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Thirteen South Carolina Educators Receive Palmetto Environmental Education Certification

Two-year program offers 120 renewal credits and Diversity Scholarships

Nov 9, 2020 | News

Thirteen formal and non-formal South Carolina educators recently received Palmetto Environmental Education Certification (PEEC), which is the first environmental education certification program in the state. PEEC is coordinated by the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium in partnership with a 15-member advisory committee comprised of classroom teachers, non-formal educators, eco-tourism staff, and college professors in South Carolina. The certified environmental educators represented K-12 schools, science museums, and local parks.

A group of educators learning in a salt marsh.

Photo by E.V. Bell, Marine Education Specialist, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium (Photo taken pre-COVID-19.)

PEEC is a two-year program that engages educators in workshops, online assignments, and elective outdoor experiences to explore the coastal, midlands, and upstate regions of South Carolina and craft skills and best practices for effective environmental education instruction. The S.C. Department of Education recently approved the PEEC program as a “Renewal Course Provider” for 120 renewal credits – the maximum number needed for any South Carolina formal educator to renew their teaching certificate. “Every workshop flared my passion for the environment and opened my eyes to new possibilities,” said Jennifer Osborne, an 8th grade teacher at Blackwater Middle School in Conway and one of the thirteen graduates.

For formal educators, such as Osborne, amassing such a large number of renewal credit hours as a cohesive unit is very desirable, cost-effective, and efficient. “Oftentimes educators have to search for renewal credit opportunities that fit into their time and budget, and they end up being a hodgepodge of staff development-style sessions that may or may not be directly implemented in a classroom,” said Osborne. “The PEEC program providing all 120 renewal credits in one affordable, cohesive program that educators can immediately put into practice is absolutely an amazing option for educators.”

An educator shows a container of water with small fish to a group of onlookers.

Photo by E.V. Bell, Marine Education Specialist, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium (Photo taken pre-COVID-19.)

The program culminated in capstone projects and Osborne’s was a lesson plan in which students race to identify plant and animal species in a given space, a collaborative and hands-on concept adapted from National Geographic’s annual national park BioBlitz events that ran from 2007 to 2016. Other capstone projects included a “Roots to Seed” plant program designed for kindergarten to second grade that uses virtual activities and songs to teach about the parts of a plant and the processes of photosynthesis and pollination. Another capstone project was a Wetlands Lab, in which students go “squishing” along the edge of a marsh in search of tadpoles and other tiny critters.

PEEC’s mission is fostering a professional environmental education network and promoting environmental literacy in South Carolina, while empowering educators to more effectively teach about the natural world. “The focus is on helping educators use their current skills to build their own toolbox that can be used in most classroom or teaching scenarios,” said Elizabeth (E.V.) Bell, marine education specialist at the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and coordinator of the program.

An educator shows a trap with a turtle to a group of onlookers in front of a pine forest.

Photo by E.V. Bell, Marine Education Specialist, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium (Photo taken pre-COVID-19.)

A pilot of the PEEC program was conducted in 2017 and the official program launched in August 2018. Funding to create and sustain the program was provided by the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, Environmental Education Association of South Carolina (EEASC), North American Association for Environmental Education, Spaulding-Paolozzi Foundation, and Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund. The second PEEC class began this fall with 16 formal and non-formal educators, including four individuals who were awarded Diversity Scholarships made available through funding from the Spaulding-Paolozzi Foundation and EEASC. The scholarships cover full program registration, and are intended to increase diversity within the environmental education field for underrepresented minority groups and to provide support for educators teaching within historically underserved communities.

All educators will graduate in August 2022 with 120 credit hours toward recertification, an elevated, professional status within the environmental education field, and refined skills for effectively communicating environmental topics.

 To learn more about the program, visit the PEEC website or contact E.V. Bell.