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Happy Earth Day! Teaching STEAM and Nature's Lessons on Grandfather Mountain

On a recent trip to Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, I had the opportunity to explore a fascinating narrative. This story was the focus of the latest episode of my podcast, Adventures in Learning, titled Happy Earth Day! Teaching STEAM and Nature's Lessons on Grandfather Mountain. It truly highlights the incredible dedication of those who dedicate their lives to creating a-ha moments in informal environmental education experiences.

Dr. Diane Jackson Schnoor standing at the entrance to Grandfather Mountain

Nature as a Powerful Teaching Tool

In this episode, I introduce you to a team of unconventional educators who utilize the breathtaking backdrop of Grandfather Mountain to impart knowledge on STEM and STEAM subjects. Our guests for this episode are: Lauren Farrell, Manager of Interpretation and Education; Michelle Malalang, Education Specialist; Leigh Ann Wilson, Interpretive Park Guide; Eva Bohne, Zoo Educator; Hannah Rudick, Environmental Educator; and Lauren Niedzwiecki, Environmental Educator. 

These aren't your average teachers; they are zookeepers, park interpreters, and guides with a knack for transforming everyday elements of nature into interactive and insightful lessons.

Photo of the Grandfather Mountain educators working on hands-on engagement activities

Inspiring Future Generations

These dedicated educators enlighten listeners about the mountain's diverse ecosystems, instilling a sense of awe and responsibility in children and adults alike. They share moments of wonder when seemingly mundane aspects of nature become powerful lessons about our world.

A Peek Behind the Curtain

Listeners are given a unique glimpse into the demanding work involved in preserving the mountain's habitats. The educators convey their passion and unwavering commitment to the animals under their care. Their personal anecdotes reveal the unique twists and turns of their careers, from the thrill of direct wildlife care to the satisfaction derived from developing educational programs.They also recount personal experiences that shaped their career paths, such as caring for elderly bears or realizing the importance of conservation through personal endeavors.

A sampling of three different messages for conservation shared at Grandfather Mountain
Conservation inspired messaging at Grandfather Mountain

Reflections on Earth Day

In light of Earth Day, the podcast poses a crucial question: What can each of us do to contribute to wider environmental change? Together, we discuss achievable steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle. It serves as a potent reminder that every individual effort matters and can catalyze significant changes extending far beyond the rugged terrain of the mountain.

Images of Grandfather Mountain, the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery, mile high bridge, and Sphinx Rock
Scenes from my visit to Grandfather Mountain

The Core Message

The episode imparts a key lesson: The journey of environmental stewardship is as significant as the destination. By fostering curiosity and reinforcing our connection with nature, we can cultivate a love for our planet that spans generations. The educators at Grandfather Mountain demonstrate that being a flawless conservationist isn't the goal; what matters is actively engaging in our Earth's narrative.


As I conclude this Earth Day episode, the importance of cultivating love for our planet through education and personal action is underscored. The informal educators at Grandfather Mountain illustrate how by unveiling the splendor and resilience of nature, we can inspire others to undertake the journey of environmental stewardship. Whether you're a teacher, a student, or simply a nature enthusiast, this episode illuminates how nature can educate, inspire, and transform us.

Please be sure to download, like, and review on whatever platform you listen to the podcast. Your support helps us to continue producing interesting stories.

Watch the Podcast here:


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