The North Carolina Arboretum has begun a new partnership with the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation to expand the Arboretum’s ecoEXPLORE citizen-science youth program to all 41 North Carolina state park locations in 2019. “Our state parks contain some of our greatest natural and biological treasures,” says the Arboretum’s youth education manager Jonathan Marchal. “By partnering with the parks, we enable families that already explore them to dive deeper into investigating and observing the plants and animals that call these places home.”
Launched in 2016, ecoEXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education) is an innovative program for children in grades K–8 that combines natural science exploration with kid-friendly technology to help foster children’s interests in science and scientific careers. Children are encouraged to get outdoors, make photographic observations of plants and wildlife and upload their findings online in order to earn prizes, badges and invitations to special events. Participation is free and parents or guardians can enroll their children online at EcoExplore.net.
“One of the greatest testaments to the success of the program has been the amount of interest it has received from our state’s STEM education community,” says Marchal. “With ecoEXPLORE we have developed a method of leveraging partnerships with community resources such as libraries, local parks and experts in STEM fields from universities and state agencies.”
In conjunction with this partnership, North Carolina State Parks will release a new edition of their Junior Rangers guide that includes additional information about ecoEXPLORE. “Our national award-winning Junior Ranger program is a great first step to learning for kids ages 5–12 during their park visits,” says NC State Parks interpretation and education program manager Sean Higgins. “EcoEXPLORE offers an exciting way to keep these junior rangers involved throughout their early years and later into their teens.”
Learn more at EcoExplore.net.