
In an overview of the field, Bryant shared details about the Tracking the Field searchable grants database, which is led by the Environmental Grantmakers Association. She also shared a snapshot of environmental literacy grantmaking from the past several years, explaining that only 6% of recent environmental philanthropy has gone to environmental literacy and education initiatives, and a high percentage of these grants are less than $50,000. The areas of the US that receive the highest levels of environmental literacy funding are the northeast, the Pacific coast, and at the federal level, and that the areas that receive the least amount of environmental literacy funding (which include the southeast) are the most racially and ethnically diverse (2020 Census Redistricting Data). In the southeast, a highly racially diverse region, the median grant size for environmental literacy initiatives is a mere $2,000. (In comparison, the northeast, which receives 24% of environmental literacy funding and is less racially diverse, has a median environmental literacy grant size of $15,000.)
In addition to sharing how increasing philanthropic dollars to environmental education and meaningful experiences outdoors in the southeast is a top priority for the Blue Sky Funders Forum and how structural, systems-wide funding is crucial to build a sustainable movement that advances the role of environmental and outdoor learning, Morris highlighted the work being done by SEEA and its eight state associations. “In many ways, the connective tissue between these states is greater than in many of the regions of the country,” he said. “We at the Pisces Foundation work to amplify good work and shine a spotlight on good work, as does Blue Sky. There’s true investment potential to bring about some structural, durable, systems-wide changes, and the work that SEEA has done has positioned the region well for some significant advancements.”
Ashley Hoffman (SEEA Executive Director) and Lauren Pyle (Environmental Educators of North Carolina) shared key findings from Phase 1 of a robust regional landscape analysis of environmental education in the southeast. They explained how funders can use the many tools created as part of Phase 1 to determine funding priorities and identify needs and gaps and how, based on the findings from Phase 1 of the landscape analysis, funders looking to make a significant impact on environmental literacy in the southeast have the opportunity to fund systems-level initiatives that fill identified gaps; fund systems-level support, including staffing; support training and planning time for environmental education providers to dig into evaluation, demographics, and equity work; and adjust funding requirements and priorities to support strategies that address the opportunities.
After the highlights from Phase 1, Hoffman shared updates about the launch of a Phase 2 survey, which is currently being distributed to PreK-12 schools across the southeast. Finally, she shared that thanks to a new partnership between EcoRise, NAAEE, and the Affiliate Network, Phase 1 of the project will be scaled nationwide, and plans are underway to include maps of all 50 states by the fall of 2023.
The event ended with a panel discussion that featured Alfred Mays (Senior Program Officer and Director and Chief Strategist for Diversity and Education at the Burroughs Wellcome Fund), Dawn Chavez (Executive Director of Asheville GreenWorks), Christine Smith (Executive Director of Seedleaf), Sarah Bodor (Director of Policy and Affiliate Relations at the North American Association for Environmental Education), and Jason Morris. The panelists shared stories about projects they’ve funded; the need for capacity-building support to provide environmental educators and interns with an equitable and living wage; inspiring stories of how funders and organizations worked together to make an impact; successful advocacy initiatives; and the power of student voices when it comes to inspiring and creating change.
Learn more about the event and the work being done in the southeast
Watch the recorded forum here.
Get an overview of the landscape of environmental education in the southeast through this video.
Explore the SEEA interactive dashboard that allows you to view the southeastern environmental education field through different filters (e.x. percentage of BIPOC leadership, budget, audience served, and more).
Break down the landscape analysis by state using this tool.
Interested in grant data for environmental literacy across the U.S.? View the 2019 Tracking the Field report. Tracking the Field is a project led by the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA), of which Blue Sky is a working group and partner in collecting grant data.
Learn more about the speakers: Burroughs Wellcome Fund; Asheville GreenWorks; Pisces Foundation; Seedleaf; Advocacy, Policy, and Civic Engagement group at NAAEE.
To learn more about the landscape analysis or this event, contact Lauren Pyle.
This year’s Annual Conference was themed rEEdefine, redefining how we reflect, connect and identify in the field of EE. It was held September 9 and 10 at the McKimmon Conference and Event Center on NC State’s campus in Raleigh, NC. The event saw 169 attendees over the two days, participating in 24 different sessions! A big thank you to the conference sponsors who helped support the event.
