Union Academy Charter School

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Ms. Dunleavy Earns Environmental Education Certificate

Ms. Dunleavy completed the certification process through instructional workshops, outdoor experiences, knowledge of resources, teaching, and a community partnership project all totaling more than 200 hours. She is the first teacher in Union County to earn the EE certification.

As part of the EE certification program’s community partnership, Ms. Dunleavy built the outdoor classroom with support from administration, teachers, students, parents, CROWN and EENC (via a grant). She explained, “While we are fortunate to have walking trails, we needed a space for students to be able to gather to learn immersed in the natural world. With our recent construction, we had many felled trees available for use as bases for the benches. I wanted to repurpose these tree trunks so that they could not only support seating but pique the students’ curiosity. The trunks are examples of nature decomposing and the relationship between living things where you can find evidence of rot as well as patent leather beetles, fungi, and other organisms.”

Since beginning the EE program, Ms. Dunleavy has been working to incorporate environmental education into her fourth grade classroom in as many ways as possible. “I can’t wait for warmer weather to arrive so that my students can immerse themselves in the natural world as often as possible in our classes,” said Ms. Dunleavy. 

In addition to sharing her passion for nature with staff, students, and parents, Ms. Dunleavy has also hosted professional development opportunities. “I was excited to see how many teachers were inspired to spend time in the woodlands at the end of the school year last year and hope the momentum continues this spring with the addition of the outdoor classroom,” she said.


Information on the NC Environmental Education website states: The goals of the Environmental Education Certification Program are to increase environmental literacy, provide practice in environmental education teaching methods and foster community leadership. The program enhances the ability of educators and organizations to provide quality programs and resources, benefiting local communities while investing in the future of North Carolina's environment.