Pivot! Like many of you, this spring EENC pivoted all our professional development and networking opportunities to a virtual format.This includes EENC’s core workshops on the Guidelines for Excellence. These workshops qualify for Criteria I and continuing education credit for the NC Environmental Educator Certificate, managed by our partners at the NC Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. With so many educators in our state working on their EE certificates, getting these workshops up and running was a high priority.
The Guidelines for Excellence is a 6-part series of materials to help environmental educators hone their practice and programs to national standards for high-quality EE programming. Starting with some resources provided by the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), EENC created the first virtual Guidelines for Excellence workshop in the nation in June of this year.
Focusing on the K-12 Environmental Education Guidelines, this workshop is for educators (formal, nonformal, and higher education) who want to learn more about what environmental literacy is and how to explain the value of environmental literacy, what environmental literacy should look like by the end of grades 4, 8 and 12, and how to connect these Guidelines to your EE instructional materials and NC curriculum standards. After piloting the activities in Google Classroom in June, EENC created a course that is offered as a combination of independent work offered through the learning platform Moodle and two live group Zoom calls.
Our 6th workshop on the K-12 EE Guidelines is planned for October, and we’re planning more . With the successes and lessons learned so far, we’ve been able to develop a template that is being shared to other NAAEE affiliates and Guidelines trainers across the nation. Plus, we’re in the process of developing a second online workshop option, focused on the Professional Development Guidelines, that will be ready later this year.
EENC strives to be a leader in our state, the region, and the nation. Creating and sharing our virtual workshops on the Guidelines is just one example of how we're putting this into practice.
Even though we are physically apart, environmental educators are stronger together. Together, we can change the world! This year’s conference focused on environmental education in schools, building resiliency in EE, connecting with nature in our communities, EE beyond parks, schools and science centers, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in EE.
A few fun numbers:
The conference launched Friday afternoon with our annual member meeting. We celebrated successes over the last year including serving over 1860 participants in our summer webinar and community call series, creating the first online Guidelines for Excellence workshop in the nation, and releasing the eeGuidance for Reopening Schools. EENC also announced new member levels and benefits coming soon, our participation in a landscape analysis project through SEEA, and a new online diversity, equity, and inclusion course coming by the end of the year. EENC was also thrilled to share that we are going to be coordinating the expansion of a new solid waste and recycling curriculum, Don’t Waste It!, throughout the southeast funded by the EPA.
After multiple rounds of inspiring sessions, Friday ended with a thought-provoking presentation from keynote speaker Diquan Edmonds focusing on our theme, “CommunitEE: Together for a Better World”
Saturday opened with coffee and conversation, diving into three hot topics in virtual round tables: hands-on virtual learning, new and innovative EE program ideas, and building relationships and partnerships during COVID. The rest of the day was dedicated to EENC’s annual research symposium and additional rounds of concurrent sessions – before ending at lunch so everyone could enjoy an afternoon outside!
Thanks to the virtual format, all the conference sessions and keynote were recorded and are being posted online by 9/28 for all registered conference attendees. Didn’t register before and wishing you could join in? Click here to gain access and earn to up to 10 hours of criteria III/Continuing Education credit.
The NC Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council has expanded their grant opportunities to more than just schools during COVID. Nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses are now eligible to apply for GO Grants! You have to submit a proposal that covers both the requirements of the CARES act and meets the goals of the Outdoor Heritage Trust Fund.
This opportunity is being offered to help you get kids outside and learning through the pandemic, so contact their staff with your ideas. Need a starting point to get your creativity flowing? Potential projects might include:
Are you a classroom teacher? Their traditional grants are a simple PDF application! No formal grant writing experience required! You can apply for:
Note: Virtual field trips/outreach experiences are not eligible for this funding.
Accepted projects must be complete by 12/31/2020. Proposals are reviewed and awarded on a rolling basis but funds are limited - so get your application in today!
The 2020 EENC Nomination Committee is now accepting applications for the 2021 Board of Directors! The Committee is seeking dedicated board members who want to make a positive impact in North Carolina's community of environmental educators and participate in a dynamic and committed team.
If interested, please fill out the application by Tuesday, September 1.
If you have any questions about specific positions, serving on the board in general, OR need to submit responses in an alternative format, please contact Christine Wittmeier, EENC Past-President firstname.lastname@example.org
Know someone who has skills that will compliment our organization's mission? Please send their contact information to Christine.
"Teachers sometimes express reluctance to lead field excursions because they feel they lack sufficient knowledge or expertise to make them meaningful. Yet one does not have to be an expert on mushrooms, trees, or geology to lead a successful field trip. In fact, some of the most memorable learning occurs when teachers and students discover answers together. Field guides, phone apps, flash cards, and other resources can help with identification, but one of the most valuable skills we can ever help our students develop is the art of asking questions. Good questions lead to discovery, and an important component of any field excursion is to ask students to generate their own questions based on what they see."
Learn more about planning an outing using the seven C’s — Communication, Context, Concepts, Connections, Community, Closure, and Celebration in this article published in Green Teacher Magazine from Brad Daniel.
Last week, the North Carolina Governor’s office announced that schools will be able to open under Plan B, which includes both moderate social distancing for in-person teaching and virtual education. With this, field trips and traveling outreach programs will no longer be major operations for our community this fall. We know this means major shifts in revenue and staffing for North Carolina’s environmental education community.
We know that your organization will need to reflect on its own capacity to keep your participants and staff safe. Many of you may have already made the decision to provide exclusively virtual or remote programming for this purpose.
If you are considering exploring new types of in-person programs for youth this fall (especially outdoor programs), you may have questions about what types of programs you might offer that would fall under child care licensing in North Carolina.
