In The News

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) needs EENC membership's voice!

The was passed in December 2015 and governs the country's K-12 public education policy.  For the first time, federal education funding includes language making environmental education programs eligible for funding. This federal funding will be filtered down to schools through the state and individual school districts.  States are required to develop their own ESSA plan to comply with the federal law.  The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is requesting feedback on the rough draft of North Carolina's ESSA plan from educators, parents, students, and other stakeholders of the state's public schools.

Title IV Part A of the ESSA is a new flexible block grant program that gives school districts the authority to select from (among other things) a number of student enrichment activities, including environmental education and field-based and service learning activities to support STEM learning. Title IV Part B is a continuation of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) competitive grant program which supports after school and out of school time learning opportunities, including environmental literacy programs. While there is precedent for use of federal education funds, including 21st CCLC and the former Math Science Partnership grants, to support high quality, systemic environmental education programming, this is the first time that federal education policy has made environmental education and related learning explicitly eligible for funds.

What we need you to do: 

We are asking that you please take time to comment at any of the NCDPI public comment sessions or online (information below). Specifically, we would like to highlight some of our concerns with the draft plan, and suggestions of how funding could be used to support schools and environmental education efforts across the state. We encourage you to use this information in your comments.

Some of our concerns:

1.  The North Carolina ESSA external stakeholder group includes only one science-based group (NC Science Teachers Association). We would like to see representation from more science-based organizations, and more specifically, representation of the large environmental education community within the state with a representative from the NC Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs (state EE certification program for educators, with over 1200 certified), Environmental Educators of North Carolina (over 250 professional educator members), and the NC Association of Environmental Education Centers (200+ centers members). Science achievement is a key area for assessment within the state and the ESSA, and including current nonformal science education community partners in stakeholder discussions during implementation planning for ESSA and development of needs assessments will help maximize the use of Title IV funds.

2.  Environmental literacy is one of the five elements included in the P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning, which has been adopted by the NC State Board of Education. The framework defines and illustrates the skills and knowledge students need to succeed in work, life and citizenship as an interdisciplinary theme. However, environmental literacy is not mentioned in the NC draft ESSA plan.

The goal of environmental education is to create an environmentally literate society by providing knowledge and vital skills including problem solving, critical thinking, and decision-making. Environmental education programs are inherently aligned to state curriculum standards across all subject areas and provide quality professional development programs for classroom educators. A 2012 study by NC State University found that North Carolina students who participated in activities from published environmental education curricula had higher levels of cognitive skills and that time spent learning outdoors could help mitigate knowledge and cognitive skill gaps in minority student populations (Stevenson, Peterson, Bondell, Mertig, & Moore, 2013).

3.  We would like to see a priority given to the use of Title IV Part A funds for the inclusion or expansion of field and classroom-based environmental education programs across the curriculum and during out of school time settings. There is a missed opportunity to include outdoor learning environments and place-based environmental education as indicators of school quality or student success in the current ESSA draft plan.

4.  Title IV, Part B funds can be used to advance environmental literacy programs and after school programming provided by community-based environmental education providers, including the over 200 environmental education centers across the state. These environmental education centers serve as local community learning centers that offer informal science education programs for school-age children that increase environmental literacy.

How to comment on the draft ESSA plan:

Remaining Public Comment Sessions:

October 12th- Jacksonville

October 18th- Fayetteville

October 19th- Tarboro

October 24th- Waynesville

October 25th- Burlington

More details can be found at the NCDPI’s ESSA webpage. At this time, the sessions in Jacksonville, Fayettevile, and Tarboro are still showing as scheduled, but please check the NCDPI ESSA webpagefor any scheduling updates due to the recent flooding.

Public Comment Online:

You can comment online through NCDPI’s Let’s Talk System. Scroll down the page to “Let’s Talk About…” and select “Every Student Succeeds Act.”

Thank you to the team of EENC members and supporters that have helped to put this information together. Additionally, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) is keeping their eePRO Advocacy group updated with new information as it becomes available. We encourage you to sign up for updates from this group (you do not need to be a member of NAAEE).

Thank you for your efforts to include EE in North Carolina’s ESSA’s plan. Feel free to drop us a line and let us know what actions you have taken or post it on our Facebook page.

Oh behalf of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina Board of Directors:

Shannon Culpepper - EENC Policy Chair (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank" style="color: #1155cc;">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Michelle Pearce - EENC President (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank" style="color: #1155cc;">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


Additional Resources:

U.S. Department of Education:

North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)





Environmental Educators of North Carolina emerged out of the need and desire of individuals to meet and share their experiences, aspirations, and tools in order to bring the most excellent environmental education experiences to the citizens of North Carolina. However, since its inception in 1990 it has grown into something much greater.  EENC represents a network of outstanding environmental educators, individuals, and organizations who work together to accomplish EENC's core mission: to promote excellence in professional development and facilitate networking opportunities, inspiring educators to create an environmentally literate citizenry.  EENC’s vision is to connect diverse professionals and organizations to each other and to high quality environmental education materials and programs, demonstrating leadership in North Carolina and beyond.  Why get involved with EENC ...  because everyone can benefit from environmental education.  So get in touch, get involved, and connect with us to help make North Carolina and our environment a better place.




There are lots of ways to get involved and learn more about EENC at the same time.  Find a local section chair near you to hear about upcoming outdoor adventures, gatherings, and events in your neck of the woods.  Become a member and take a more proactive role in shaping environmental education in our state.  If you are a classroom teacher, science buff, life-long learner, or an educator of any kind come join us at our annual conference. Learn about job opportunities and network with other EE professionals across the state.  Share your stories with us on Facebook or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions.  We look forward to talking with you soon. 



We are excited about this year's EENC Conference which will be held in Columbia, NC from September 25th to 27th. Be on the lookout for messages about changes to the organization and opportunities to get outside, mentor young EE professionals, and improve environmental education here in our home state. Thank you for all that you do!



EENC is an all-volunteer organization. While membership provides support for many of our programs, we welcome your contribution to help us continue services and expand our offerings.  Thank you so much for considering a donation. Donations of all sizes are greatly appreciated and go directly to support environmental education efforts across the state.  You can also select on the form how you would like your donation to be used.  Thank you.





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