The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has just released the second draft of the K-12 Science Standards. This is most likely the environmental education community's final chance to share feedback in the standards revision process.
Just like we did with the first draft, EENC has compiled the links and information you need to know to help you prepare to complete the survey.
A few things to note in this round of feedback:
Please be sure to complete the survey by March 26 to help ensure that environmental learning is incorporated in our state's science standards at every grade level!
We are saddened to share the news of the passing of a creative, exuberant spirit who graced EENC with her enthusiasm for environmental education. Elizabeth Burke passed away in her sleep on January 30, 2023. Elizabeth was a feature of EENC in the early 2000s. She served on the EENC board as Communications Chair/Co-Chair from 2007-2012. Elizabeth received the Outstanding Newcomer Award 2006 and the Melva Fager Okun Life Achievement Award in 2012.
As one of the first individuals to become a Certified Environmental Educator in North Carolina, it is easy to understand Elizabeth’s dedication to environmental education. She founded Mud Pie Planet in the late 1990s and taught in the Triangle until she moved to Virginia in 2003. Even after moving out of North Carolina, she continued to serve on the EENC Board as Communications Chair. She led the change from periodic print newsletters to more environmentally sound digital newsletter, oversaw the development of EENC’s early web presence, and continued to be at the center of EENC communications while we hosted the NAAEE conference in 2011.
When she received the Melva Fager Okun Life Achievement award, she shared that throughout her career she never lost sight of her expressed goal, “To know nature, it’s critical to hold it in your hand. To fully understand the interdependence of organisms, there’s no substitute for seeing it in action.”
How did you get started in environmental education? Did you start with a low paying seasonal job and moved position to position until you landed the full-time job with benefits? It’s a common path for many new environmental educators. A 2021 regional Landscape Analysis conducted by the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance confirmed what many of us working in environmental education already know: there are inequities in pay and benefits. This analysis found that the average entry-level salary for environmental educators is 15-25% lower than in comparable fields (Stakeholder Report).
To address this, SEEA gathered a team of writers and advisors from across North America to develop an eeGuidance for Equitable Pay and Hiring in Environmental Education. EENC coordinated this project and is proud to now share this resource with our community. We are also so thankful to our members and partners who contributed to this work!
This eeGuidance provides concrete tools and suggestions for designing and posting positions. It can serve as a tool for individuals and organizations to advocate for increasing EE salaries. And once applied, these standards and resources will help improve employee retention, attract more diverse talent, create a sustainable career path, and ultimately make environmental education more equitable.
EENC will be hosting a webinar on Thursday, March 16 at 1 pm to provide an overview of what this document includes and recommended strategies for how you can use it.
If you dig into this document before that webinar, know that we recognize and acknowledge that environmental education employers are coming from a wide range of starting points when it comes to pay and hiring. If your employer is already meeting all of the minimum standards, great work! If your organization is just getting started - or if you have been working to make change, but are challenged with constraints of larger systems - review the minimum standards and focus on what you can do. While you might not be able to raise pay right away, can you immediately rework how you recruit participants? Every step you can take helps move the field in the right direction. And if you’re in a position where you don’t have the power to make change (yet!), know that EENC will continue to advocate for equitable pay and hiring, so we can work toward a sustainable future for the field.
Contact Lauren Pyle with any questions.
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. Open to student, professional, senior, life, new to EE, and organizational 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 2023. 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.
to find all the details and apply online by February 28, 2023.
Not a member? Join online at http://eenc.org/membership.
Contact Lauren Pyle with questions.
If you’ve been a part of the environmental education community in NC for a while, you’ve probably noticed that EENC has been transforming in recent years.
After nearly 30 years as an exclusively volunteer-led organization, in January 2018 EENC hired its first paid staff, Executive Director Lauren Pyle, to grow our capacity to better support environmental educators like you. From 2018 to 2021, EENC launched our annual mini-grant program, recruited teams to advise EENC’s work to address equity and the impacts of COVID-19 on our field, and developed a variety of online courses, workshops, and toolkits. EENC went from hosting about 10 networking and professional development events per year to over 75 annual events during this time.
