EENC News

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  • Mon, January 10, 2022 5:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What difference would $250 make for your teaching?  Could it pay for that workshop you’ve been dreaming of taking?  Materials for a professional development course you want to facilitate? Resources for an environmental education project in your community?  

    EENC recognizes that in our field, sometimes a little bit goes a long way in making a difference for the teachers, non-formal educators, government employees, students and volunteers we work with.  EENC is pleased to announce the fourth year of our mini-grant program.  Open to dues-paying members of EENC, the goal of this grant is to provide support to promote excellence in environmental education across North Carolina.

    EENC will award $2500 in mini-grants in 2022.  Accepted proposals can range from $50 to $250.  Each member can submit one proposal per year, either on their own behalf or on behalf of an organization or school.  Funding will be distributed on a reimbursement basis to awardees after their projects are completed.

    2022 Grant Timeline:

    • January 10: RFP Opens 

    • February 28: Application Deadline

    • April 1: All applicants notified of status via email

    • April 10-December 1: Eligible project dates

    • December 14: Final deadline for project reports

    Eligibility Criteria:

    • Who may apply: student, new to EE, professional, senior, life, and all organizational members of EENC.  Honorary members are not eligible.  
      • Slight preference will be given to first-time applicants and those who were EENC members prior to January 1, 2022, but all eligible members are welcome to apply.
    • What you can apply for: Anything that would promote excellence for environmental education in NC, including but not limited to: professional development course fees, substitute teacher fees to allow professional development attendance, student field trip/virtual program fees, educational books or materials for facility/classroom/workshop, garden resources, etc.
      • Ineligible requests include: food purchases for any reason and anything related to EENC’s conference, mini-conference, events and workshops (please see our other scholarship applications for those events).
    • Location: Projects must occur in NC and recipient must live in NC
    • Project time frame: Proposed projects must start on/after April 10, 2022 and be completed by December 1, 2022.

    To Apply:
    Eligible Members: Log in to your EENC account here and apply online by 11:59 pm, February 28, 2022.  Not eligible yet?  Join as a member online or upgrade your honorary membership to apply!  Questions?  Contact Lauren Pyle at director@eenc.org 

  • Mon, December 20, 2021 12:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This year EENC awarded our third year of funding through our annual mini-grant program!  These grants provided up to $250 to cover time,  materials, and other resources needed for projects that promote excellence in environmental education.  Here's how this year's awardees put their funding to work:

    Alayna Schmidt, WNC Nature Center, "Racially Diverse Speaker Series for Nature-based Teen Volunteer Program"

    “The Young Naturalist program was thrilled to host a series of 12 racially diverse guest speakers presenting on a number of topics supporting the program’s weekly themes and overall goal of connecting teens to their communities—both human and environmental. The series highlighted and celebrated the work of Black and Indigenous leaders and other people of color leading in science and the environment. The series challenged teens to deconstruct any unconscious assumptions they may have held around what an “environmental professional” looks like and the speakers were important representation for teen participants, especially teens who self-identify as people of color. Speakers also appreciated the opportunity to engage with the teens on important topics, like the real-time effects of climate change on Inuit teens and honoring the many different ways people choose to “do nature.” Many of these speakers were local to our region, which had the added benefit of engaging teens in topics and issues through a place-based lens. The series helped build new connections among teens and speakers and strengthened a network of people all working towards a sustainable, equitable, and nature-rich world.”

    Karen Chapmen, W.D. Williams Elementary School, “Gardening is Fun!”

    Gardening is fun for children, because it gives them a chance to be outdoors.  They can grow flowers and vegetables to taste them. Children can observe plants and vegetables growing in the garden, learn hands on and develop a positive mindset for life.  Master Gardener Chris McClung was able to explain to me how to get a garden started. Chris taught me how to plant seeds in the garden beds and I had Pollinator plants as starters to place in the ground.  I had Red Okra, Blackeye Susan, Foxglove, Coreopsis, Echinacea, Milkweed, Beans and Spinach. In person learning began in early March 2021, by May after Mother’s day, I was able to have children outside planting in the garden.  