Reflecting, Connecting, and Identifying in EE:
This year EENC shared a Land Acknowledgement that was written by the newly formed North Carolina American Indian Heritage Commission with the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. This acknowledgement not only addresses the Native People across the state of North Carolina, but also allows EENC to address specific tribal recognition as the conference moves across the state to different regions.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Rasul Mowatt, NC State’s Department Head of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. He helped us better understand the definition of “decolonization”, a topic of national interest in Environmental Education right now. He shared ideas for resources to deepen our own knowledge, and ways Environmental Educators could continue the valuable work we are doing through practicing Critical Teaching.
This year’s conference also saw the launch of Affinity Groups in EE. An Affinity Group is a group of people linked by common interests, identities, or experiences. Affinity Groups play a vital role in ensuring an inclusive environment where all are valued, included, and empowered to succeed. Overall the feedback has been very positive and participants have reported feeling welcomed and better connected within these spaces, but we’ve also heard your feedback on scheduling. Our goal next year is to continue to offer these spaces in a way that doesn’t conflict with sessions.
Many of you asked “Why McKimmon?” and the answer comes in our theme of redefining Environmental Education. Environmental education happens in all kinds of spaces, and this year, we wanted our conference venue to reflect that. Our field has become a beautifully diverse array of educators and EENC as a whole has grown tremendously over the last few years. This means that in order to provide inclusive experiences that best support the needs of conference attendees and presenters (meeting spaces, restroom facilities, dietary requirements, internet access, and physical/learning accessibility), EENC may start utilizing locations that look very different from what we’ve used in the past as the conference rotates across the different sections.
Next year EENC plans to host the Annual Conference at Camp Rockfish, near Fayetteville, NC. Field trips and workshops will be on Thursday September 7, and the conference will be September 8 and 9, 2023. We are already building our Conference Planning Committee and we could use your help! We are looking for folks interested in sharing their expertise in scheduling/logistics, building regional connections, and supporting access and inclusion to create a welcoming event. Please contact Michelle Pearce, EENC Program Coordinator, if you’d like to join the planning committee.
Lauren Pyle, Executive Director
firstname.lastname@example.org | 984-999-1702
For Immediate Release
Image (left to right): Coty Sutherland, Lindsey Baker, Chris Goforth, Shannon Culpepper, and Breanna Walker. Linda Kinney and Amy Renfranz not pictured.
Chapel Hill, N.C. (September 27, 2022). Each year the Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) publicly recognizes environmental educators, members, organizations, and partners for their valuable contributions to environmental literacy, the field of environmental education, the EENC as an organization, and the environmental well-being of North Carolina.
On September 9, 2022, EENC celebrated seven individuals and organizations for their fantastic work. From EENC Communications Chair, Will Freund: “EENC is honored to recognize and uplift those that have gone above and beyond in the field of environmental education and beyond to make a difference in their community.”
Environmental Educator of The Year
The 2022 Environmental Educator of The Year was awarded to both Lindsey Baker and Linda Kinney. Lindsey Baker is a Park Ranger at Raven Rock State Park and an NC Certified Environmental Educator. Lindsey has worked in the environmental education field for the last 10 years and has worn many different hats along the way. As a Park Ranger, Lindsey coordinates organizes, and leads hikes throughout the park for many community groups as well as expanding the infrastructure within the park. Most notably, she created the GPS blazing project at Raven Rock State Park, which has helped critically with search and rescue there. Lindsey is described to have a way of making people of all ages, backgrounds, content, and skill levels feel curious, excited, and confident to explore the outdoors.
Linda Kinney is an educator at the North Carolina Zoo and manager of their Playful Pedagogy program, part of the Zoo’s Conservation, Education, and Science Division. This program advocates for the importance of playing outdoors in the everyday experiences of children and their families through training, civic engagements, and Kidzone at the North Carolina Zoo. Linda Kinney’s incredible work has inspired other educators to create similar programs in their communities because of the impact that they felt going through the Playful Pedagogy series. Linda helps educators focus on how they present material and how people learn, and that is through play.
Exceptional Environmental Education Program
Waccamaw Siouan STEM Studio Community Yacunne (Fish) Camp was awarded the 2022 Exceptional Environmental Education Program Award and was accepted by Coty Sutherland. The Waccamaw Siouan Indians are one of eight state-recognized Native American tribes in North Carolina. They are located predominantly in the southeastern North Carolina counties of Bladen and Columbus, in the communities of St. James, Buckhead, and Council. The Waccamaw Siouan tribal homeland is situated on the edge of Green Swamp about 37 miles from Wilmington, North Carolina, seven miles from Lake Waccamaw, and four miles north of Bolton, North Carolina. Yacunne (pronounced YAH-chu-nee) is the word for fish in Woccon, the tribal language. This innovative program connects culture, heritage, health, and environmental education in one event. The program is intergenerational, giving extended families an environment to spend time in nature together and share skills across generations.
