NC State Alumnus Wins $1M Grant for Environmental Education
In the environmental education industry, a $1 million grant can go a long way. In fact, it’s helping Jonathan Marchal spread environmental education to all 100 counties in North Carolina.
Jonathan Marchal is a 2016 online master’s graduate of the college’s professional program in parks, recreation, tourism, and sport management and is now the youth education manager at the North Carolina Arboretum near Asheville.
Currently, Jonathan leads a team of educators that serve more than 27,000 youth annually through field trips, outreach programming, special events, scouting programs and summer day camps. He said his master’s program was a “game-changer,” providing the education and training he needed for a managerial role at the Arboretum.
As an affiliate of the University of North Carolina System, the Arboretum’s vision incorporates taking its youth education program to a statewide audience. To accomplish this, Jonathan’s team was recently awarded a $1 million grant from the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation.
“It felt like a dream come true,” he said. “I have felt so incredibly fortunate to be in a place where I could see my ideas take root here in Western North Carolina.”
Through this grant, Jonathan will implement three initiatives to reach both students and professionals across the state: ecoEXPLORE, Project EXPLORE, and Outdoor Wonders and Learning (OWL).
In partnership with groups like North Carolina State Parks, the Greensboro Science Center, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, ecoEXPLORE will utilize citizen science projects to improve interest in both STEM careers and the outdoors among school children. Participating students will earn points for their observations which are then traded in for prizes such as binoculars, wildlife cameras and insect nets.
In order to bring environmental education into the classroom, Jonathan will also implement Project EXPLORE and OWL, both professional development programs for teachers. By encouraging the use of outdoor spaces during class time, Jonathan hopes to reach even more children and increase their understanding of North Carolina’s biodiversity.
The Next Steps
Jonathan’s team is continuing to spread the environmental education programs across the state and is projected to reach every county by 2023. After this, “it will be time to ensure that we have a sustainable funding model for all these programs and I expect that will keep me busy,” he said.
In the future, Jonathan would like to see increased collaboration between parks and recreation professionals and environmental educators. He hopes the program can be used as a guide in implementing coordinated environmental education programs across other states.