Wow what a year! When EENC announced our mini-grant winners back in April, none of us had any idea of what the year ahead would look like. We are so thrilled that all our winners were able to continue with their projects, even if some of the details needed to change. Eight of our awardees have completed their projects, and our remaining two are making amazing progress and will wrap up in 2021.
Want to see your project on this list next year? EENC’s next round of mini-grants will be announced in winter 2021, so keep your eyes on the EENC newsletter for full details.
Sandra Dixon, Pioneer Springs Community School, Worms at Work
“My Worms at Work project was developed from an interest sparked during an EENC conference I attended on vermicomposting. I began the project with the students performing an experiment with food waste at their homes. Once it was determined the worms could help with our food waste problem, students were given research materials about vermicomposting and given the budget and the task of designing one for their building at school. Students planned out what materials were needed and I shopped and constructed according to their plans. This will be an on-going project where we experiment with bedding types, temperature, light and food waste choice. The worm bins will be available for families to take home and care for during our remote learning phase and will then be a permanent part of our school once we return to campus.”
Jenna Hartley, NC State University, Picking up more than just litter
“The funds from this mini-grant went to supplies for teachers to conduct the citizen science clean-ups in their communities. They will be used by teachers in Durham and Onslow County to enable their students’ participation. The plans were initially for teachers on this mini-grant to collaborate with North Carolina State Parks and organize for their waterway clean-ups to take place on field trips to State Parks near their schools. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty surrounding school field trips, these supplies will be used more creatively in 2021 - potentially on local school grounds, at nearby waterways, or in students’ and families’ local neighborhoods. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to empower young people as environmental change agents in their communities.”
Tatiana Height, UNCG Center for Housing and Community Studies, Two-Part Project
Cottage Gardens Resource Center Summer Program
Cottage Gardens The original goal of the project was to implement a culturally relevant environmental education program for urban racial minority youth. I wanted to offer an in-person experience but due to COVID-19 I had to pivot and offer a fully remote program, free of charge to participants. Students met three times a week on Zoom to learn about water resources and environmental justice. Each week parents would come to the Cottage Gardens Resource Center to pick up activity kits which were purchased with support of the EENC mini grant. The activity kits contained everything that was needed for students to follow along from home.”
Environmental Justice Workshop for American Conservation Experience AmeriCorps Members
“Partners for Environmental Justice (PEJ) partnered with other organizations such as the American Conservation Experience (ACE), the City of Raleigh Parks Recreation and Cultural Resources Department, the Conservation Fund, Step Up Ministry, and the Water Resources Research Institute to offer a six week green workforce training program for 18-30 year olds. As a part of the program, PEJ developed and implemented a one day environmental justice workshop for the participants. The EENC mini-grant dollars were used to purchase supplies for a get to know you ball activity and two simulations that illustrate environmental justice problems.”
Marisa Sedlak, Town of Beech Mountain Parks and Recreation, Naturalist Packs
“The Naturalist Packs on Beech Mountain are providing families the opportunity for self-led environmental education activities. The two packs consist of: a fish net, bug nets, a bird ID book, a “go find it” scavenger hunt game, an animal track guide, a clipboard and pen, binoculars, a bug jar, and a laminated sheet of paper that offers activities for the materials provided. The hope of these Naturalist Packs is that they strengthen participating families’ connection with nature.”
Trent Stanforth, Johnston Community College, Nature PlaySpace Play Day Materials
“This year, Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center submitted a grant proposal to EENC to seek funding for play materials that would be utilized in its newest exhibit space: the Nature Play Area. This interactive exhibit is open to all ages, but tailored for younger audiences (2-5 year olds). Areas of interest within this exhibit include: sandbox, crawl-through tunnel, a Little Free Library, and a slide. With the grant, Howell Woods was able to extend the use of this exhibit to offer Nature Play Days, free of charge, to the public. Materials included in this grant were: sand shovels, tubs to hold bubble mixture, animal eye masks, washable paints, sand buckets, and more. These play materials created a sense of play and exploration for visitors, while also introducing the public to Howell Woods itself.”
Willard Watson, Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, Environmental Art Packs
“The Blowing Rock Art & History Museum created "summer backpack art camps" with 5 Nature focused lessons for ages 5-8 and 5 nature focused lessons for ages 9-16. The summer backpack camps allowed students to learn about their local biosphere and pick up some cool art techniques along the way. We reached over 200 people because many families purchased one kit for multiple children. We included surveys in the backpacks none have been returned. We have received anecdotes from families about the quality of the backpacks. The most exciting part of the project is that through the EENC funds we have been able to subsidize backpack camps and offer them at $5 for EBT card holding families.”
