ALEC Fall 2016 Newsletter

Driftwood Beach
Diana Davies, GA Leader in Environmental Education
Navajo Nation
Dwight Carlston, MAEE Class of 2018
Dwight Carlston, MAEE Class of 2018
Dr. "Ranger Nick" Fuhrman and Snowy
Dr. Milton G. Newberry, III
Lilly Goldsmith, Environmental Educator, MAEE Class of 2017
Lauryn Gilmer, MAEE student and Environmental Educator


Fall 2016 ALEC Four Towers Times Newsletter

ALEC Cultivates Environmental Education in Millennial Generation

Ask the millennial generation (born between 1977 and 2000, 25% of the US population) about what will most impact their future and their response is “Our Environment.”  The news media reports daily on the status of endangered species, threatened ecosystems, extreme weather events, and legislation designed to address environmental degradation.  Millennials are not only concerned about the environment, they are ready to jump in and solve pressing problems.  Millennials are the most passionately engaged generation in recent history and they want to make a difference – they care about meaningful work and social responsibility.  ALEC has created a variety of initiatives to offer students opportunities to engage in finding solutions to global environmental challenges.

To help students focus their passion and develop teaching and leadership skills for improving the environment, ALEC and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources jointly created an undergraduate certificate in Environmental Education.  At the graduate level, ALEC created a Master of Agricultural and Environmental Education (MAEE) degree to promote food, environmental and social sustainability.  ALEC students and alumni work as Environmental Education camp leaders to teach youth about the natural world at 4-H camps across the state (Jekyll Island, Rock Eagle, Fortson, Wahsega, and Burton).  Over one million youth have been served in UGA 4-H camps over the past 35 years.  

ALEC attracts students from across the country who are passionate about helping youth and adults become better stewards of agricultural and natural resources.  ALEC developed a partnership with Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint NM, a 1994 land-grant Native American tribally-controlled university, to open doors for Native American students to continue their education at UGA.  ALEC welcomed two NTU graduates to study in the MAEE program this fall.

The beauty and uniqueness of Georgia rests in our inheritance of abundant natural resources and diverse eco-systems.  As the state’s Land- and Sea-Grant University, UGA takes responsibility for teaching each generation to make informed and wise choices.  ALEC has taken major steps to support leading-edge educational programs aimed at building capacity for citizen science, critical thinking in regard to legislation and policy, and leadership development to steward our natural world.  We hope you enjoy our stories – Kay Kelsey, Department Head.

Certificate in Environmental Education: ALEC Partners with the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources

ALEC and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources have a long history of collaboration.  Dr. Fuhrman and Dr. Irwin from Warnell team up each fall to teach Natural Resource Management for Teachers (FANR 5690L).  Dr. Fuhrman and Dr. Irwin created an undergraduate certificate in Environmental Education this year.  The certificate program is open to all majors and encourages service-learning and community engagement.  The certificate requires six courses including two science, two teaching methods, one program development/evaluation, and one capstone course.  Students will teach at a zoo, nature center, aquarium, or 4-H center, typically with live animals as a capstone experience.  The certificate is flexible and can blend into students’ existing bachelor's degree programs and will appear on their transcript.  

Bringing Navajo Nation to Bulldog Nation - ALEC Welcomes First Diné Students to UGA

In a new partnership with Navajo (Diné) Technical University in Crownpoint, NM, ALEC welcomed two Diné students into the MAEE program this fall.  Malanie Begay is born to the Towering House clan for the Water’s Edge clan.  Malanie, her husband, and two sons moved across the country to further her career in environmental education.  Coming to UGA was a big step for the Begay family, “I was really nervous about the move, I didn’t know that to expect.”  She completed her BS degree in Environmental Science and Natural Resources at Navajo Technical University.  “NTU opened up a lot of doors for me.  I got my undergrad there and it was through my professors and Dr. Kelsey’s visit to NTU that I got in contact with UGA.  Otherwise, I would have never thought of UGA.  Everyone in ALEC is super nice and so smart.  The professors are always willing to help you out, guide you, they treat you like a colleague, plus you can grow your network with them.  I really enjoy the professors’ world view.  They have all this information about other people, different countries, and the struggles they have gone through.  It opens up a whole new perspective, a global one.”