Your organization can operate under your current status, without any additional licensing if:
You are providing programming for school-aged children, that parents pay for on their own. This could look like:
Your staff serving as supervision/tech support during virtual schooling days and then taking kids outdoors on breaks during school hours.
You do all your own programming outside of school hours, such as afterschool programs, school break camps, or specialty programs.
You are providing preschool programming for less than 4 hours per day.
You provide full day recreational programming, for 4 months or less.
You may need to become a licensed child care center if:
You want to run drop-off educational programs for kids younger than age 5, longer than 4 hours per day for more than 4 months.
You want to offer programs for school age children, but you want to become eligible for federal subsidy reimbursement to cover tuition for low-income families.
Want to learn more about becoming licensed or if your particular program idea needs to be licensed? Contact your county’s Lead Child Care Consultant to learn more.
For safety guidelines related to COVID-19, please review the materials provided by the NC DHHS and CDC. Also,EENC recently released eeGuidance for Reopening Schools,which provides strategies for schools and districts to utilize environmental and outdoor education to safely and equitably support student learning.
Please feel free to reach out to your statewide networks with questions, comments, and concerns. We’re here to help you as best we can. We will continue to communicate with you as other options and recommendations come to the forefront.
Environmental Educators of North CarolinaNorth Carolina Association of Environmental Education Centers
The Environmental Educators of North Carolina write this open letter to assert that the need for environmental and outdoor learning has never been greater. We urge you to bring environmental education to the forefront to support the resilience of North Carolina’s school systems in addressing the impacts of COVID-19.
Environmental education is a process that helps people learn more about the natural systems we all depend on, and understand what we must do to interact responsibly with our environment and safeguard natural resources for future generations. Across all age groups, greater access to the outdoors is associated with reduced stress and greater mental health and well-being. As we look to improve the health and well-being of our children, we need to advocate for guidance that brings safe access to outdoor learning to all communities.
School closures and the sudden shift to online learning has brought to light great inequities in education. Schools with more resources have been able to keep students on track, while those serving families who may lack computer or internet access have stumbled. Behavioral experts suggest that the COVID-19 disruptions will cause at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) per student. As we look to address these discrepancies through educational investments and policies, the potential for outdoor and environmental learning must be part of the conversation. The outdoors is a resource for learning, engagement and health, and it should be available to all. In addition, there is growing research indicating coronavirus transmission is reduced in outdoor environments.
During the present coronavirus emergency, it has become clear that it is paramount for our society to address and proactively deal with the global challenges we are confronting. COVID-19 is a serious threat to human well-being, but it is related to other environmental challenges (climate change, biodiversity) and we must understand and address them as well.
Community-based environmental and outdoor education programs can and should be essential partners in supporting schools and families as we head into the upcoming school year.
Environmental and outdoor learning will not only enable us to create healthier, more civically engaged and sustainable communities, it can help solve some of the many issues that school districts across the state are facing including lack of space required for physical distancing, supporting gaps in instruction, and supporting students mental and physical health.
We present the attached guidance for school districts across the state to consider when creating plans for re-opening. We would welcome the opportunity to work with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and school districts across the state to deploy the resources and support of environmental and outdoor learning providers throughout the state to support the resiliency of school districts. We are available upon request for consultation and solution-driven planning. The guidance (available at www.eenc.org/eeGuidance or https://eenc.org/resources/Documents/eeGuidance%20For%20Reopening%20Schools,%20EENC.pdf) is only a start to what we might accomplish by co-creating solutions together.
The COVID-19 virus pandemic has changed the landscape for almost every decision that we make going forward. We believe that we cannot afford to return to the same “normal” from before this pandemic and urge you to promote and support EE and environmental literacy among all North Carolinians.
Lauren Pyle, Executive Director
Amy Renfranz, Board President
Since March 2020, EENC has been regularly convening a group of volunteers for a diversity, equity, and inclusion action team. This dedicated group of members, partners, and external stakeholders has helped us reflect on things like what dimensions of diversity EENC should report on as an organization with a commitment to this work and how to make our communications and events more inclusive.
One of the big projects they have helped us with is updating our justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion statement. After a month of careful deliberation, this team created a draft statement that was submitted to the board. The board reviewed the document, suggested edits and asked the action team clarifying questions. After a final review by the action team and approval by the board, EENC is proud to share our new statement.
You can find it posted on the "About EENC" page of our website. But it's more than just a public statement. This is part of our policy manual that guides the board and staff in all organizational operations. We are working toward this commitment being reflected in all our events, programs, communications, and partnerships.
We acknowledge we still have a lot of work to do. We are grateful to our action team who will continue to help us on projects through the end of the year. We are grateful for our partners who are making their own commitments. And we are grateful for our members and the educators in our EE community who are joining us on this journey.
Do you know an environmental educator, EE program, or center in North Carolina that promotes excellence in environmental education? Nominate your EE heroes for an EENC award! We give several types of awards for both members and non-members, so help the great EE professionals in your life get the recognition they deserve for their great work.
Learn more about EENC's awards here, including last year's winners!
Nominate yourself or someone you know for a 2020 award here.
EENC today released eeGuidance for Reopening Schools, a new publication which offers support for schools and districts as they find ways to safely reopen their schools to students this fall. Developed in collaboration with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), the guidance offers dozens of specific strategies for schools and districts, including using the school grounds for outdoor classroom spaces as a strategy for adhering to physical distancing guidelines, engaging community environmental and outdoor education programs as alternative spaces for learning, tapping into the expertise of environmental educators to support teaching and learning, creating healthier learning environments and supporting at-home learning.
While we are all eagerly waiting to hear if schools with open with their A, B, or C plans, it is critical that we connect formal and nonformal educators across the state to support student learning.
Learn more at eenc.org/eeGuidance
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