Ti’Era Worsley, a doctoral student in the Department of Teacher Education and Higher Education at UNC Greensboro, received her Environmental Education Certification this week for her extensive work providing environmental education to minoritized youth.

The North Carolina Environmental Education Program is a four-year, self-paced, 200-hour experiential program administered by the DEQ Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. The program is designed to enhance the ability of educators and organizations to provide quality programs and resources to benefit local communities while investing in the future of North Carolina’s environment.

Individuals who participate in the program demonstrate a desire to develop a sense of stewardship for North Carolina’s natural resources and to instill that sense of stewardship in children and adults. The program requires work in six components: workshops, outdoor experiences, knowledge of resources and facilities, teaching hours, and a community partnership project.

Worsley’s community partnership project involved working with a Spanish cultural immersion program, Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition (ISLA), to host a professional development workshop in Spanish that focused on outdoor education. She helped teachers and assistants who were interested in outdoor education but were unsure how to implement it into their curriculum and taught them how to use the resources available to them to create environmental education activities.

Worsley was able to use her time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru to help her complete the teaching hours portion of the program. She also received hours from her time as a camp coordinator with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, in addition to working as a graduate teaching assistant and research assistant at UNCG.

Worsley says she takes a community-based approach to teaching and believes in co-creating and co-planning.

“The Environmental Education Certification program has provided me the content knowledge to help bridge the gap of people’s perspectives about environmental education and building environmental literacy,” she said. “I understand that different people have very different connections to the outdoors and what may be pressing to some is not very pressing to others. I have become better at understanding the importance of the outdoors from different perspectives.”

Worsley has a passion for environmental education and working with minoritized youth because it gives these students an opportunity to engage in STEM in ways that are culturally relevant to them.  She works with historically marginalized youth in an informal makerspace at a local Boys and Girls Club and refugee center. She also works with an after-school club that focuses on socio-environmental problems with stormwater at their school. Her current research focuses on social interactions among African American youth and how it affects their quality of work.

“It means a lot to me to have completed the program,” she said. “It will further propel my work and my career. To be able to say I am a certified environmental educator says that I am knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to engaging with the environment.”

Worsley is set to graduate from her doctoral program in 2022. She plans to continue the work that she began through the Environmental Education program to better develop different workshops with environmental educators.

 

Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Jiyoung Park, University Communications