Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Wake Co. teacher earns Governor's environmental educator honor

Environmentally Speaking

A blog from the NC Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources
Wake Co. teacher earns Governor's environmental educator honor

Kelsie Armentrout, a former Wake County teacher and Kenan Fellow, will be awarded with the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award for Environmental Educator of the Year on Saturday.
The North Carolina Wildlife Federation presents the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards each year to honor individuals, associations, businesses and others who have exhibited an unwavering commitment to conservation in North Carolina.
“These are the highest natural resource honors given in the state,” said Tim Gestwicki, chief executive officer with the N.C. Wildlife Federation. “By recognizing, publicizing and honoring these conservation leaders – be they professionals, volunteers, young conservationists or lifelong conservation heroes – the N.C. Wildlife Federation hopes to inspire all North Carolinians to take a more active role in protecting the natural resources of our state.”
Armentrout is being honored for her innovation as a classroom science teacher and for connecting her students with wildlife in North Carolina. Before leaving the classroom this year to pursue a master’s degree, she taught middle school science at Hilburn Academy, a Wake County Public School in Raleigh, and was a 2014-2015 Kenan Fellow.
Armentrout worked on “Students Discover,” a cooperative mammal research project with the Your Wild Life program at N.C. State University and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. The “Students Discover” project is helping citizen scientists survey the animals in their region with trail cameras. Working with Dr. Roland Kays and Dr. Stephanie Schuttler from the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Armentrout also participated in the eMammal program as a way of bringing citizen science into the classroom.
As part of her experience, Armentrout traveled with the team to Mexico to train with teachers in Guadalajara. She applied her knowledge as soon as the school year began, and had her students use the trail cameras at Hilburn to do their own research. She also helped create lesson plans for using the trail cameras in the classroom and aligned them with middle school curriculum standards. These lesson plans are now online on the Students Discover website in addition to a short video of Armentrout’s experience in the program.

Armentrout says her experiences with the eMammal program inspired her students’ excitement for science.

“Having the opportunity for the students to see their research and their data collection directly impact actual scientists can really open a whole new door for them,” she said.
Armentrout earned her N.C. Environmental Education Certification in 2012 and was featured in a short video on the program in 2014. She has been enthusiastic about bringing the environment into the classroom and credits the program with providing her with resources to successfully teach science.
“Getting my environmental education certification during undergrad really shed new light on science,” she said. “I ended up becoming a science teacher and wanting to be a science teacher because I saw the importance of student discovery and open-ended questions.” 
Staff in the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources nominated Armentrout for the conservation award.
“Kelsie embodies what can be achieved in the classroom when teachers are engaged with science and have opportunities to collaborate with scientists,” said DENR Secretary Donald van der Vaart. “These programs are excellent examples of how our department collaborates with other organizations to provide professional development experiences for teachers grounded in real-world science.”  

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