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Yesterday, I was making peach pies to take to a Labor Day picnic and spent a good deal of dough rolling time thinking (and writing in my head) about why environmental education matters. I’m pretty much the perfect example. I was never very good at math (that hasn’t changed over the years), but I always liked getting outside to learn about the world around me.

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I remember my first brush with science that made sense when I took a marine biology class in high school in Tacoma. Mrs. Thompson's class provided an introduction to Latin, with the keyhole limpet diodora aspera. I had to mount seaweed on paper, so I spent a good amount of time really looking at it. Then in college I had a great biology professor who was the first to introduce the idea that when pollution went away, it didn’t really go away. He challenged us to find "away" on a map. When I worked in Seattle for the CBS affiliate, I hooked up with groups to do marine mammal advocacy.


There were about 8 years in there where I did public relations in Los Angeles, but managed to get outside to explore aquatic environments while body surfing, and terrestrial in the desert and mountains.

Then, I wound up in North Carolina where I braced myself to suffer through life in the south, and suddenly my career changed with my kids and countless Earth Day events. I loved North Carolina and all the strange insects, turtles and snakes that were new to me.

When we were gearing up to move, I got thinking about the state's certification in environmental education. I thought I would take a pass on it, but my sister pointed out that my kids would grow and be gone and I would only have my "helping mom" profession to account for it all. Hmm, that didn't sound very promising.

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In addition to doing consulting work with local environmental non-profits and the National Park Service, I've recently started an hourly job with Arlington County Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources. My main task has been digging up plants at one nature center, potting them and then taking them to another nature center for a fall plant sale. I see this sign for false sunflower heliantus helianthoides, any my brain goes back to marine biology and the  pycnapodia helianthoides, the sunflower sea star.  
 
My boys are pretty much grown, but I've been lucky to share my passion for nature with other children and adults as well. At a recent workshop with preschool teachers, we all watched birds through our paper roll binoculars and listened to nature like cats with flexible ears using paper cups with the bottoms cut out. 

Whether with adults or kids, I still see those "Aha!" moments when the ordinary, when observed up close, becomes considerably more interesting. As the preschool teachers and I were heading inside after listening like cats, we stopped to watch a beetle wash its face. A good lesson for preschoolers. Even beetles wash up after a meal.


 


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