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As the first public university, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a long and proud history of service. The tradition of service for the common good has evolved into a commitment to deeper engagement that involves mutually beneficial partnerships between the University and communities in North Carolina and beyond.

At the UNC Institute for the Environment, we support kindergarten through 12th grade environmental science education programs to bring current environmental science with an experiential component to educators and community-based organizations statewide.

Our citizen science endeavors take UNC-based research to communities and give community members the opportunity to be active participants in solving important research questions that affect their lives.

Additionally, our policy initiative is building bridges between UNC’s word-class research enterprise and policymakers to create solutions for North Carolina’s most pressing environmental challenges. In For All Kind: the Campaign for Carolina, our overarching priorities include the following goals for outreach and public service.

Bringing the science to the people

Learning by doing is a proven educational strategy. K-12 students who conduct experiments, test water in their own community creeks, and measure air pollution around their schools literally see the links between the environment and their lives. We will continue to expand these programs in our own community and beyond.

Developing policies for today’s environmental challenges

For research and discoveries to move successfully off campus and make a difference in communities and businesses, they have to cross that complex and sometimes broad expanse between theory and practice – the place where such efforts all too often fail. We will continue to make research accessible to policymakers, business and community leaders, educators and NGOs in ways that can have immediate impact.

Teachers ExPLORE NC

One way the UNC Institute for the Environment (IE) has provided hands-on experiences for teachers was through a program that was called ExPLORE NC – it was a yearlong teacher professional development program. ExPLORE NC – an acronym for Experiencing Place-based Learning Outdoors in Rivers and Ecosystems of North Carolina was managed by the UNC Institute for the Environment through its Center for Public Engagement with Science. The IE is eager to create K-12 programs like ExPLORE NC and can do so with the support of donor gifts. A typical program would kick off with a weeklong retreat on the North Carolina coast where teachers wade in the sound looking for sea life, canoe or kayak, hike the maritime forest, and meet with experts on North Carolina ecosystems, watersheds and streams, and learn how they are all connected