    With some of the money awarded from EENC, I was able to buy plant starters and potting soil for different grade levels to begin growing their seeds in their classrooms.  The students were able to place their plants into the ground, which was very exciting and new for some of them.  I had this year, radishes, beans, pollinators flowers, lettuce, carrots, and squash. I am hoping next year, the students will be able to pull things from the garden to taste them. I am the garden coordinator for our school, our garden will always be a work in progress because I am always learning new things about gardening and learning about annuals and perennials, placement of plants and vegetables and getting the students more involved!    

    a woman wearing a ballcap kneels on the ground beside a child. They are working together to put a young plant into the soil.

    Jessica Metz, New Kituwah Academy, “ᎦᏓᏛ ᏗᏫᏒᏅᎢ ᎠᎹ ᎢᏥᏂᏦᎸᎯ (Bring Water to the Garden)”

    “Sometimes the best projects are the ones that do not go as planned. The rain barrel project at New Kituwah Academy, ᎦᏓᏛ ᏗᏫᏒᏅᎢ ᎠᎹ ᎢᏥᏂᏦᎸᎯ, took many twists and turns, yet the result is educational, practical, and unexpectedly joyful. First, our summer camp was so packed with activities we had to rework our timeline. Next, our local carpenter reviewed our design and suggested some big changes in materials and design. Then, rather than our elementary students building it, older Cherokee Youth Garden students did the final build. Best of all, students came up with creative, unplanned uses for the rain barrel. Twists and turns and yet, our garden has water. Our students gasp and giggle every time the faucet is turned on. They charge into the rain to watch the water catching action. They are working on designing ways to measure and monitor the depth and research what will happen in the winter, and we are all excited for the spring planting season to see how the rain barrel serves its purpose as a source of water for the plants.”

    Lauren Gibson, NC State University, “Providing classrooms with pesticide testing strips for an inquiry-based water quality testing activity”

    a woman wearing a blue shirt and jeans sits on a rock with a river and winter trees (no leaves) in the background

    “Thanks to this EENC Mini-Grant, high school students in four North Carolina environmental science classrooms got the opportunity to engage in hands-on water quality testing. The grant provided 100 pesticide tests for these public  school classrooms in four different schools spanning four different counties: Camden County High School (Camden County), Pine Forest High School (Cumberland County), Northwest Guilford High School (Guilford County), and Tuscola High School (Haywood County). A total of almost 300 students in these schools participated in this water quality testing, checking the stormwater near their school for pesticide presence and helping them learn about the health of water systems within their local community. All four teachers who received pesticide tests stated that they would not have been able to acquire these materials without external assistance.”

    Lauren Greene, North Carolina Botanical Garden, “From the Mountains to the Coast: Virtual Field Trip”

    “The North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCBG) is working on creating a virtual field trip with plans to also present the materials as pre and post field trip materials for our third-grade program “From the Mountains to the Coast”. This fall we created a video on soil, “The Dirt on Soil”, as part of the virtual materials. We used the EENC mini-grant funding to purchase high quality audio equipment to use for filming. This equipment will be used to film additional segments for our virtual field trip and other videos for our youth programs. In addition, we used our new audio equipment for two hybrid adult programs and for creating an instructional video. The equipment will continue to be used for future hybrid adult programs and videos. Starting in the spring of 2022, our virtual field trip will provide teachers with environmental science curriculum and resources that meet the NC Essential Science Standards that is flexible in its use as a stand-alone virtual field trip or as additional pieces for our in-person experience. Additionally, use of this audio equipment increases access to NCBG collections and programming for a broad audience across NC counties for both our youth and adult programs.”

    A smiling woman sits in a large outdoor sandbox. The image is a screen capture of a video entitled "The Dirt on Soil" and the image includes the play/pause/progress bar.