Malanie will put her MAEE degree to work in her home community of Crownpoint, NM.  “Native American issues we confront daily are uranium mining, coal mining, fracking, climate change, issues with erosion, and drought.  Being aware of the issues makes me want to pursue a career where I can alleviate some of those problems.”

Dwight Carlston is from Falcon Nest, a hidden community near the Chuska Mountains in New Mexico.  Dwight is born to the WaterFlowsTogether clan, born for SageBrushHill Clan of the Diné people.  He completed his BS degree in Environmental Science and Natural Resources at Navajo Technical University.  He was selected by the American Indian College Fund to participate in a documentary film, which highlighted Dwight’s childhood and how he was able to continue school despite many obstacles.  “My driving force to attending graduate school at UGA was seeing others who already had their bachelor’s degree work towards their Master’s and that a Master’s degree is what employers are looking for.”  He is also motivated by his parents as it was difficult for them to attend college, they didn’t get the opportunity.  Dwight plans to work in tribal government and aspires to become the Navajo Nation’s president.  According to Dwight, the number one concern of the Diné Nation’s president should be to guide, lead, and look for new ideas to benefit the nation. “UGA can help prepare me for that.”

Dwight enjoys running cross country and bull riding.  He was a state champion in high school, named academic All American, and first team All-Conference.  He went professional with bull riding with the Grand Canyon Professional Rodeo Association.  When asked about his transition to UGA, Dwight said “there are so many different students that you don’t know – you see a different group of people every day.  Being able to hang out with a group of guys that have different religions, backgrounds, and that don’t speak the Navajo language” has been different for him.  He is excited to experience football season in Sanford Stadium.  In reflecting on his short time in ALEC, Dwight said “so far, it has been great.  Working within the department will benefit me in the long run – my research will play a big part in my future.  Working under Dr. Newberry will give me experience to do my own research.  This is a win-win situation; I get to work within my interests and study with the professors.  If this is what it takes to gain a Master’s degree, I’ll take it!”

ALEC Graduate Student Leads Environmental Education Camp

ALEC MAEE graduate student Lilly Goldsmith put her knowledge to work at an Environmental Education camp in her home state of Virginia this summer.  Because of the classes she took in the MAEE program, Lilly was prepared to plan the curriculum at Frog Hopper’s Camp.  During the 10-week camp, youth were exposed to various environmental education topics such as wildlife habitats and stream water quality.

Courses in the MAEE program helped Lilly succeed as a camp leader and in turn, “camp inspired my MAEE research.”  Lilly served as a second-year camp supervisor and planned the curriculum, outdoor activities, and evaluated the program to measure its impact on participant learning.  Lilly’s research looks at teaching skills of a camp counselor and the impact they can have on participant learning outcomes.  The Program Development course prepared her for planning and evaluating the summer program.  “Being able to bounce ideas off of classmates was beneficial as I developed lessons for the program.  This summer was phenomenal - a totally different camp than previous years,” thanks to the MAEE program.

ALEC and Georgia 4-H Working Together

ALEC faculty and students work closely with Georgia 4-H Environmental Education centers across the state to provide opportunities for youth development.  Katlyn Lavelle, Agricultural Communication alumni and MAEE graduate student, has always been interested in the environment.  As a life-long member of 4-H, she focused her projects on conservation and natural resources.  After graduating high school, she was a camp counselor at Rock Eagle for three summers where she taught environmental education, ecology, and wildlife courses to campers.  She became an AmeriCorps Vista worker at Jekyll 4-H Center in 2014.  While there, she taught marsh and marine ecology.  Working at Jekyll Island’s Tidelands Nature Center allowed Katlyn to work with sea turtles, observe a necropsy on a manatee with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and lead guided kayak marsh tours.  Katlyn’s work with the nature centers allowed her to see a different side of 4-H through environmental education.  “I have always loved working with youth and I love watching experiential learning take place outdoors.  The sand and the sea make it real - that’s the beauty of environmental education!”