And that wasn’t enough! EENC was still hearing regular requests for more frequent and varied professional development options. In 2021, EENC added Program Coordinator Michelle Pearce to our team to meet this need. EENC now offers a robust set of programs, including multiple Criteria I workshops, deep-dive equity-focused workshops and courses, online community calls, and more - so you can get the training and support you need when and how you need it.
In 2023, we’re planning to grow again. EENC is currently hiring a Communications and Relationships Manager to keep our community informed and engaged in EENC’s work. This new staff will craft clear and consistent communications so you can stay in the know about how EENC is working to help you, what’s trending in our field, and how you can get involved in opportunities and events. They’ll provide you with a consistently high level of customer service if you have questions or need support. And this staff will help grow our network to increase EENC’s impact, reach, and representation across North Carolina.
This growth will help EENC advocate for increasing EE salaries, ensure that high-quality science instruction and environmental education are available to classrooms across the state, and advance policy, practice, and equity in environmental learning. EENC looks forward to better supporting our state’s community of environmental educators with this expanding capacity.
As we come to the end of the year, you may already be making plans for the next one. EENC certainly is! Whether you're designing your next program season, getting to all those lingering "to-do's" from the fall, or are prepping for your next student program (we know the "slow" season for many people isn't as quiet as it used to be!), this winter you can know that EENC is continuing to do everything we can to help you and advance environmental education in our state.
Here are just a few things we're planning to do for you next year:
Strive to make employment in EE sustainable and equitable. In early 2023, EENC and its partners in the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance will release a new guide that will provide concrete tools and suggestions for designing and posting positions, serve as a tool to advocate for increasing EE salaries, and help establish industry standards for pay and hiring. Help us get it into the hands of as many educators and decision-makers as possible and provide follow-up tools and training to support organizational change.
Advocate for environmental education in the classroom. This year, EENC has united educators to advocate for environmental education to be included more explicitly in our state’s science standards. We'll continue to keep you in the loop throughout the process. Once those standards are released in 2023, EENC will work to ensure that all educators in our state are aware of the changes, and will provide training and resources so that all educators understand how environmental education supports high-quality science instruction.
Work at the systems level to advance environmental education across North Carolina. EENC is currently working with our partners at the NC Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and the Department of Public Instruction to revise our state’s Environmental Literacy Plan. This document will outline goals and broad strategies to help K-12 students develop a working knowledge of concepts we all need to understand: how natural systems work, how to interact responsibly with our environment, and how we can protect natural resources for future generations. It will be a tool to advance policy, practice and equity in environmental learning.
If you like these projects and want to see us do more work like this in the future, please consider donating to EENC this year. Whether you can give $5, $50, or more, any amount you can give helps us better serve our community. You can donate online or mail a check to: EENC, PO Box 4904, Chapel Hill, NC 27515.
Looking back, it’s been a busy year! As a small organization, EENC has big dreams to support our field - and to do that, we focus our efforts on advancing the goals outlined in our strategic plan. Want to know what this looks like in action? The following highlights are just a few projects we’ve been working on to help inspire a more just and sustainable world.
Advocacy around K-12 Science Standards revision, working to ensure environmental education is incorporated into our state standards.
Began the process of updating NC’s Environmental Literacy Plan with our partners at the NC Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs and the NC Department of Public Instruction. Stay tuned for more information on this in 2023!
Coordinated the development of an “eeGuidance for Equitable Pay and Hiring” that will be released early next year through the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA).
Partnerships for Building Capacity to Advance Environmental Education:
Implemented a plan to address findings from the first phase of the SEEA Landscape Analysis, which focused on nonformal providers. This included sharing shared the results through webinars, a conference session, and a regional Funders’ Briefing, and planning the UnConference in northeastern NC, and made additional plans for 2023 to help engage educators in eastern North Carolina to address geographic gaps.
Solicited responses for Phase II of the SEEA Landscape Analysis, focusing on teachers and school administrators.
Increase Recognition of EENC as a Go-To Resource:
Launched a new online Universal Design for Learning in EE course and released a complimentary toolkit. This expands our introductory equity-focused training offerings to help our state’s environmental educators provide more inclusive learning experiences for a broader group of our state’s learners.