Wendy Wilson, UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, Nature Learning Library
“The Nature Learning Library project has provided a selection of nature, ecology, and plant-themed picture books appropriate to K-5th grade students for the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens’ Children’s Garden. A selection of 28 books were purchased, ranging in subjects from trees, seeds, roots, stems, and leaves to forest ecosystems, nocturnal animals, birds, and biographic accounts of two famous female botanists, some in Spanish. The learning library is ready for placement in the garden. However, garden construction has been delayed due to the pandemic. Upon installation, a “green roof” planting will be added. When the library is placed in the finished Children’s Garden, we anticipate a high volume of family visitors taking advantage of the new resource.”
Mir Youngquist-Thurow, Agape Center for Environmental Education, ACE at Your Place
“The mini-grant funds helped to defray the cost of procuring supplies and equipment to enable ACE at Your Place and Guided Environmental Excursions to provide 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. The supplies provided by the mini-grant provide individual kits for each student for various lessons. Students engage in hands-on activities with their kids and instruction from ACE Education educators, after which, the kids are sanitized before reuse.”
Over the last couple of years, EENC has been digging deeply into better understanding the needs of our community and what people are looking for when they become a member of EENC. In 2019, we partnered with researchers from NC State University on a membership survey. In 2020, a team went further, participating in a seven month membership boot camp led by a specialty consultant, along with our partners in the Southeastern EE Alliance.
EENC's Membership Chair Elise Tellez, President Amy Renfranz, and Executive Director Lauren Pyle met regularly from January to July for coaching with the consultant and reflection/analysis assignments. This team reviewed everything from historic trends in EENC's membership records, to the needs and return on investment we're offering our members, to trends impacting our field, to a detailed mapping project of how the benefits we provide are meeting our members needs. The final product: a proposal to completely revise EENC's member levels and benefits to better support our community!
We shared an overview at the annual membership meeting during the conference, and are actively working to get everything ready to implement everything January 1. Here are a few things you can look forward to:
We're looking forward to sharing all the details with you in January! We are so grateful for everyone who has provided feedback and insight along the way. And if there's ever anything we can do to better support you as a member, please let us know!
Attendees at EENC's 2019 Annual Conference
If you have questions before January launch, please contact Lauren Pyle.
The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) and their state affiliates are working with Professors Bob Powell (Clemson) and Marc Stern (Virginia Tech) to disseminate a survey about what types of professional development environmental educators are receiving, how effective it is, and areas of greatest need to inform the development of more effective professional development opportunities for the field.
If you are an EE instructor, manager, or director, we hope you will take about 12 minutes to fill out this survey and help us learn more about the knowledge, skills, and abilities that you need most to better do your job!
You can find the survey at the following link:
The survey will remain open until November 25th. Your responses will be kept confidential.
Thank you so much! And we look forward to sharing the results in the future!
Don't Waste It! is a new educator guide to waste management. The guide includes 11 lessons covering five themes: municipal solid waste, recycling, plastics, composting, and landfills. Don't Waste It! is designed for both formal and non-formal educators with lessons for pre-K to 12th graders that can easily be adapted for adult audiences. Each lesson includes a group activity, independent practice, extensions, and additional activities.
Developed by Chatham County Solid Waste and Recycling, Don’t Waste It! Is going to be expanding through the southeast. The Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA) has been awarded a $100,000 environmental education grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Over the next two years, we’ll be creating state-specific versions of the guide and then launching in-person and virtual training opportunities for educators to learn the curriculum. This regional project will be led by EENC’s own Lauren Pyle and Shannon Culpepper.
"The Don’t Waste It! project will help current and future educators across the southeast understand the systems for solid waste, recycling, and composting in their state. We're excited to provide educators across our region with resources and lessons to share this knowledge with students, in order to inspire their local communities to get involved with composting, recycling, and other waste reduction activities," said Don’t Waste It! Project Coordinator, Lauren Pyle.
Don't Waste It! is approved as a criteria I workshop for the NC Environmental Education certificate, so we're looking forward to building a team of facilitators who can bring this workshop to a location new year in the next couple of years.
EENC strives to be a leader in our state, region, and the nation - and this is just one example of how we’re putting this intention into action!
For more information, please contact Lauren Pyle.
Researchers at the University of Florida are inviting our members to complete a survey on how environmental education professionals and researchers envision the future of environmental education.
Link to survey: https://bit.ly/2S6eKyQ
This study takes approximately 15 minutes to complete and your responses will help provide valuable insight into what the field of environmental education should focus on in the next twenty years.
Participation in this study is completely voluntary and anonymous. If you have any questions about this project, please contact Lauren Watkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Martha Monroe at email@example.com. Questions or concerns about your rights as a research participant may be directed to the IRB02 office, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32611, (352) 392-0433.
Thank you for your time. Your responses are incredibly valuable in shaping the future of the important work we do as environmental educators and researchers.
The UF Environmental Education Lab
Pivot! Like many of you, this spring EENC pivoted all our professional development and networking opportunities to a virtual format.This includes EENC’s core workshops on the Guidelines for Excellence. These workshops qualify for Criteria I and continuing education credit for the NC Environmental Educator Certificate, managed by our partners at the NC Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. With so many educators in our state working on their EE certificates, getting these workshops up and running was a high priority.
