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
About the Environmental Educators of North Carolina
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
In 2020, the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA) launched a regional Landscape Analysis to identify gaps and barriers to access in environmental education. This analysis confirmed what many of us working in environmental education already know: there are inequities in pay and benefits. We found that the average entry-level salary for environmental educators is 15-25% lower than in comparable fields (Stakeholder Report).
To address this, SEEA is gathering a team to develop an eeGuidance for Equitable Hiring. This white paper will provide concrete tools and suggestions for designing and posting positions, serve as a tool for individuals and organizations to advocate for increasing EE salaries, and help establish industry standards for pay and hiring. Once released, we hope this document will help improve employee retention, attract and sustain more diverse talent, establish our field as a viable profession, and ultimately make environmental education more equitable.
Want to be a part of this? Will you help us make this happen?
There are three main ways to be a part of this project. They are listed below from lowest to highest levels of commitment.
Join the Advisory Team. We hope to identify 30-50 people to serve as advisors on this project. This group will ideally represent the depth and breadth of our field from across the region and hold a variety of identities. Advisors do not have to be currently based in the SEEA Affiliate states nor be currently working in environmental education, but ideally have experience in at least one of these and are passionate about this topic. We anticipate the total commitment of this role to be 3-5 hours in total. We ask advisors to:
Join the Writing Team. A small 5-7 person volunteer writing team will compile the feedback and ideas from the Google Form and Advisory team to draft the document. The writing team members do not need grammatical expertise but must be skilled in crafting written communications that can be understood by a variety of stakeholders within and outside of environmental education. Writing team members must be able to attend the bulk of the meetings outlined below and should be excited about bringing this project to life. We anticipate the total volunteer commitment for this role to be 12-15 hours. We ask writers to:
attend 6 1-hour meetings every other week via Zoom at a mutually determined time approximately from August through September
work between meetings through Google docs and email
read provided resources and do additional research as needed
Meet 1-3 times in late October-November to revise the document based on feedback
If you are interested in being a part of the advisory team or the writing team, please complete this Google Form to let us know.
If you have any questions about this project, its goals, or the volunteer roles - or if you would like to submit any information or interest in a format outside of Google Forms - please contact Lauren Pyle.
This month, EENC has started to collect more detailed information regarding the demographics of our members and participants in an effort to better include and serve those in our community.
EENC was one of eight states who collaborated with the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA) in 2021 to identify gaps and barriers to access in environmental education in the region, and locally in the state, through the Landscape Analysis. Through this, we looked at who was being served by environmental education. The responses suggested that 35% of EE student audiences are black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) - but only 37 of the 122 EE providers in North Carolina shared this information. And the response rate wasn’t much better for staffing and leadership. .
This indicates that many EE providers do not collect demographic data on their participants or their staff. EENC believes environmental education and resources should be accessible to all communities, and we can’t know if we are successful as a field without this type of information. We recognize collecting this information can be hard for EE providers, simply because best practices indicate that this information should be self-reported, and that can be challenging to navigate when we consider staff comfortability with sharing that information, perceived political challenges, student trust, obtaining parental consent to collect data from minors, and available time during a program day.
And providers aren’t alone! These realizations made EENC reflect on the information we collect as well. If you’ve attended an EENC workshop in the past, you’ve probably seen the demographic questions we ask in our final evaluations. EENC collects this data as a progress marker to assess how we are meeting our mission, vision, and strategic goals and we analyze the results annually. After reflecting on our processes, we realized that even with this strategy, we were still missing large sections of our network - from members who might not attend events, to online webinar participants who often don’t fill out evaluations, to repeat participants who only filled the information out the first time. This is why we’re changing our systems and providing an opportunity for self-reported demographic data through our program registrations and membership profile pages.
The first rollout of this self-reporting data collection will be seen in our program registration for workshops, CommunitEEs, and online courses. It is also included in the registration information for the 2022 Annual Conference. Toward the end of July, the demographic questionnaire will be included in all membership renewals as well, but if you have renewed your membership before then you can log in to your EENC account and update your information anytime through your profile.
EENC plans to provide more learning resources over the next year on how to best collect demographic data to support our community and help EE providers learn more about the communities they serve. We are taking these first small steps to get a better picture of our community of EE practitioners. Together, let’s make #EEforAll.
