Michelle Pearce ’06, Youth Coordinator at The North Carolina Arboretum, credits her liberal arts-based curriculum at the University of Findlay as a big part in her success in her current science career.
“Going to a liberal arts university allowed me to pursue different areas of interest while still staying within focus of my major. Classes like environmental history, animal and environmental ethics, speech, botany and zoology are all subject areas that I still use in my job every day. Speech prepared me for talking to large groups and keeping their attention; I use the identification and classification skills learned in botany and zoology while developing and teaching programs; environmental history and animal and environmental ethics helped me to learn about land use and conservation and how I can inform others. I even use what I learned in my ceramics class to teach summer campers how to make pinch pots and coil pots!” said Pearce.
As the Youth Education Coordinator at The North Carolina Arboretum, she schedules over 10,000 program participant visits each year, manages the registration system for their youth education public programs and develops curriculum for and leads field trip programs, summer camps and the “Wee Naturalist Program” for ages 2-5. In addition to her career at the arboretum, she also serves as President for the Environmental Educators of North Carolina.
Pearce actually wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she changed her major to biology during sophomore year. She knew she liked the sciences and wanted the opportunity to learn and teach. After some faculty and advisor encouragement, environmental education seemed like a natural fit. Gwynne Rife, Ph.D., was Pearce’s mentor during senior year. After taking Dr. Rife’s Nature Interpretation class, Pearce was hooked on environmental education. She also worked as a lab assistant for the zoology and botany courses, which helped her gain additional knowledge that she still uses to this day. “I still use my zoology textbook as a reference at work on a regular basis!” said Pearce.
She landed her first job right after graduation at an environmental education center in Charlotte, North Carolina and has stayed in the field working for camps, schools, county parks and now state agencies for the past ten years.
“There are a number of things I like about my job, but I think what I like best is that it always allows me the opportunity to keep learning. As an environmental educator, I have to be aware of a number of different subject areas, not just science. Environmental education is an interdisciplinary subject that incorporates math, social studies, English/literature and even art with science,” she explained.