    Marguerite Bishop, Nashville Elementary, “School Composter Project”

    “Composters for the Nashville Elementary School Learning Garden were purchased with EENC mini-grant funds in the spring of 2021.  Students were used to help assemble the units and put them in place in the garden.  In the fall of 2021 students in STEM/Outdoor class are learning about composting, how soil is made, and adding to the bins.  Fifth grade students are monitoring the bins to watch the process and have researched how to correct any problems.  They recently determined there are not enough food scraps in the bin for correct soil formation, and have started collecting food scraps as a grade level.  Students are looking forward to being able to use the compost to be able to amend the soil present in the beds.  Similar lessons will be completed in subsequent years, increasing the grant’s reach and impact.”

    Marilyn Jesrani, Carolina Outdoor Fun, “The Environmental Benefits of Backyard Chickens”

    “Carolina Outdoor Fun used the grant money from the EENC to update and build an enclosure for a chicken coop at the Holly Springs Food Cupboard.  The chicken coop serves as a model for self-efficiency and sustainable living.  People who visit the coop are allowed to take eggs and the manure is composted and used in the gardens which provide fresh vegetables for the community.  The chickens serve as ambassadors of the food cupboard, entertaining children, and complementing the great works that already are taking place at this facility.”

    a smiling woman stands in front of a large outdoor chicken coop

    Mir Youngquist-Thurow, Agape Center for Environmental Education, ACE at Your Place

    a child wearing disposible gloves has an open kit of science materials. The child is kneeling outside on a wooden boardwalk.

    “The mini-grant funds helped to defray the cost of procuring supplies and equipment to enable hands-on opportunities while respecting social distancing and safety protocols for the COVID-19 virus.  Participating teachers have reported that their students have benefited by improving their knowledge and appreciation of the natural world through hands-on experiences while observing safe health practices.  The supplies provided by the mini-grant provided individual kids for each student for various lessons.  Students engage in hands-on activities with their kit and instruction from ACE Education educators, after which, the kits are sanitized for re-use.  While coming to the Agape Center for Environmental Education for hands-on experiential learning is the ultimate goal; the expansion of the ACE at Your Place and Guided Environmental Excursions provides EE learning opportunities that are both engaging and safe.”

    Ranita Anderson, “Read, Question, Reflect, Imagine, Act – Using Language and Literacy to Promote Gardening and Beyond”

    a close up of two hands, palms up, holding a line of grass knotted together

    “My project centered around family and community book reading that used representative books for family experiential learning in nature. Specifically using funds from the EENC Mini Grant in conjunction with funds from the Move Mountains Grant through the Greening Youth Foundation we were able to connect approximately 15 black families to books about gardening, use content and language from the book to build knowledge and then provide materials for them to apply their learning. Additionally, we built a free little library at a local park to support continued reading and learning in a space well loved by our community and installed two garden beds for continued use in Raleigh.”

    Sarah Pursel, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, “Cherokee Medicinal Plant Tour”

    a yard sign placed in the woods that reads: "Rattlesnake plantain" and includes small text about the Cherokee use of the plant and close up images of the plant

    “The Highlands-Cashiers Plateau has an incredible diversity of plants, many of which have a rich cultural history. During the month of June 2021, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust (HCLT) shared some of the stories of traditional medicinal uses of these plants through the “Bountiful Botany: Medicinal Plants of the Plateau” event. For this event we created signs that were posted along the trail to highlight native plants found at HCLT’s Brushy Face Preserve. Much of the medicinal plant knowledge in the hike came from the Cherokee culture and traditional knowledge. The signs were in English on one side and translated into Spanish on the other, with the help of the International Friendship Center. We offered this self- guided experience for the entire month of June and also led two guided hikes for adults, and two guided hikes for children. Because the signs are waterproof and durable, this tour can be installed for multiple uses in the future.”

    Shalyn Yost, Boys and Girls Club of Henderson County, “Outdoor Explorers”

    a replica bear track sitting next to the footprint in the soil made by the track

    “I was able to include two projects with the grant money this year.  Outdoor explorers, which is an ongoing program I created with the Boys and Girls Club of Henderson Co.  This program enables students to experience nature right in their own backyard while allowing them to use their imaginations to explore new things.  Due to Covid19, our exploration was cut short, however I am hoping the students took what they learned and applied it when they were stuck at home.  

