Educators from all regions of North Carolina gathered at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences’ Nature Research Center last week for the 6th annual meeting for nonformal educators. The meeting reached its highest attendance to date with more than 90 nonformal educators representing a wide variety of nonprofit and city, county, state and federal agencies and facilities, including nature centers, science museums, gardens, arboretums, aquariums, state parks, the N.C. Forest Service, the Wildlife Resources Commission, 4-H, Soil and Water Conservation Districts and others.
The meeting is a collaboration between the Science Section of the Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs to support nonformal educators who provide environmental science to school-age children. This unique partnership encourages collaboration between schools, school districts, NCDPI and the nonformal education community to support science learning and environmental literacy.
The meeting provides an opportunity for educators to get updates on curriculum standards from NCDPI and resources to help align their educational programs and field trips with the state’s essential standards for science. Participants shared school program and teacher professional development success stories.
The highlight of this year’s meeting was a panel of classroom teachers that included Kerry Piper, an earth/environmental science teacher at Apex High School, Alexandra Shadroui, a middle school science teacher at Salisbury Academy, Terry Denny, a music teacher at Lacy Elementary School in Raleigh and Jennifer Fine, elementary science senior administrator with Wake County Public School System. Panel members addressed a variety of questions including how nonformal educators and can connect with teachers, what resources teachers need from nonformal educators, i.e., field trips, lesson plans, etc. and what professional development programs or opportunities teachers find most helpful.
Lisa Tolley, program manager with the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs wasn’t surprised by the high numbers of attendees. “North Carolina has one of the strongest nonformal science communities in the country and these educators and facilities provide a wealth of programming to students and profession development to teachers across the state. These partnerships as a way to ensure students are exposed to hands-on, field-based learning that enhance student’s understanding of STEM subjects and meet environmental literacy goals, which are specifically noted in the new Every Student Succeeds Act.”
The two departments plan to continue to build on this partnership and look forward to future collaborations.