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Meet EENC's 2024 Mini-Grant Awardees

Map of all mini-grant awardees to date, with orange pins representing the 2024 awardees.


It's the best time of year – the time when we set our mini-grant awardees loose to go make an impact on environmental education in their communities with the help of our funding! This year, EENC proudly awarded seven members with mini-grants.

The EENC Mini-Grant Program, now in its sixth year, is an equity-driven initiative offering direct, supplementary funding to member educators, schools, and organizations to support their environmental education efforts by allowing them to implement new projects, build infrastructure, purchase needed supplies, pursue professional development, and more. 

With the addition of our 2024 awardees, EENC has now allocated over $12,000 in mini-grant funding over the lifetime of the program, supporting 42 educators across 29 NC counties (read the five-year program anniversary article here for more mini-grant stats and highlights). 


This year’s mini-grant program is sponsored in part by the National Parks Conservation Association, a nationwide conservation-oriented nonprofit working to protect and enhance America’s National Park System for present and future generations. We thank them for their generous Ally-level support!


Our mini-grant awardees will be hard at work through the year carrying out their funded projects – read about their plans below, then check back in December to see what they accomplished! 


Listed alphabetically by last name. 

Marissa Blackburn

  • Environmental Education Manager, Cape Fear River Watch

  • Professional Member, EENC Eastern Section

  • Project Title: Stocking the Shelves: Enhancing EE at the Cape Fear River Watch’s Nature Camp

“The Cape Fear River Watch’s Summer Nature Camp will get Wilmington area youth outside, learning about their local environment, connecting to nature, and exploring how they can be strong environmental stewards. They will gain skills in identifying flora and fauna, nature journaling and making observations, carrying out steps of the scientific method, and more. Nature Camp will provide high-quality environmental education opportunities to youth ages 8-12. Providing equitable access to EE is important because not all children are afforded the opportunity to explore their local environment & spend time outside due to a variety of factors (time, money, comfort level being outdoors, etc.). Offering a free, day-long camp, with lunch/snacks included helps to create these opportunities for more families. Purchasing new supplies will help make camp more fun, more memorable, and more impactful for all participating youth. It’s important to me that camp not just be babysitting, but instead be enriching and educational during their time off from school.”

Kayla M. McCoy

  • Natural Resource Conservationist, Wilkes County Soil & Water Conservation District

  • Silver Organizational Member, EENC Western Section

  • Project Title: Soil Probes for High School Soils Field Day

“Students will use soil probes to explore the soil hands-on! This hands-on learning fosters curiosity, reveals the wonders of soil, and empowers them to understand its vital role in life. It's a seed planted for environmental awareness and future generations of responsible stewards. Digging into soil benefits student learning in powerful ways, textbooks can't replicate the feel of crumbly loam or the wriggle of earthworms. Hands-on exploration lets students connect with soil on a deeper level. Students become scientists, observing the hidden world teeming in healthy soil. From busy beetles to microscopic fungi, they witness the vital roles each plays. By getting their hands dirty, students develop a profound appreciation for soil's crucial role in plant growth, food production, and ecosystem health. This fosters a sense of environmental responsibility.”

Meridith Mitchell

  • Upper School Science Teacher, IC Imagine Public Charter School

  • Professional Member, EENC Western Section

  • Project Title: Horticulture Start-up!

“Our project will promote excellence in environmental education by inspiring our students to grow their own food, realize where food comes from, and have direct hands-on sustainability lessons that they could replicate at home. We also hope to promote knowledge around future careers in horticulture. Additionally, school gardens teach students about sustainable models like our water harvesting, recycling, composting, the interconnection between humans, animals and the environment, and the importance of local food production. I am passionate about gardening with kids because of the amazing benefits it has had on my own life. Anyone can garden and grow things with some basic knowledge. I love helping kids see the physical and mental benefits to gardening. As a high school teacher I have come to realize that not all students are college-bound and are in need of finding their own passion or career path. Showing kids how to make a career out of something they enjoy doing is powerful.”

