How Two Environmental Educators Shaped Who I Am Today


How Two Environmental Educators Shaped Who I Am Today

“Wasn’t someone hiking barefoot?” My high school best friend and I were catching up by phone recently and reminiscing about a camping trip with our high school Environmental Club years ago. “You were!” I told her, surprised she wouldn’t remember the feeling of a five-mile shoeless hike through a pine forest. However, there are many memories that did stick with us.

During this annual summer trip with the club, we cleaned trails, removed invasive plant species, and participated in various other maintenance projects within the parks. Rangers taught us about natural history, as well as the challenges they faced in managing the parks. When we weren’t working, we cooked over a campfire, went on long hikes, splashed in streams, and sang songs while banging pots and pans. At best, we mixed hard work and play, and at worst we were dirty, exhausted, and—in one case when it rained for three days straight—sopping wet teenagers. Especially for someone as shy as I was, these trips were a chance to learn new skills and apply them towards an important cause, while getting to know my classmates better outside of the normal school setting. For all of this, I am grateful for the two teachers who brought the Environmental Club to our school. 

The Barnicoats, two high school science teachers who were also married, ran the club together and created a sense of family for those of us who were members. Their enthusiasm was infectious; they motivated us to learn from every aspect of the trip—from the trail lessons to the camp kitchen. "Most of these kids have never even cooked before, outside of a microwave, and now they will be cooking for 25 on a camping stove. It will really be quite an experience," Mrs. Barnicoat shared in a story from the Baltimore Sun.

Growing up on the Chesapeake Bay watershed with parents who encouraged me to play outside, rain or shine, I have always felt a connection to the land and sea. It was because of the Barnicoats that I began to understand that the earth needed caring for and that a lot can be accomplished by a small, inexperienced team with strong leadership. 

If this week of recognition makes you think about environmental educators who have had an impact on your life, give them a shout out in a blog post on eePro, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtags: #ThankATeacher #EnviroEd.