This year’s Outstanding Partner Award was given to Don’t Waste It!, Chatham County Solid Waste and Recycling and was accepted by Shannon Culpepper. Developed in 2019, Don't Waste It! is an educator guide to waste management, recycling, composting, and waste reduction, which includes 11 lessons covering five themes: municipal solid waste, recycling, plastics, composting, and landfills. That same year it became part of the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program as a Criteria 1 workshop. In 2020 Chatham County partnered with Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) and received an Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Education grant to expand Don't Waste It! within North Carolina and to seven other states in the Southeast.
The 2022 Outstanding Practitioner Award recognized Chris Goforth. Chris works as Head of Citizen Science at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences at their Prarie Ridge Ecostation and is a certified North Carolina Environmental Educator. As Head of Citizen Science, Chris regularly works with a wide array of audiences to share the knowledge and power of citizen science. From the Lost Ladybug Project to iNaturalist, to Nature’s Notebook and so many more, there is a citizen science project for everyone. In addition to her work at Prairie Ridge, Chris regularly facilitates workshops, programs, and other professional development opportunities across the state and online, as well as develops content that adds to the greater body of work in the environmental education field and beyond.
EENC’s 2022 Outstanding Service Award was given to Amy Renfranz. Amy is a certified North Carolina Environmental Educator as well as holds a Master's degree in Parks, Recreation, & Leisure Studies from NC State. Over the last decade, Amy has served in a wide array of environmental education positions across North Carolina and the country including, Interpretive Ranger for the National Park Service on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Resident Instructor for the Yellowstone Association Institute, Director of Education & Natural Resources for Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, and most recently as the Program Coordinator for New Hanover County Soil & Water Conservation District. In addition to her work, Amy has served on the EENC Board of Directors for the last four years including President-Elect, President, Past President, and Eastern Section Chair including many task forces and committees as well. my is passionate about and committed to her work and is a strong role model for early career professionals. She is a supportive, thoughtful, and dedicated leader and is always willing to get involved and serve her community.
EENC is excited to recognize Breanna Walker as this year’s Outstanding Newcomer. Breanna works as a Conservation Education Specialist with the Union County Soil & Water Conservation District and currently serves as Piedmont Section Chair on the EENC Board of Directors. Breanna has become a leader in the state as a Soil and Water District employee and has gone above expectations to help other educators who look to her as a mentor in environmental education. She sits on numerous boards and committees throughout Union County and the state. In her short time living in North Carolina so far, she has accomplished much including piloting the first virtual Leopold Education Project workshop in the nation, gaining ecoExplore designation for Union County Agricultural Center, and so much more.
About the Environmental Educators of North Carolina
The Environmental Educators of North Carolina grew from the desire of environmental educators across North Carolina to meet and share their experiences, aspirations, and tools. Since its inception in 1990, EENC has grown into something much greater. Our organization represents a network of outstanding environmental educators, individuals, and organizations who work together to accomplish our core mission: to build connections, provide professional development, and promote excellence in environmental education.
For more information about EENC and these awards, please visit www.eenc.org.
EENC, in partnership with the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance, announces the launch of Phase 2 of its landscape analysis of environmental education efforts in eight southeastern states. This phase follows the successful Phase 1 project, which focused on environmental education (EE) in nonformal settings. Data from Phase 1 allowed SEEA to identify gaps and barriers to access that prevent successful implementation of EE in the region and determine next steps for increasing environmental literacy efforts in the southeast. Collected from more than 650 programs in eight states, the data also allowed the network to equip organizations conducting environmental and conservation-related work in the region with the resources they need to allocate their own resources more effectively and to ultimately serve as a guide for future strategic planning efforts at the local, state, and regional level.
The baseline data we gathered in Phase 1 has the potential to do even more than it already has, and that is one reason why the next step, Phase 2, is essential. In Phase 2, SEEA will gather data from PreK-12 schools in the eight SEEA states, enabling the network to get the full picture of EE happening in schools throughout the region. Then, in late 2022 and early 2023 SEEA will compare this data with that collected in Phase 1. The two datasets together will offer the most complete picture ever collected of current EE offerings in the region and what gaps and barriers exist in both formal and nonformal settings for students of all ages and in all areas. Comparing the data from nonformal and formal EE providers will allow SEEA affiliates and their states to further the goal of advancing EE in the region and building collective impact that has a lasting effect on the southeast.
