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So, last month I received this wonderful award from the North American Association for Environmental Education. What struck me was that for every project mentioned, I could think of at least a half dozen people who made it work. 

My North Carolina Certification in Environmental Education? Well that was inspired by my sister, Kitty, who pointed out to me that once my kids were grown, I would only have my career as a helping mom to fall back on. Yipes, that didn't sound promising.

EcoFest at Washington Elementary in Raleigh? I can still remember my good friend and co-chair, Melissa Zeph, saying that everytime I called her with another good idea, it just meant more work for her. 

The HOWL program at Wolftrap Elementary? It was great to head into classrooms and help children understand the complex issues of the environment, from designing the perfect seed package (how does Mother Nature get tree seeds to move away from the competition) to understanding the complex web of life in environments as diverse as streams, woodlands, deserts and oceans. It was, of course, the courage of Principal Anita Blain, who let us wander into the classrooms and, eventually, create some wonderful natural habitats at Wolftrap. The success of these gardens is due, in large part, to the artistic eye of Joanne Hardison, a superb naturalist and artist.


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I was able to share my enthusiasm with some wonderful children, first at the Vienna Community Center and then at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. Luke, Bryce, Michael, John Paul, Charlie, and Henry were my regulars, later joined by Lily, another Luke, Isabelle and Thomas. We'd meet once a week at Meadowlark and spend a couple of hours just discovering what was out there. No worm too ordinary nor ant too small to escape our fascination. Of course, it took their parents to loan me their children for a few hours once a week to play. And, without fail, I learned something new every week.

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Now, I get to spend some time with the preschoolers at Epiphany Preschool in Vienna. It's easy to forget how wonderful little surprises like spiders crawling around, bugs cleaning their faces and birds can be when you haven't really spent time just looking. 

Of course, with these little ones, it's so wonderful that they have teachers willing to give them time just to look at nature up close. Sometimes we forget that a few minutes to watch and think are minutes well spent.

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Then, there are the teachers themselves who learn new ways of providing lessons to their students. I've recently had the chance to work with teachers from Wesley Preschool in Vienna, and teachers at Ashland Elementary in Manassas. I come away from those trainings with a whole new bag of tricks, and the knowledge that their students will be learning about the world outside.


 


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