Water Challenge: DEQ and The North Carolina Arboretum ecoEXPLORE Launch Citizen Science Badge Program for Kids  


ecoEXPLORE, an initiative of The North Carolina Arboretum that encourages kids to connect with the outdoors and engage in citizen science online, is partnering with the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in a new badge challenge for kids centered on hydrology and aquatic habitats. From July 13 through August 9, participants are encouraged to make photographic observations of aquatic and semi-aquatic organisms and upload them to their free ecoEXPLORE account. In addition, they will need to complete four weekly challenges related to local water issues to fully obtain the Water Badge.   

Weekly Topics and Challenges include: 
July 13-19: NC Watersheds 
July 20-26: Wetlands 
July 27-Aug 2: Streams 
Aug 3-9: Estuaries/ Coastal Waterways 
The educational content surrounding the water badge is designed in the style of a vintage comic book. Weekly videos feature real ecoEXPLORERS as the "heroes" who will consult with scientists and educators from DEQ, The North Carolina Arboretum and other educators from across the state virtually to accomplish missions based on different water topics and allow North Carolina children and their families to participate statewide.

ecoEXPLORE Creative Coordinator Jenna Kesgen says comic books have a universal appeal across all age levels and demographics. “By framing our science content within these adventure-based story lines, we can include an element of excitement and whimsy along with the main content focusing on vital issues related to local water quality. In doing so, we will hopefully reach more kids and families and increase their science literacy in an entertaining way,” says Kesgen. 

Each mission will be closely tied to the challenges that ecoEXPLORERS will do safely at home to earn their badge. These challenges will help kids become more familiar with the kinds of waterways found around them and their value while encouraging them to do their own research. For example, in Challenge One: NC Watersheds, students will access the NC River Basins link from the NCDEQ website to find their watershed and then upload their findings to earn credit for the challenge. 

DEQ Water Education Program Coordinator Lauren Daniel says this partnership tied closely to the department’s mission to provide science-based environmental stewardship for the health and prosperity of ALL North Carolinians including all ages. “With this program, children get to learn how to protect our water resources in a manner that is age-appropriate and engaging. Partnering with The N.C. Arboretum on a project like their ecoEXPLORE Program makes a difference in how people understand our natural world and helps ensure a future of knowledgeable decision makers." 

The first video, weekly challenge and newsletter will be available on YouTube and on ecoEXPLORE’s Facebook page July 13. 

For more information about the ecoEXPLORE program, visit www.ecoexplore.net.  

For more information about DEQ’s Water Education Programs, visit https://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/water-resources/water-resources-training/public-involvement/project-wet.

Contact Information:
Jonathan Marchal
Director of Education at The North Carolina Arboretum
Lauren Daniel
DEQ Water Education Coordinator
About The North Carolina Arboretum
Each year more than 500,000 visitors experience the Arboretum’s gardens, trails, exhibits and plant shows, educational programs and lectures. The Arboretum’s ability to meet its mission and enrich the visitor experience is made possible by a community of supporting resources – from members, volunteers and staff to state and local funds, special events, tribute gifts, grants and community partners.

The central mission of The North Carolina Arboretum, an affiliate institution of the 17-campus University of North Carolina System, is to cultivate connections among people, plants and places. A standard daytime parking fee of $16 per personal vehicle is required for non-Arboretum members. Special events and after-hours activities may require additional fees. For more information, please call (828) 665-2492 or visit www.ncarboretum.org

About ecoEXPLORE
ecoEXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education) is an incentive-driven citizen science enrichment program for North Carolina children in grades K-8. Developed by The North Carolina Arboretum, an affiliate of the University of North Carolina System, this innovative program combines natural science exploration with kid-friendly technology to help foster children’s in science and scientific careers. Children are encouraged to get outdoors, make photographic observations of plants and wildlife, and upload their findings to their secure online account, which can be redeemed for prizes, badges and invitations to special events. Participation is free and parents or guardians can sign up their child online at ecoexplore.net.

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