top of page

EENC Board Member At-Large Sammy Bauer on Completing the 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. Sammy is a Professional Member of EENC and is a 2024 At-Large Member of the Board of Directors.

Sammy Bauer, a stormwater educator for the Town of Chapel Hill, recently completed the NC Environmental Education Certification. Sammy says they have a fun job. “I spend my days teaching folks about water pollution prevention and, where possible, helping them nurture their own relationships with our land and waterways.” Sammy is also an impact producer and sometimes director at Ethereal Films where they have released two documentary shorts about forever chemicals that have gone on tour nationwide and beyond. Sammy enjoys spending time at the Eno River, rock climbing, and crafting.

When asked about the best part of the program, Sammy says it was attending the air quality workshop twice. “The first time, I had just fallen into nonformal environmental education after teaching 6th grade language arts and getting a Master of Public Administration. I knew a lot about teaching and engaging audiences, but I knew next to no content. The first time I went to the workshop in 2019, I was soaking up every bit of content I could. I learned how to find salamanders under tree cookies and about the plants used to monitor air pollution at Purchase Knob! I'd never considered air quality much before the workshop. It was a highlight of the certification and also of life in general. The second time I went several years later, I knew much more content. While I still learned many new things - yes please, tardigrades - I centered my learning on the process such as how they built the agenda and what went into coordinating such a big trip. This time, I walked away with a deeper understanding of how to create learning opportunities that bring people closer to the land.”

Sammy says the experience in the program that stood out was the support of the environmental education community. “I immediately felt welcomed and supported at every workshop and especially at the Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) conference. I'm also a big fan of the different criteria. From process to content, structured experiences to self-guided exploration, the certificate feels well-balanced. It's thorough yet accessible, structured yet flexible.”

For the community partnership project, Sammy coordinated the 3rd annual Orange County Creek Week, March 16-23, 2024. Creek Week is a weeklong celebration of local waterways that involves events organization, partnership development, communication and education, community engagement, documentation and evaluation. “The events consist of workshops, cleanups, art sessions, and habitat assessment workshops. We design the events to help folks nurture their own relationships with the waterways and land.”

Sammy says that partnerships with community organizations are extremely important. The planning team includes local governments, UNC, and nonprofits.  The team distributed educational materials to raise awareness about watersheds and stormwater pollution. Community members were actively involved, and the project's impact is evaluated and documented. “This year, we had over 1200 people (and 30 dogs) participate in our events - including 10 trash cleanups that removed over 1500 pounds of trash from our waterways - nearly doubling our impact from last year. Using resources from EENC’s Universal Design for Learning course, we structured accessibility into every step of the planning process.” Sammy is also working on a project guide that will help other communities plan their own Creek Week. 

Sammy says the program changed how they approach teaching and notes several workshops that made a significant impact. “DEQ’s Ground Level Ozone workshop showed me how multiday experiences can deepen folks’ relationship to the more-than-human world and how to run a fun community science program. The BEETLES program’s learning cycle and BFF questions (questions that will be your Best Friends Forever to encourage wonder, exploration, discussion, and reflection) transformed the way I approach teaching. EENC’s Universal Design for Learning course helped restructure all my events to better meet the needs of more people.”



bottom of page