    Ultimate Journey was the second project I undertook.  It partners with NPS and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.  This program was designed to focus on what NPS sites offer, such as history, preservation, wildlife, and plants.  The students benefited from the Amazon Fire pads, which added to their curiosity to identify common birds, interesting plants and fun facts about nature.  The tracks, although not used extensively as originally planned, opened the eyes of students to what wildlife lives around them.  I even witnessed several students at the end of class looking for different animals by trying to ID the tracks.  I feel privileged to be able to take this journey with them and couldn’t be more proud of my students for their enthusiasm and willingness to learn.”

    Want to see your project on this list next year?  EENC’s next round of mini-grants will be announced in winter 2022, so keep your eyes on the EENC newsletter for full details.

  • Thu, December 16, 2021 1:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What a year this has been!  Looking back over the past year, so much has happened in EENC that sets us up to better support you in 2022.  

    In the past year, EENC:

    • Launched a new 15-hour Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Environmental Education online course, providing more than 75 educators with introductory training on this critical topic in our first three cohorts. 

    • Trained 35 new facilitators for the Don’t Waste It! curriculum, so that future workshops can be offered throughout the southeast. 

    • Welcomed our second staff member, part-time Program Coordinator Michelle Pearce, to expand EENC’s capacity to provide professional development programs.  

    • Became the home for the new Criteria I workshop, “Inquiry-Based Outdoor Learning: Using BEETLES Resources in North Carolina.”  You can look forward to seeing find these workshops near you in 2022.

    • Updated our vision statement to more actually share the change we want to make in the world. 

    Looking ahead, here are some of our plans for the year ahead:

    • Amp up our advocacy for the field of environmental education. From legitimizing the work we do, to focusing on educator pay and student access, EENC aims to work at a systems level so that environmental education is more accessible, equitable, and inclusive. 

    • Build partnerships to boost capacity. In order to build capacity for the field of environmental education, EENC recognizes the need to build relationships with individuals, organizations, and agencies with aligned goals. This includes connecting nonformal educators to pre-service teacher programs and formal educators, connecting practitioners to research and university professionals, and building partnerships for shared learning spaces.

    • Become a better resource for all our state’s environmental educators. We want to continue to expand our professional development programming and resources to engage a broad and diverse educator community and support their efforts to provide meaningful and accessible engagement for students.

    We look forward to continuing the journey with you working toward a just and sustainable world. 


  • Fri, November 19, 2021 1:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    When you envision the future of environmental education, what do you see?  What is the change you want to make in the world?  This fall, the EENC Board of Directors has been asking those same questions.  After several months of reflection and work, we are thrilled to share our new vision statement.

    EENC envisions a future in which: Individuals across all NC communities are empowered by their knowledge, skills, convictions, and abilities to inspire a just and sustainable world. Environmental education's substantial societal value is recognized and invested in widely by policymakers, funders, education institutions, and the general public through our advocacy work. EENC is a national model, creating a stronger sense of belonging for educators from all walks of life where varied skills and experiences are celebrated.

    Will you join us in making this vision a reality?  By joining as a member, giving to support our work, becoming more engaged in our community at an upcoming event, or even just continuing your amazing work in environmental education knowing you're part of a bigger movement, you can work with us to help change the world.

  • Wed, September 22, 2021 2:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    2201 conference attendees: a large group of people stands together outside looking at the camera, with smiles behind COVID masks

    Almost two weeks ago, nearly 180 environmental educators gathered together from across the southeast for EENC's 30th annual conference and the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance's regional conference.  From the moment they arrived at Lutheridge in Arden, we saw smiles (or rather smiling eyes above masks) to get together once more with their peers. 

