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Celebrating 2022 EENC Mini-Grant Winners

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.”


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