Attention all education stakeholders! This is your chance to help shape the curriculum standards that are taught in North Carolina’s public schools. Our state has its own Standard Course of Study for each subject that is reviewed periodically. Currently, the NC K-12 Science Standards are up for review.
Here’s how the process works:
First, the Department of Public Instruction will collect feedback from a variety of education stakeholders, including classroom teachers, non-formal educators, institutes of higher education, parents, community members, and more! This is happening now through July 1 through this survey.
A data review committee will then review the responses to the survey, research, state and federal legislative requirements, and more to generate a list of recommended changes to the current standards.
Then, a writing team will draft the updated standards, solicit additional feedback, and then present a final revised draft of the standards to the State Board of Education. The application deadline to be on the writing team is 11:59 PM June 13th.
Once approved, these new standards will be distributed to the local districts and charter schools and implemented in teaching across the state. These new standards will influence everything from the content students learn in the classroom, to end-of-year assessments, to which field trips and outside experts teachers will use to help enhance their instruction.
Environmental education is a learning process that increases people's knowledge and awareness about the environment and associated challenges, develops the necessary skills and expertise to address the challenges and fosters attitudes, motivations, and commitments to make informed decisions and take responsible action. Research demonstrates that environmental education has numerous benefits for students from improving academic performance to reducing discipline and classroom management issues and enhancing critical thinking skills and oral communication. Adults and children require knowledge, tools, and sensitivity to successfully address and solve environmental problems in their daily lives, and now more than ever people need to know how ecological systems work and what their role is in these systems.
“To be effective, education for environmental literacy needs to be integrated throughout the PreK-12 curriculum in North Carolina’s classrooms and include connected, sustained opportunities for students to participate in direct outdoor learning experiences and classroom activities that increase awareness of environmental topics and content knowledge." (NC Environmental Literacy Plan). As environmental educators, this revision process will impact almost everything we do with K-12 school audiences.
As educators, you have in-depth experience with these standards and so much content-related expertise. If you work with K-12 students in any capacity, please help ensure that environmental education is a strong part of our state’s science curriculum!
During the last Science Standard Course of Study revision in 2010, many elements of environmental literacy were incorporated into the standards. We need your help to make sure they stay there! Each individual response to this survey will be counted and reviewed, so EENC needs your help to ensure we have hundreds of voices advocating for environmental education to be explicitly incorporated into these standards.
My name is Dana Miller and I am the Education Coordinator for Haywood County Soil and Water Conservation District. Before taking this position 3 years ago, I taught middle and high school science in public schools. Being an environmental educator has brought so much meaning to my life. I came to this profession as a lover of science; I wanted to share that love with others. But I have stayed in this profession because of the immense fulfillment I experience working with students. After almost ten years of being an environmental educator, being a part of EENC was the first time I felt like I had found my "tribe", so to speak. Not only is our membership incredibly talented, they are also extremely passionate. The professional growth opportunities EENC offers is only one reason I love this organization. Another reason is the connections I build with other educators. There is a rich network of resources, including people, that strengthen the work of environmental education in our state- a network that many folks are not aware of. Making those connections and growing this field is why I love EENC!
EENC believes environmental education and resources should be accessible to all communities. This spring, EENC is thrilled to announce two new resources to help you to better serve diverse populations, specifically those with learning differences, physical accessibility needs, and language barriers.
The Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) and the Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (AEOE) in California have teamed up with Silver’s Lining PLLC and additional content experts to develop a new “Universal Design for Learning in Environmental Education” online course. This course will encourage educators to reflect deeply on their practice, focusing on how they plan and teach - not just what they teach.
Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, improves and optimizes teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. It is a framework to guide the design of learning environments that are accessible and challenging for all, rather than making modifications for individual students’ needs. Ultimately, the goal of UDL is to support learners to become “expert learners” who are, each in their own way, purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal-driven. While there are a number of trainings and resources about UDL in the classroom, this course focuses on how UDL shows up in environmental and outdoor education settings.
Here’s what some of our pilot participants had to say:
Our first public cohort will open July 1, 2022 - so stay tuned for registration info coming soon!
Excited to learn more now on your own? Check our toolkit. This curated collection of resources includes articles, videos, and more from experts on Universal Design for Learning, inclusive online programming, and more.
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