Kristin Owens-White

  • Environmental Connections Teacher, Stanly County Schools

  • New to EE Member, EENC Piedmont Section

  • Project Title: Native Bee Habitat

“This project is a student-led project. They were given the native bees as their topic and they began the research to see why native bees are important, issues native bees are facing, and what the bees need for a healthy habitat. The students are 100% invested in this project and they have presented their research to their parents and community members. Now, the students want to execute their plans to create a native bee habitat on our school grounds. This project promotes excellence in EE by allowing students to educate others. I am passionate about having my students outdoors and invested in our environment. These students are our future and this project allows them an opportunity to make a positive impact. This project also gives my students meaningful outdoor experiences.  My class is a brand new course for our district and the only one in the county. I need to have successful projects to ensure we can continue with the Environmental Connections course in the future.”

Keshi Satterwhite

  • Managing Partner, LJS A Plan Ahead, LLC

  • New to EE Member, EENC Central Section

  • Project Title: Elevating from the Backyard to the Community 

“We are piloting Elevating from the Backyard to the Community (EBC). EBC promotes excellence in environmental education in North Carolina because it communicates the importance of stewardship and offers volunteer opportunities. EBC provides and encourages opportunities for outdoor experiences that connect individuals with the ecosystem. Through six modules, our program will guide students to focus on preserving and restoring the quality of the natural environment through green job career opportunities. We will explore eighteen green jobs throughout the program in the job readiness exercises. Curiosity about nature and sources of water can start in our backyards. Elevating from the Backyard to the Community project is important to me because I have a chance to enhance the knowledge of marginalized communities and be a resource as they strive as stewards of their neighborhoods. Our project helps build community and develop lasting relationships. Funding from EENC will help us with our program vision.”

Sarah Spencer

  • North Carolina Director, Longleaf Learning Collective

  • Bronze Organizational Member, EENC Central Section

  • Project Title: Materials for New Sapling Classes

“Longleaf Learning Collective is a nonprofit committed to making the outdoors accessible to all by serving people of all ages and backgrounds through our programs and events. This project will allow us to continue to grow our programs and curriculum by allowing us to purchase needed supplies for our new Saplings class. This class is for children 6-10 years old, the age where most children lose their interest in outdoor free play. We hope to offer materials that reignite that spark, inspire a sense of responsibility, encourage more time outdoors, and further curiosity about the natural world. As a small nonprofit we are often limited by our budget for supplies. We know that we are making a difference in our community and sparking a love for the environment in children and adults by offering these programs. This project is important because we believe that the materials will add depth and understanding to our lessons that students would not otherwise experience. Giving these opportunities to our Saplings students could make a huge difference in a child's life path and that of our planet.”

Hannah Steel

  • Environmental Coordinator, Carolina International School

  • New to EE Member, EENC Piedmont Section

  • Project Title: Composting

“Our 3-tier school composting project in North Carolina addresses the urgent need for hands-on environmental education. Currently, we have small indoor compost bins that remain unused due to the lack of outdoor systems. By refurbishing our garden and greenhouse, we'll create an outdoor composting infrastructure, supplementing our program.This initiative will positively impact our community by providing students with practical, interdisciplinary learning experiences. They'll actively engage in composting, witnessing the transformation of waste into soil. This hands-on approach instills responsibility and stewardship toward sustainability. Moreover, the project fosters community engagement by involving teachers, parents, and stakeholders. Collaborative efforts will establish a commitment to environmental conservation. The garden and greenhouse will serve as communal learning spaces, strengthening community bonds. Aligned with environmental education fundamentals, our project emphasizes experiential learning and holistic understanding. Composting integrates resource management, recycling, and ecosystem principles, empowering students as environmental advocates. This project is important to me because it aligns with my passion for sustainability and community engagement. By promoting composting and environmental education, I'm able to contribute to a healthier environment and empower others to take action for a more sustainable future. Seeing the positive impact on students and the community inspires me to continue advocating for environmental stewardship.”


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