Thursday, August 6, 2020

Environmental Education Program to Include More Environmental Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Offerings

Aug 6, 2020

The state’s environmental education program will expand environmental justice, equity, diversity and inclusion offerings as part of the Department of Environmental Quality’s efforts to address the goals set in Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 143 on addressing racial disparities.    

“Environmental education connects people to the state’s rich natural resources and empowers them to bring positive change to their communities,” says Secretary Michael S. Regan. “This program is for everyone and we want to make sure it represents the diversity of our state and includes the voices and perspectives of often underserved communities.”

One way DEQ’s Office of Environmental Education plans to meet this goal is to provide environmental educators with better access to training in justice, diversity, equity and inclusion. The office is already working to highlight more quality workshops, resources and training and currently encourages and accepts professional development in these topics for credit in the NC Environmental Education Certification, a professional development program for educators.

“The goal of environmental education is environmental literacy for all residents of North Carolina and should include environmental justice and its history,” says Lisa Tolley, program director for the Office of Environmental Education. “To achieve this goal, we must focus on increasing access of diverse communities to natural areas and environmental education programs.”

The education program also plans to partner with organizations such as Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC), the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), and others to build training and professional development in justice, diversity, equity and inclusion into the certification program.

“By providing this training, we will increase educators’ cultural competency and ensure that environmental education programs are inclusive and relevant to diverse communities. We want to help more educators incorporate justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion in their teaching strategy, relationships with students, lessons, projects, and resources,” says Lauren Pyle, Executive Director of EENC.

The Office of Environmental Education also plans to:
  • Seek partnerships to increase accessibility for unrepresented and vulnerable populations to environmental education and to the natural environment
  • Continue working with community colleges and universities to increase diversity in the conservation fields and in environmental education
  • Reach out to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and minority-serving organizations to improve outreach to students.
  • Leverage existing university partnerships, such as the NC State University environmental education minor, as a model for other institutions and programs.

The office is already using its existing platforms such as their successful Lunchtime Discovery Series partnership with the NC Museum of Natural Sciences to highlight current environmental justice work and the people and organizations that are engaging underserved communities and youth in the outdoors.  The most recent talk by Tatiana Height, Doctoral Candidate in Agriculture and Extension Education at North Carolina State University, focused on park and greenspace inequity in marginalized communities.  The series will also feature the museum's Coordinator of Accessibility and Inclusion, Jessie Rassau talking about the November 17 STEM Showcase for Students with Disabilities

As these plans develop, the office will use its new Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion web page as the main information hub for these resources and opportunities.  For more information and to receive updates, sign up for the Environmental Education email list or visit