Completed the 2-year Don’t Waste It! project with our partners at Chatham County Solid Waste & Recycling and the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance
Began collecting demographic information from members and event attendees upon registration (instead of only during post-program evaluations)
Launched Legacy Giving as an option to support EENC’s work
Developed a multi-year staffing plan, which outlines plans to increase our organizational capacity through shared leadership.
Updated the Bylaws and our internal Policy Manual to provide clearer and stronger frameworks to grow and guide EENC’s work.
We look forward to doing more work in each of these focus areas in the year ahead to support North Carolina’s community of environmental educators. If you have any questions about this work, please contact Lauren Pyle.
Each year, EENC awards mini-grants to ranging from $50 to $250. This year’s nine winners used this funding for school gardens, community work days, and more! They provided excellent environmental education to a combined total of over 2600 people. Learn about these amazing projects from the winners in their own words below.
Joanna Orozco, Funding for Latina/o Communities
“During the fall of 2022, a new Project P.E.A.C.E. community engagement partnership emerged with a Latine group known as Raíces (Roots). Joanna Orozco along with Phillip Nogueras successfully launched Música de Raíces: a bilingual culturally-responsive environmental education program. This weekly after-school program focused on three goals: connection to nature, learning Latin music, and identity/cultural healing for Asheville Latine teens. The group visited a local trail to gain inspiration from the forest, learned about instruments/music variations of Central and South America, made flutes out of local river cane, and wrote their very first original song. The song’s message was on experiencing nervousness before a cultural dance performance, but knowing that together they could confidently find identity and pride in their culture. The program also hosted local Latine guest speakers including Danza Azteca Chichimeca who taught how nature plays a central role in indigenous dances and livelihood, as well as Dr. Juan Sanchez teaching about revolutionary Chicana/o poets. The EENC mini-grant was the first grant to support this project y estamos muy agradecidos (we are very grateful).”
Katy Menne, NC Maritime Museum at Southport, Hurricane Discovery Cart
“The museum works diligently to fold environmental education into the cultural education of the exhibits and programs. Starting in 2018, hurricane programs were offered for school aged children and have grown to one of the most popular options. In October 2019, we opened a hurricane exhibit that discusses the formalization of weather reporting, how to prepare and recover from storms, as well as looking at the tracks of 12 storms to impact this area of North Carolina. Approaching the summer of 2022, we looked for ways to interact with the public. As we rebranded and redesigned the discovery carts, we added a hurricane topic to bring learning beyond the exhibit. Using flags and pennants we already had, we ordered additional foam sheets to create hurricane flags, cast 6 reproductions of the meritorious service coin that Weather Tower Observer Jessie Taylor received for her bravery during Hurricane Hazel, and printed numerous resources and guided questions for volunteers to interact with the public. Not only did staff and volunteers learn a few things, the public has gotten a more deliberate education on these storms. Our approach has heavily relied on safety education through preparation.”
Kayla Mounce McCoy, Wilkes Soil & Water Conservation District, The Incredible Journey Water Cycle Lesson
“Today at the Edwin H McGee Center 5th Grade students participated in Wilkes Soil & Water Conservation District Conservation Fall Field Days! This year's contest theme is “Water… The Cycle of Life.” During the contest information session, 5th Grade Students learned about the water cycle by traveling through stations with a roll of the die, simulating the movement of water within the water cycle. Students visited nine stations: Clouds, Plants, Animals, Rivers, Oceans, Lakes, Ground Water, Soil, and Glaciers. At each station students collect a colored bead representing the station which students use to create a bracelet that represents their unique and incredible water cycle journey! After this lesson students were able to describe the movement of water within the water cycle and identify the states of water as it moves through the water cycle.”
Marissa Blackburn, Cape Fear River Watch, Improving Environmental Education Videos at Cape Fear River Watch
“World Rivers Day is celebrated annually on the fourth Saturday of September. Marissa Blackburn, Environmental Education Manager at Cape Fear River Watch, worked to spread awareness this year on World Rivers Day of the importance of rivers, including the Cape Fear River. The Cape Fear River is the largest river basin entirely contained in NC and drains over 9,000 square miles of land. About a fifth of the state's population lives in the Cape Fear River Basin. Many people use the river for drinking water, food, and recreation. The river is also an important habitat for wildlife, including the federally endangered shortnose sturgeon.