Following the success of Phase 1, SEEA is now distributing a robust survey to PreK-12 schools around the southeast. The primary target audience for the Phase 2 survey is school and district administrators and formal educators, at all grade levels, who work in the PreK-12 setting. The survey is the result of several collaborative sessions with EE leaders from the participating states and across the nation, and an in-depth analysis of the findings from Phase 1. Questions relate to organizational operations, audiences served, programming themes, and services to better understand environmental education and engagement in the southeast.
Following the survey period, SEEA members will create communications tools custom tailored to the needs of teachers and administrators in the southeast. SEEA will then distribute the findings to survey participants, school administrators, community leaders, classroom teachers, nonformal education providers, and other potential stakeholders through various communications tools such as a shared narrative, website, presentations, infographics, and reports.
SEEA would like to invite classroom teachers and PreK-12 school administrators to participate in this project by filling out the survey by October 5, 2022. You can learn more about the project and access the survey at southeastee.com/landscapeanalysis.
The Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance is a partnership of the following organizations:
Environmental Education Association of Alabama (EEAA)
League of Environmental Educators in Florida (LEEF)
Environmental Education Alliance (EEA) of Georgia
Kentucky Association for Environmental Education (KAEE)
Mississippi Environmental Education Alliance (MEEA)
Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC)
Environmental Education Association of South Carolina (EEASC)
Tennessee Environmental Education Association (TEEA)
About the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA)
SEEA is the result of a formal agreement between the southeastern states’ NAAEE affiliate organizations for advancing long-term objectives that further the common interests of the member states. The eight southeastern states’ NAAEE affiliate organizations are the SEEA affiliate members.
By: Maggie McIntyre
The North Carolina Zoo, an organizational member of EENC, is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world and is dedicated to protecting wildlife and natural areas as well as inspiring young people to do the same in their lifetime. The heart of their mission is conservation both in North Carolina and around the world, and the experiences they offer to Zoo guests help introduce people to the importance of their conservation practices.
The animals found within the Zoo are seen as ambassadors for the conservation work they do globally. They have partnered with many different organizations around the world that address local issues such as poaching and wildlife trading.
Beth Folta, the North Carolina Zoo Curator of Education has been working at the zoo since 2017 and oversees their dynamic educational experiences. They have everything from summer camps, school group programming, Snorin’ Safaris where groups can stay overnight on Zoo grounds, scouting events, and partners with the Asheboro High School’s Zoo School to open up the zoo as a living lab for students.
“We are trying to encourage others to help us in protecting the natural world,” Folta said. “Environmental education is really about protecting the wild places and the wildlife and the plants and everything that lives in them.”
Folta said the Zoo designs activities and programs around conservation and animal welfare. For example, their investigation stations, which can be found throughout the zoo as an interactive experience, each have a unique theme that showcases a different issue related to one or more of the Zoo’s species.
The Zoo’s summer camps offer a great opportunity forkids to learn and grow through the activities they get to participate in, especially when the camps are weeklong or when campers return again and again. Folta said that she has really seen the impact of education through these camps, which makes them a special part of their programming.
The North Carolina Zoo has also just launched a new program called Zoo Trekker, where visitors can complete different activities throughout their visit that inform them about different animal welfare and conservation topics. Folta described it as similar to the Junior Ranger program conducted by the National Parks Service.
“It revitalizes the Zoo, so they may have come here a dozen times before, but now it’s making them look at the Zoo in a different way,” said Folta.
The Zoo’s environmental education initiatives are not found only onsite. They have a program called UNITE, in partnership with the Cleveland Metropark Zoo that works around Kibale National Park in Uganda to train teachers in environmental education. The program has been running for more than 18 years and has become very important in their global conservation efforts as Uganda is a biodiversity hotspot.
Folta said that one of the most challenging parts of her job is tackling all of the incredible new ideas and projects that she and the other staff come up with. They are currently working on an app in partnership with East Carolina University that will make the zoo more accessible to visitors by offering self-guided learning opportunities. These opportunities will be available with audio descriptions for guests that are blind or visually impaired and will also be available in Spanish.
The app will be designed for school groups, although it will be available for all guests to use, and will offer lessons that meet the standard course of studies for each grade level. There will also be an augmented reality portion of the app that will enable guests to step into the shoes of a veterinarian or keeper at the Zoo to learn more about their responsibilities and about the different species at the zoo. She said they plan on launching the app next spring and it will make the experience of visiting more interactive for guests.