    On Thursday, September 9, pre-conference field trips explored waterfalls,  toured pollinator hot spots, and helped with invasive species removal at a local land trust property.  On-site, educators learned how facilitate future workshops on the Don't Waste It! curriculum and learned best practices for questioning strategies and promoting discussion using BEETLES resources.

    The conference officially kicked off on Friday, September 10.  Over the next two days, attendees chose from over 30 concurrent sessions indoors and out and spent meals and breaks in deep conversation with one another.  On Friday, they learned about what we've been up to in EENC's annual meeting and we celebrated some amazing environmental educators and programs in our annual awards ceremony.  That afternoon, attendees enjoyed amazing donated beverages during the networking social. Keynote speaker Dr. Trish O'Kane capped off the day by joining us virtually to speak about her experiences with "Birding to Change the World" and conversing with the audience in a Q & A. Saturday continued with much of the same energy - with the addition of the Research Symposium.  

    During the conference, EENC also hosted our annual silent auction, raising over $3694 to support future future Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion workshops and kicked off the companion online auction, which is still going through Friday, September 24 at 7 pm!  Each SEEA state also provide a unique raffle basket, raising $874 for scholarships for future SEEA conferences.

    Overall, the conference was an amazing success.  We are grateful to the phenomenal sponsors who helped us keep the costs as low as possible for the educators who attended.  We're grateful for those who invested the time and energy in being a part of this conference.  And we're grateful for all the educators in our community that for so many reasons were not able to be there.  We look forward to seeing you all at EENC events - both virtual and in-person - in the year to come.

    2021 award winners: a man and three women, all smiling and holding award certificates, stands outside against a forested background

    2021 Award Winners

    Mouth of Mud Creek Field Trip

  • Fri, September 17, 2021 8:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We're growing again! EENC hired our first staff in January 2018 after 27 years as an all-volunteer organization.  Less than four years later, EENC is expanding our staff in order to better serve our EE community.  After a thorough review with internal and external stakeholders, EENC is thrilled to announce that Michelle Pearce has joined our team as our new Program Coordinator. 

    Michelle will coordinate professional development programming across the state, supporting our strategic priority to increase recognition of EENC as a go-to resource for environmental educatorsMichelle is a certified North Carolina Environmental Educator and has a Master's of Arts in Education with a focus in Science Education. Her passion is empowering educators with tools that will help them provide equitable and inclusive learning.  She brings a weath of experience in professional development facilitation and event coordination to our team.

    Michelle is a long time member of EENC and has served on the Board of Directors as Membership Chair, Education Chair, and as the 2016 President. She is also serving in a support role at The NC Arboretum in Adult Education/Professional Development and as the state coordinator for Outdoor Wonders and Learning.

    You can contact Michelle at programs@eenc.org

    With the growth in our capacity, EENC is excited to provide more in-person and virtual events, workshops, and training for environmental educators across North Carolina over the next year.


  • Fri, September 10, 2021 1:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Every three years, the Board of Directors defines our organizational priorities through a strategic plan to help guide our work. EENC's four main focus areas for 2021-2024 are:

    • Advocacy for the field of environmental education
    • Partnerships for building capacity to advance environmental education
    • Increase recognition of EENC as a go-to resource for environmental educators
    • Build internal capacity of our organization

    Across all four of these priorities, we also identified two cross-cutting underpinnings:

    1. Prioritizing Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion 

    2. Considering a broad definition of environmental education - beyond classrooms and EE Centers

    The board and staff have developed a living action plan that guides our efforts achieve this.  Read our full strategic plan here to learn more about our plans for the next three years.


  • Wed, August 18, 2021 3:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We have an amazing community at EENC! Time and again, the thing we hear our members love most is the other people they can meet and connect with.  To help you build your network, we love to post stories about educators in our state. 

    Our interview today features Chimney Rock Management Director Emily Walker, a long time EENC member, supporter, and former board member.  While you might know Chimney Rock for its views, read on to learn more about their EE efforts!

