RALEIGH—The Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) have named Liz Baird Environmental Educator of the Year. EENC's mission is to promote excellence in professional development and facilitate networking opportunities, inspiring educators to create an environmentally literate citizenry.
Baird is director of education for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh. This award recognizes an educator who stands out among environmental educators, exemplifies excellence and lends credibility to the field. Through valuable contributions, they are regarded as a “dynamo” that other environmental educators strive to emulate. As director of education at the Museum, Baird engages students and teachers across the state and around the world with unique and innovative natural science experiences. Throughout her 15-year tenure, she has affected the lives of thousands of teachers who, in turn, affect the lives of thousands of their students. Baird annually leads an Educator of Excellence Institute in Belize, Central America. This experiential workshop is designed to inspire teachers to remain committed to the profession of teaching, improve their understanding of science, refresh their classroom skills and empower them to pique their students’ interests in science learning. Participants experience some of the most striking wonders of the natural world first-hand. In August, Baird helped lead a Marine Mammal Institute, which provides professional development to informal educators, helping increase their understanding of and engagement in the environmental sciences and to present global climate change information statewide. Since 2005, Baird has also participated in Life on the Edge, an annual mission to explore the biodiversity, connectivity and habitats of the deep reef communities off the East Coast.
In what will undoubtedly be Baird’s legacy, Baird founded Take A Child Outside week in 2006, which is held September 24 - 30 every year. Through this international collaboration, Baird has formed partnerships with parks, museums and zoos all over the world that promote outdoor activities. Currently, all 50 US states and four foreign countries actively participate in Take A Child Outside Week. This initiative was inspired and supported by Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.” The program attracted 109 partners its first year and now more than 300 organizations participate, including all 35 North Carolina State Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Liz is an outstanding educator who is passionate about the natural world,” says Dr. Betsy M. Bennett, director of the Museum. “With her commitment to the Museum’s Educator of Excellence Institute and her Take A Child Outside initiative, I can think of no one better to carry the honor of Environmental Educator of the Year.” Her community service includes serving on the North Carolina SeaGrant Advisory Board, the Exploris Middle School Board (chair), the Board of Visitors for Salem College and the Children and Nature Network Grassroots Leadership Team.