The Zoo also recently received funding to expand their planned Asia section and broke ground on the expansion on August 11, 2022. Although the expansion will take a few years, it will bring in many new species to the Zoo.
Looking after the over 1700 different individual animals that the zoo houses is an immense daily undertaking and requires a highly-skilled, productive team which Folta said she is grateful to work with. Every day is different, and the work she does remains engaging and fun.
“We all have a love for nature and we want to protect the wild places and especially the wildlife that lives in them,” she said.
The North Carolina Zoo is nestled on 2,600 wooded acres centrally located in the heart of North Carolina, just south of Asheboro in Randolph County. With 500 developed acres, it is the world's largest natural habitat zoo and one of two state-supported zoos. The North Carolina Zoo is an agency of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Photo Credits: NC Zoo
Maggie McIntyre is a first-year environmental studies student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was born and raised in Greensboro, NC with a passion for learning and being in the great outdoors.
For Immediate Release - August 31, 2022
Lauren Pyle, Executive Director | email@example.com | 984-999-1702
Will Freund, Communications Chair | firstname.lastname@example.org | 919-609-8443
Images available upon request
[Chapel Hill, N.C.] - On September 9th & 10th, 2022, the Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) will convene for their 31st annual conference at NC State’s McKimmon Conference & Training Center in Raleigh, NC. The theme for this year’s conference is rEEdefine: redefining how we connect, reflect, and identify in the field of Environmental Education. During the conference, presenters from across the region will delve deeper into what environmental education looks like in North Carolina, the exciting and surprising places where environmental education is happening, and why environmental education should be designed for and accessible to everyone.
“EENC’s conference brings together educators from across our state to learn with and from one another. It inspires and re-energizes them, and helps them feel connected to the larger movement to make North Carolina - and its environment - a better place.” -Lauren Pyle, Executive Director
In line with the theme of the conference, the keynote speaker will be professor Dr. Rasul Mowatt, Department Head of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University. Dr. Mowatt’s research as a professor and author focuses on social justice and the geographies of race in urban areas.
Within the conference, there are three key strands that guide the field trips, presentations, workshops, and sessions: Expanding EE, Healing in Nature, and Back to the Youth.
EENC strives to make our organization and environmental education more accessible and welcoming to all communities. There are many individuals, organizations, and programs doing EE, even if that term isn’t explicitly used to describe their work. Being in, learning about, and reclaiming the outdoors can all be forms of personal or collective healing. From providing input on programmatic goals to taking control of their own learning, youth are vital stakeholders in environmental education.
As part of the conference, in addition to regular conference sessions, EENC will host a research symposium to highlight and uplift the researchers, academics, and students that are working to advance the field of environmental education.
For information regarding the Environmental Educators of North Carolina 31st annual conference, please visit: https://eenc.org/conference
The Environmental Educators of North Carolina represents a network of outstanding environmental educators, individuals, and organizations who work together to accomplish our core mission: to build connections, provide professional development, and promote excellence in environmental education.
For more information on EENC, visit: www.eenc.org.
Over the past two years, EENC and its partners, Chatham County Solid Waste & Recycling and the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA), have worked to launch a new curriculum called Don’t Waste It! across the southeast. The goals of the Don’t Waste It! project were to help current and future educators across the southeast understand the systems for solid waste and recycling in their state and then provide them with resources and lessons to share this knowledge with students. We hoped these educators would go on to inspire their local communities to get involved with composting, recycling, and other waste reduction activities.
Thanks to a $100,000 environmental education grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded in September 2020 to SEEA, we were able to bring this program to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Each state developed a customized Don’t Waste It! guide, with state-specific resources, references, and curriculum correlations. Across the region, we were able to train 44 new Don’t Waste It! facilitators who went on to provide training to hundreds of educators in both in-person workshops and online training across the southeast.
This project was designed and proposed before COVID-19. Despite the many changes that resulted from the pandemic, the Don’t Waste It! project team accomplished all our originally proposed activities on time and exceeded all our original targets for engagement. This in itself is a huge success considering the many stresses educators have experienced in the past two years.
Some highlights of this two-year project:
We brought the Don’t Waste It! curriculum to a total of 602 educators across the southeast, 45% more than our original target of 415.
All workshops met or exceeded their goals for increasing educator knowledge and confidence in teaching about solid waste and recycling topics. Participants were also highly satisfied with the workshops and overwhelmingly intended to share what they learned with others.
