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2023 Western Section Board Chair Dana Miller on Completing The NC Environmental Educator Certification Program

Re-published with permission from the NC Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs blog, "Teachable Moments." Find the original story here. Dana is a Professional Member of EENC and served as our 2023 Western Section Board Chair. 

Dana Miller, a Haywood County middle school teacher recently completed her NC Environmental Education Certification. She says the program enriched her learning, made her a better educator and provided invaluable networking opportunities.

Dana is currently the STEM teacher for grades 6 through 8 at Canton Middle School. “I provide students with hands-on challenges that enrich their understanding of applied science and mathematics while sharpening their problem-solving and teamwork skills. I also serve as the Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG) Specialist for our students by working with core teachers to differentiate instruction for gifted learners and teaching an elective course specifically for gifted learners. In my free time, I love cooking a good meal, reading in my hammock, hiking for a great view, listening to live music, and being with my loved ones, including my two pups, Montana and Cooper.”

When asked about her favorite part of earning her certification, Dana says it was getting access to all sorts of great lessons she can do with her students and meeting a network of dedicated, talented environmental educators that inspires her to continue growing as a teacher.

As far as an experience in the program that really stood out for her, Dana says, “Seeing wolves in Yellowstone on the NC Museum of Natural Sciences Educators of Excellence Institute trip is hard to beat, but I think my community project was a turning point for me professionally. I needed to complete my project during the pandemic, so it offered me a unique experience to serve my community during a time of need. It pushed my creativity in a way that was both challenging and rewarding.”

For her community partnership project, Dana created an At-Home Adventure Kit program for upper elementary and middle school students in her community. The program provided participants with free boxes filled with instructions and materials for five to eight environmental education activities each month. The boxes helped serve students who were learning remotely during the pandemic and may not otherwise have had those hands-on learning experiences.

Dana said the program changed her approach to teaching. “I think participating in this program has equipped me with activities, lessons, and resources that I can use with learners of all abilities and ages. It has taught me that simple experiences in nature are where environmental literacy begins, so don't be afraid to take learners outside and to indulge their natural curiosity. Some of my favorite workshops were the NC Museum of Natural Sciences virtual programs. I learned so much about my own backyard and it made me realize how rich those experiences can be.”

The program changed the way she views environmental issues. “I have a better understanding of local environmental issues than I did before participating in the program. This program required some travel, which meant I got to experience different parts of the state and participate in place-based environmental education experiences.”



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