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Celebrating EENC's First Mini-Grant Awardees

2019 has been a big year for EENC. We've launched lot's of new resources and events - but this was also the first year we've awarded mini-grants to support our community! These grants were $250 or less, and applicants could propose any project they wanted to promote excellence in environmental education. Here's how this year's recipients put their funding to work:

Beth Cranford, "Durham Community Preschool Tools for Outdoor Learning"

"The goal of this project was to provide developmentally appropriate scientific tools for the children of Durham Community Preschool to use in their outdoor area. Early on in the process, I got feedback from the teachers about types of equipment and the ideal number of tools. With the grant, I was able to purchase class sets of both magnifying glasses and binoculars. As part of the beginning of the year orientation, I trained all of the school’s teachers on the equipment and storage. We also talked about how to use the tools with different ages."

Diane Mason, "Monarchs and Milkweed"

"My project," Monarchs and Milkweed", is designed to teach students about many of the amazing characteristics and behavior of Monarchs. They learn about the physical identification of the Monarch Butterfly in all of its stages, its Life Cycle and amazing Metamorphosis, their need for Milkweed, their incredible migration, their importance as pollinators, the reasons for their decline and what they can do to help. ...

For almost all of my classes, one of the Milkweed plants had either a caterpillar and/or a chrysalis, or both, on them. So the students were able to see the life cycle through to completion with the Monarch emerging! That was really a WOW factor and brought the whole lesson together. "

Jamie Dunleavy, "Outdoor Classroom"

"The creation of this outdoor classroom is a seed project to give teachers a space to teach lessons in nature in hopes that we all reap the rewards of being outdoors and are inspired to connect more frequently with our beautiful woodland space. Every installed feature will encourage curiosity and connectivity. The benches were created with felled trees so that students could see the wonders of the tree rings and the bark alive with living creatures—all right around them. The billboard will direct visitors to specific sights and sounds to notice throughout the seasons. The shrubs will encourage pollinators to visit near the classroom. In addition, the NC National Wildlife Federation has donated pollinator seed mix. The rain gauges and thermostats will help students apply their mathematics skills to measure, observe, and predict the effects in our woodland area."

Julie Hall, "Citizen Science Adventure Backpacks"

"People who have checked out backpacks have learned all about a citizen science project they like and have spread the word about it to others and hopefully they are doing it at a location besides just Prairie Ridge. Backpacks already created are for eBird, iNaturalist, eButterfly, Pond Watch, Project Squirrel, Stream Selfie. We hope to expand offerings over time – this project has given us the idea that we could create backpacks for an entire school class to be able to pick up and go do a Citizen Science project on site!"

Katie Lockhart, "Storybook Trail"

"The new storybook trail at White Deer Park is a simple way for families to spend time together outside, while reading a book about the natural world. The first book on display is Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This classic board book is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The story is about a caterpillar's transition into a butterfly and features beautiful illustrations. The project is on 10 panels, which were assembled and installed by a remarkable group of Girl Scouts. The panels are designed to be interchangeable, so a new story can be featured every 3-4 months. This free, accessible project promotes health and literacy in a fun and approachable way."

Leanna Staton, "Growing Greens for Good"

“Growing Greens for Good” project was a success thanks to the EENC MiniGrant and it helped expand Clay Soil & Water Conservation District’s program capabilities. It enhanced partnerships with our schools, our formal educators, our students, and it helped a family suffering from food insecurity. The project was educational and is sustainable as each year new Hayesville High School students learn about germination, soil health and plant life cycles. The project also, taught students about construction, vegetable production, and how to help families that can’t provide food for their family. It involved working together and brought attention to conservation education which will hopefully instill conservation values in students, families and their communities. "

Mir Youngquist-Thurow, ""Water Quality Abiotic Testing"

"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, neither of which required Hach Test kits. Through conducting the tests, students better understood the implications of each parameter. Coming to the Agape Center for Environmental Education for hands-on experiential learning has reinforced concepts taught in the classroom by "making it real."

Shalyn Yost, "Outdoor Explorers"

"This project was started as a once a week, members choice program at the Boys and Girls Club of Henderson Co. I wanted to give children the opportunity to go outside, explore and use their imagination while making connections to the outside world. We started out with no equipment, just some field guides, knowledge of our surroundings (what we had) and a pretty good outdoor space. It was a great start, but it was hard to get them to connect when they have already “seen everything.” Teaching a child in today's world, with instant gratification at their finger tips is especially challenging in the world of environmental education. Sometimes waiting is to see something “cool” takes patients and persistence which does not always ensue. With the grant we received I was able to put that “wow” factor back on their radar. The binoculars were a great tool to point out different kinds of birds, which led to trying to call and bring them closer. The insect containers really amazed the children when they were able to see insects up close. This led to the discovery of garden insects and questions as to how and why there is pollination. But the most inspiring experience was when some of the children took the knowledge they obtained, turned it into trust and put their feet in the dirt for the first time! The looks on their faces will forever be one of my fondest memories."

Shannon Unger, "Racial Equity Training offered by the Racial Equity Institute"

" I offer year-round programming, workshop, classes and events to tens of thousands of community members. I believe that the experience I had at the training has drastically changed my pre-conceived notions in regards to race relations and how to best interact and positively impact those of Color and from different backgrounds other than my own. It challenged me to check myself and really look to see what biases, whether conscious or not, were impacting my outreach efforts and in all areas of my life. I am hopeful that I have and will continue to be more thoughtful in my interactions with our diverse community here at Cabarrus County. I will work to make my programs more inclusive and welcoming to people of any race or background."


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