95% of educators who responded to the follow-up survey changed their personal or professional environmental behavior due to project participation.
Plus, most of the states that launched Don’t Waste It! programs plan to continue offering workshops after this launch. You can be certain there will be future workshops, both online and in person, in North Carolina in the future! This project is just one example of how SEEA can serve as a field catalyst, helping build capacity to ensure that educators across our region have what they need to do their jobs better.
To learn more about the Don’t Waste It! project and its impacts, please contact Lauren Pyle at email@example.com. If you'd like to learn more about the Don't Waste It! curriculum, please contact Shannon Culpepper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Riverlink is an Asheville-based organization that promotes the environmental and economic vitality of the French Broad River and is an organizational member of EENC. Their environmental education initiatives include summer day camps, an annual art and poetry contest that commemorates young people’s appreciation for the river, and their RiverRATS program that offers free lessons for students both in the classroom and outdoors at various field sites.
Riverlink was founded in the mid-1980s as an effort to have visitors stay longer in Asheville. The city wanted the river area to attract tourists and was incredibly successful in doing so. Now, Asheville hosts an estimated 10 million visitors per year, and the river and its surrounding parks remain an important part of Asheville.
The organization not only focuses on environmental education, but also conservation and watershed resources to keep the river and watershed healthy and safe. All three of these missions relate to each other and it is very effective as a three-pronged approach.
“It’s a challenge to balance all three, especially with a small staff, but we have some really excellent people that are wonderful at what they do that make it possible,” said Justin Young, Riverlink’s Education and Outreach Manager.
Young has worked with Riverlink for 7 years to develop different education programs to help create the next generation of environmental stewards. He originally got into environmental education after working with a professor in college to conduct education-based events. He found himself at Riverlink as an Americorps volunteer a few years later before becoming a full-time employee of the organization.
“Education is kind of where it all begins,” he said. “We are hopefully allowing them to begin this journey down the path of becoming a full-time environmental steward, whether that’s in their personal life, or moving into a professional realm.”
Young said that although all of their programming is important and fulfilling, their RiverRATS program is the one he is most proud of. RiverRATS works with 3,000 students annually, primarily children of color and children in low-income communities to encourage them to engage with the outdoors and learn more about the surrounding watershed. This program is structured into lessons that range from 45 minutes to 2 hours and can be conducted both in classrooms or at field sites.
Each lesson has a focus to get kids thinking like stream ecologists and river stewards. For example, they have a lesson on macroinvertebrates that gets kids searching in the water for critters and learning about their importance in river ecosystems. Young said that many of the kids who are a little wary at first about getting in the water and picking up these macroinvertebrates are the same kids who don’t want to get out of the water come the end of the lesson.
Their summer camps are another way that Riverlink accomplishes the environmental education work they have set out to do. With these camps, kids are able to explore the French Broad and surrounding watershed through rafting, paddling, tubing, hiking, etc. Young said that he sees kids return year after year to their camps saying it was an amazing experience for them.
Young also said that the poetry and art contest they hold annually is a great way to showcase local appreciation for the river. Students are able to submit poetry, prose, 2D and 3D art, or video compositions to reflect on the French Broad River watershed.
Riverlink is always looking to expand and improve the work that they do within the French Broad River watershed. Young said that they are hoping to expand their RiverRATS program to have an afterschool component for students which will involve adjusting their curriculum to a more appreciational and experimental approach.
Young said that it is important for Riverlink to encourage a more diverse community within their field, which they have initiated by focusing RiverRATS on reaching low-income and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color) communities. He said that although this program is accomplishing so much, it is important for environmental educators to build resources for these communities.
“Preserving these spaces is a collaborative effort. We need everyone to feel connected, to feel accepted within these spaces,” Young said. “ Otherwise, we are going to have a really hard time ensuring that they stay healthy for future generations.”
Riverlink is also hoping to become a national model of how local groups can work to conserve, protect, and connect their community with their local water resources. Young said they are hoping to refine everything they do to make it transferable to other areas.
“This three-pronged approach that we’re using has a lot of potential to be useful in other communities,” he said.
The work that Young does with kids has an incredible impact not only on each individual student, but also on the French Broad River watershed, and North Carolina as a whole. Young said that as kids keep coming back to camps, or keep participating in the RiverRATS programs, he is able to see firsthand that they are learning and growing which leads them one step closer to becoming lifelong environmental stewards.
Photo Credits: Riverlink
P.O. Box 4904Chapel Hill, NC 27515-4904
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