License to Teach on the Beach

Lauryn Gilmer, MAEE student, enjoyed fascinating experiences at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, GA. Growing up in Brunswick, Lauryn started working at the center a few years after receiving  her undergraduate degree in environmental science from Berry College. Lauryn first worked for the center as a volunteer turtle guide for one year, then as an AmeriCorps Education staff member for two years.  After participating in the Turtle Walk Program for several seasons, Lauryn realized  that the program lacked an official training procedure for turtle guide volunteers. Thus, as part of her MAEE graduate course in program development, she planned and implemented a pilot program entitled License to Teach on the Beach. Lauryn focused on creating a program that would benefit the conservation of sea turtles as well as the guides and guests participating in the nightly beach walks.  As a result of her pilot program, volunteers are formally trained on how to lead educational beach activities while keeping turtles and their nests safe. The training program has three main activities – beach ecology, radio communication, and crowd management. Volunteers are trained to monitor the beach for the safety of nesting and hatching sea turtles and communicate with researchers using two-way radios. Volunteers participate in the program in April and May to prepare for turtle walks during the loggerhead nesting season in June to July.

A Shadowy Figure Changed Dr. Milton G. Newberry’s Path to Environment Education

Dr. Newberry’s journey into environmental education (EE) began with a game of football in high school. After a tackle, lying on his back, he saw a “shadowy figure” in a tree.  Fascinated by the large bird, he set his sights on becoming a college professor and researching animal behavior.  After earning a BS degree in Wildlife & Fisheries Science from PSU, he worked at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center teaching youth and adults about the environment. He then moved to GA to work at the Jekyll Island 4-H Center.  Discovering his calling, he worked at W. Alton Jones Environmental Education Center during breaks from Jekyll Island, completely immersed in environmental education.  After several years as an environmental educator, he joined UGA ALEC as a Master’s student and then went to UF to earn a Ph.D.  His dissertation was titled: The Florida Master Naturalist Program: The Motivations, Psychological Benefits, and Climate Change Perceptions of Program Participants.

Dr. Newberry joined the UGA ALEC faculty in 2015 as an assistant professor of Environmental Education and is charged with supporting the undergraduate certificate in Environmental Education as well as supporting graduate programs as a conservation social scientist.  Dr. Newberry’s research agenda focuses on understanding the human dimension of natural resources among youth using non-formal pedagogical methods and live animals as teaching tools.  He is also interested in climate change perceptions and human adaptive capacity, program evaluation in the context of environmental education, and adult motivation to participate in conservation stewardship programs.

Dr. Newberry looks forward to growing environmental education at UGA.  Students are passionate about the environment and this is reflected in enrollment in EE-related courses, internships, and partnerships with Georgia 4-H Centers.  Dr. Newberry’s dream is to build a teaching nature center to serve as a living laboratory for students to engage with animals, practice teaching skills, conduct research, and provide public outreach.

Ranger Nick’s Path to Environmental Education

A single guest speaker visiting an elementary school classroom really can influence someone’s entire life.  This was certainly true for Dr. Nick (“Ranger Nick”) Fuhrman, ALEC Associate Professor.  A visit from Ranger Bill with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources 30 years ago when Dr. Fuhrman was in the first grade sparked a passion for teaching with animals. That fire never stopped burning.

Sitting on a carpet square, Dr. Fuhrman was mesmerized by Ranger Bill’s use of a corn snake, box turtle, red-tailed hawk, and great horned owl as ambassadors of the environmental messages he shared.  Eight-year-old Nick volunteered for Ranger Bill for eight years and was offered a job with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as an Environmental Interpreter at age 16.  He held that position for seven years, working while majoring in Forestry at Virginia Tech.  While being interviewed, a reporter called him “Ranger Nick” and it was at that moment that Nick realized he had “made it” – his dream came true.  As an Environmental Interpreter Ranger Nick traveled throughout five mid-Atlantic states, presenting 150 to 180 educational presentations annually to audiences as large as 1,000.  “There is nothing I would rather be doing than holding an animal and teaching with it.”

Thirty years after that fateful visit from Ranger Bill, Dr. Fuhrman’s passion remains teaching with animals.  He “edu-tains” audiences in homes across America through a monthly television segment through the Georgia Farm Monitor and RFD-TV network as well as teaching AGED 2001: Teaching with Animals.  Students are guaranteed to have an animal visit at least one class period throughout the semester in his other four courses.

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Interviews and stories written by Jaky Cervantes, Agricultural Education major, Dr. Nick Fuhrman, Dr. Milton G. Newberry, III, and Dr. Kay Kelsey. September 8, 2016

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