By Emma Castleberry
The North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline (NCGSK) Foundation has granted $1 million to the North Carolina Arboretum for the expansion of its three education programs: ecoEXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education), Project OWL (Outdoor Wonders and Learning) and Project EXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education). These K-12 science education programs will be available in all 100 North Carolina counties within the next five years as a result of the grant. “Thanks to the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, we are able to build a network of educators in parks, museums, schools and libraries that will leverage resources from each other and strengthen STEM education across North Carolina,” says Jonathan Marchal, youth education manager at the NC Arboretum. “This grant, while awarded to the Arboretum, will also serve the needs of many other educators throughout the state as they utilize Project OWL, Project EXPLORE and ecoEXPLORE to serve their families, teachers and students.”
Project EXPLORE is a citizen-science program for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students. Through the program, Arboretum educators teach students how to collect data on trees, birds or squirrels found in their schoolyard and report their findings back to scientists via national citizen science databases. In 2016, the Arboretum launched ecoEXPLORE for students in grades K–8. The program is intended to combine natural science exploration with kid-friendly technology as a way to help foster an early interest in science and scientific careers. Also in 2016, the Arboretum initiated Project OWL, which provides pre-service teachers and nonformal educators with curriculum workshops on outdoor lessons and K–5 science concepts. “By providing students, parents and teachers with these three program initiatives, we are able to better serve our students and also serve as a means for teachers to reinforce their standard curriculum,” says Marchal.