The Guidelines for Excellence is a 6-part series of materials to help environmental educators hone their practice and programs to national standards for high-quality EE programming. Starting with some resources provided by the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), EENC created the first virtual Guidelines for Excellence workshop in the nation in June of this year.
Focusing on the K-12 Environmental Education Guidelines, this workshop is for educators (formal, nonformal, and higher education) who want to learn more about what environmental literacy is and how to explain the value of environmental literacy, what environmental literacy should look like by the end of grades 4, 8 and 12, and how to connect these Guidelines to your EE instructional materials and NC curriculum standards. After piloting the activities in Google Classroom in June, EENC created a course that is offered as a combination of independent work offered through the learning platform Moodle and two live group Zoom calls.
Our 6th workshop on the K-12 EE Guidelines is planned for October, and we’re planning more . With the successes and lessons learned so far, we’ve been able to develop a template that is being shared to other NAAEE affiliates and Guidelines trainers across the nation. Plus, we’re in the process of developing a second online workshop option, focused on the Professional Development Guidelines, that will be ready later this year.
EENC strives to be a leader in our state, the region, and the nation. Creating and sharing our virtual workshops on the Guidelines is just one example of how we're putting this into practice.
Even though we are physically apart, environmental educators are stronger together. Together, we can change the world! This year’s conference focused on environmental education in schools, building resiliency in EE, connecting with nature in our communities, EE beyond parks, schools and science centers, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in EE.
A few fun numbers:
The conference launched Friday afternoon with our annual member meeting. We celebrated successes over the last year including serving over 1860 participants in our summer webinar and community call series, creating the first online Guidelines for Excellence workshop in the nation, and releasing the eeGuidance for Reopening Schools. EENC also announced new member levels and benefits coming soon, our participation in a landscape analysis project through SEEA, and a new online diversity, equity, and inclusion course coming by the end of the year. EENC was also thrilled to share that we are going to be coordinating the expansion of a new solid waste and recycling curriculum, Don’t Waste It!, throughout the southeast funded by the EPA.
After multiple rounds of inspiring sessions, Friday ended with a thought-provoking presentation from keynote speaker Diquan Edmonds focusing on our theme, “CommunitEE: Together for a Better World”
Saturday opened with coffee and conversation, diving into three hot topics in virtual round tables: hands-on virtual learning, new and innovative EE program ideas, and building relationships and partnerships during COVID. The rest of the day was dedicated to EENC’s annual research symposium and additional rounds of concurrent sessions – before ending at lunch so everyone could enjoy an afternoon outside!
Thanks to the virtual format, all the conference sessions and keynote were recorded and are being posted online by 9/28 for all registered conference attendees. Didn’t register before and wishing you could join in? Click here to gain access and earn to up to 10 hours of criteria III/Continuing Education credit.
The NC Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council has expanded their grant opportunities to more than just schools during COVID. Nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses are now eligible to apply for GO Grants! You have to submit a proposal that covers both the requirements of the CARES act and meets the goals of the Outdoor Heritage Trust Fund.
This opportunity is being offered to help you get kids outside and learning through the pandemic, so contact their staff with your ideas. Need a starting point to get your creativity flowing? Potential projects might include:
Are you a classroom teacher? Their traditional grants are a simple PDF application! No formal grant writing experience required! You can apply for:
Note: Virtual field trips/outreach experiences are not eligible for this funding.
Accepted projects must be complete by 12/31/2020. Proposals are reviewed and awarded on a rolling basis but funds are limited - so get your application in today!
The 2020 EENC Nomination Committee is now accepting applications for the 2021 Board of Directors! The Committee is seeking dedicated board members who want to make a positive impact in North Carolina's community of environmental educators and participate in a dynamic and committed team.
If interested, please fill out the application by Tuesday, September 1.
If you have any questions about specific positions, serving on the board in general, OR need to submit responses in an alternative format, please contact Christine Wittmeier, EENC Past-President firstname.lastname@example.org
Know someone who has skills that will compliment our organization's mission? Please send their contact information to Christine.
"Teachers sometimes express reluctance to lead field excursions because they feel they lack sufficient knowledge or expertise to make them meaningful. Yet one does not have to be an expert on mushrooms, trees, or geology to lead a successful field trip. In fact, some of the most memorable learning occurs when teachers and students discover answers together. Field guides, phone apps, flash cards, and other resources can help with identification, but one of the most valuable skills we can ever help our students develop is the art of asking questions. Good questions lead to discovery, and an important component of any field excursion is to ask students to generate their own questions based on what they see."
Learn more about planning an outing using the seven C’s — Communication, Context, Concepts, Connections, Community, Closure, and Celebration in this article published in Green Teacher Magazine from Brad Daniel.
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