Marissa received a mini-grant from EENC to write, produce, and star in a video she created and shared to raise awareness about rivers for World Rivers Day. She was able to purchase video equipment to make a high-quality video she was proud to share and will continue to use for future projects. So far, her video has reached approximately 300 people. Check it out!”
Meredith Katz, Shady Brook Elementary, Subpod Composting
“Thanks to the EENC Mini Grant the Outdoor Classroom at Shady Brook Elementary now has Subpod Composter. This is a vermicompost bin that is submerged into the garden bed and allows worms to come and go in the bin as they please but hides and protects the food items from wildlife. Shady Brook needs to have a better composting system because we have recently installed an instructional kitchen and need to have somewhere to put the kitchen waste. By having a Subpod students can see the direct connection to composting and food production and the worms can be used to teach science standards and sustainable living to all students in the school. Hopefully this composting system will allow students to experience the importance of composting as a waste reduction strategy and also help the garden by not having to purchase and use packaged fertilizers and increase our yields from the produce we plant.”
Mir Youngquist-Thurow, Agape Center for Environmental Education, Water Quality Chemical Resupply
“The mini-grant funds help to defray the cost of replacement chemicals for the following abiotic factors: dissolved oxygen, pH, phosphates, nitrates, and alkalinity. Participating teachers have reported that their students have benefited by improving their knowledge comprehension in the use of abiotic testing, along with the biotic index of macroinvertebrates to determine water quality. Additionally, the students took turbidity measurements and temperature readings. Through conducting the tests, students better understood the implications of each parameter. Coming to Agape Center for Environmental Education for hands-on experiential learning has reinforced concepts taught in the classroom by “making it real.”
Tallis Monteiro, Asheville GreenWorks, Urban Orchard Educational Workday
“On June 29, 2022, the Asheville GreenWorks Youth Environmental Leadership Program joined Community Facilitator Daniel Suber and Hillcrest youth residents at the Hillcrest Community Orchard for a workday of maintenance, education, and care. We spent the morning learning how to mow and weed the orchard. Workshop attendees learned how to operate a tractor to haul and place mulch, and how to utilize concrete to repair fencing. Neighborhood guests spoke about their connection to, and the importance of the community and the orchard. GreenWorks staff spoke on orchard maintenance and education. At the end of the day, Daniel facilitated a mindfulness and meditation exercise to slow down and rejuvenate with the trees and one another.
The Urban Orchard Educational Workday helped move the needle on environmental literacy within our Asheville community by equipping residents with an understanding of orchard maintenance and its importance. They will have the opportunity to carry that knowledge into their current and future communities, empowering them with an understanding to help break cycles of disinvestment in neighborhoods, parks, and communities as a whole. Collective healing for the environment and inequity comes from working together in a quest to improve the “commons.”
Tori Duval, Friends of the WNC Nature Center, Senior and Veteran Outreach Education Program
“Thanks to the grant supplied by EENC, the WNC Nature Center had the opportunity to visit Bella Vista Gracious Retirement Living on September 14. Our outreach educator brought a native wildlife education program to the facility at no cost to them. Residents explored biofacts like skulls, wings, and pelts, as well as met two animal ambassadors during this Fur, Feathers, and Scales program. We were able to reach 42 senior citizens who aren’t able to visit the Nature Center on their own during this hour-long hands-on experience. Our educator had a wonderful time hearing the stories of locals who used to visit the Nature Center as children. We were able to connect over a shared love of animals, nature, and the beautiful mountains we call home!”
Renee Pagoota-Wight, Sherrills Ford Elementary, Greenhouse Ready!
“The Sherrills Ford Elementary Pollinator Garden needed replenishment. Our garden is a certified wildlife habitat. This spring Kindergarten students prepared a new section of the garden by weeding and cleaning trash. In our study of pollinators including bees, butterflies, and birds we also set up a miniature greenhouse to propagate wildflowers. The mini-grant funded by EENC supported a beautiful new flower bed which the students named the Turtle Garden. We placed a large tortoise named "Hope" in the new flower bed. Students planted several types of purple perennials and used a concrete mold to create several concrete turtle shaped planters. Adults supervised with spreading mulch over the new flower bed. Students are collecting turtle figurines to add to the Turtle Garden of Hope.”
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.
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