A new state program aimed at getting youngsters interested in science and scientific careers will debut at Crowders Mountain State Park on July 11.
The ecoEXPLORE program is an effort of the North Carolina Arboretum in partnership with the state’s Division of Parks and Recreation.
As part of the statewide kickoff for this program, Crowders Mountain will host a special ecoEXPLORE Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday.
The program is aimed specifically at children from kindergarten age through 8th grade and will seek to provide hands-on skills the children can use in making and recording their own observations of nature.
“It’s not a formal program with a set schedule,” explained George Ivey, director of public engagement for the arboretum. “Instead, folks are encouraged to drop in, take part in some hands-on activities, and learn more about how ecoEXPLORE works.”
The program will take place at the Sparrow Springs access near the park’s main office and visitors center, located at 522 Park Office Ln., Kings Mountain.
“Hopefully,” said Ivey, “this program will serve as a stepping stone, leading children to grow more interested in nature and to further explore those interests.”
Through the program, children are “encouraged to get outdoors, make photographic observations of wildlife, and upload their findings online in order to earn prizes, badges, and invitations to special events,” Ivey said.
Participation is free and parents or guardians may sign their children up online at ecoexplore.net.
Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,000 registered users have engaged with the ecoEXPLORE program and have contributed more than 10,000 observations of wildlife data that will be used by scientists and researchers worldwide.
In conjunction with this new effort between the arboretum and the state parks system, North Carolina State Parks will be releasing a new edition of its “Junior Ranger Guide” which will include new information about the ecoEXPLORE program.
In a press release, State Parks Director Dwayne Patterson said he looks forward to the benefits of more education in the parks.
“Engaging young North Carolinians in outdoor experiences and education is one of the best ways to instill a sense of stewardship in our future leaders,” he said. “Our shared and cherished natural resources will benefit from bringing ecoEXPLORE to our state parks.”
Bill Poteat, who would have loved to be a part of a program like ecoEXPLORE in his own youth, may be reached at 704-869-1855.