    EENC: How did you get involved with Chimney Rock? 
    EW: I came to the Chimney Rock with my sister in 2005 looking for a summer job. We had our hearts set on moving to the Western NC Mountains, but I was hesitant to leave my position as a wildlife tech in Atlanta. The opportunity to interpret the incredible diversity of the park's resources with guests from around the world was reason enough to make the move. It's been a long summer - 16 years! 

    EENC: Why does Chimney Rock Management prioritize environmental education?
    EW: Chimney Rock Management's mission is to Create Elevated Experiences. We aim to do this by helping to create connections between people and the natural world. Environmental education is one of the best ways we can help foster these relationships. We prioritize our ee programs by supporting our efforts with other revenue streams in order to make it sustainable. We also try to incorporate some sort of interpretive or educational activity into any event or group function that we host.

    EENC: What projects or programs are you working on that particularly inspire you?
    EW: We created a program in 2018 where our naturalists provide programs at the school three times over the course of a school year and then the school has a culminating field trip to the Park. We had to put this on hold, but I am particularly excited to see it manifest. The pilot school is a local Title I school where many of the students may have not had the opportunity to visit before. We are also currently working on more informal interpretation opportunities to reach more visitors by having pop-up stations throughout the Park. I think this opportunity will help us to reach an audience that may not have come to the more structured programs due to commitments or interests.

    EENC: What goals do you have for your organization or programs within the EE field?
    EW: Our goal is to grow the recognition of our ee opportunities so that we can have a greater impact. We want to help create a bond between local students and the area. Our hope is that if we can help them to understand how incredible of a place they live that they'll work to protect the resource throughout their lives.

    EENC: What’s your favorite spot to be in the park this summer?
    EW: The Skyline Trail! It's quiet and gives you the feeling that you have the Park to yourself. It's an awesome trail that provides both a shady forest hike and some awesome views. 


    In addition to all this amazing EE work, Chimney Rock is a Guardian Sponsor for the upcoming conference.  EENC is so grateful for their support!!

    P.S. Want to share your story?  EENC welcomes member submissions to our news.  Log into your EENC account and find all the details on the Member Resources page.

  • Wed, August 11, 2021 1:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Center for Diversity and the Environment (CDE) invite EENC members to apply for the upcoming NAAEE Environment 2042 Leadership Intensive Cohort (E42LI) funded through ee360. 

    The purpose of the 5-day Environment 2042 Leadership Intensive is, through transformative experiences, to create a cadre of change agents that will build a more equitable, diverse and inclusive environmental movement and just society. The goals of this program include: 

    • Developing leaders who are committed to effectively moving equity, diversity and inclusion forward in their sphere of influence.
    • Relationship and community building, especially across race and ethnicity.
    • Encouraging innovation through the exchange of ideas among people with diverse perspectives.
    • Learning about and raising awareness of equity, diversity and inclusion.
    • Strengthening the environmental movement by uplifting all voices.
    • Applying learning to action within the participants’ spheres of influence. 

    The E42LI exemplifies a diverse, inclusive culture, demonstrating how environmental organizations need to operate to be successful. The cohort includes representation across various dimensions of diversity with a strong emphasis on racial and ethnic diversity. The program includes a five-session virtual retreat from Nov 1- Nov 5, 2021. The facilitated retreat will include: racial equity training, understanding environmental and racial history, relationship and community building, skills to lead organizational change, and tools to develop action-based solutions.

    For full details and application information, click here.

  • Thu, June 17, 2021 8:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    From 1990 through 2017, EENC was an organization led exclusively by volunteers.  In January 2018,  we took a big step to grow our capacity by hiring our first Executive Director.  Now three and a half years later, we're growing again. 

    To help provide you with more professional development options, more tools and  resources, and better support for the field of EE, we're hiring a part-time Program Coordinator.  Application review will begin July 5 and continue until the position is filled. 

    August update: this position has been filled.  We look forward to sharing the official announcement of our new teammate soon.


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Environmental Educators of North Carolina

P.O. Box 4904
Chapel Hill, NC 27515-4904

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