NC Arboretum teams with DEQ for ecoEXPLORE Water Badge

Press release from The North Carolina Arboretum:

ecoEXPLORE, an initiative of The North Carolina Arboretum that encourages kids to connect with the outdoors and engage in citizen science online, is partnering with the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in a new badge challenge for kids centered on hydrology and aquatic habitats. From July 13 through August 9, participants are encouraged to make photographic observations of aquatic and semi-aquatic organisms and upload them to their free ecoEXPLORE account. In addition, they will need to complete four weekly challenges related to local water issues to fully obtain the Water Badge.

Weekly Topics and Challenges include:
July 13-19: NC Watersheds
July 20-26: Wetlands
July 27-Aug 2: Streams
Aug 3-9: Estuaries/ Coastal Waterways

The educational content surrounding the water badge is designed in the style of a vintage comic book. Weekly videos feature real ecoEXPLORERS as the “heroes” who will consult with scientists and educators from DEQ, The North Carolina Arboretum and other educators from across the state virtually to accomplish missions based on different water topics and allow North Carolina children and their families to participate statewide.

ecoEXPLORE Creative Coordinator Jenna Kesgen says comic books have a universal appeal across all age levels and demographics. “By framing our science content within these adventure-based story lines, we can include an element of excitement and whimsy along with the main content focusing on vital issues related to local water quality. In doing so, we will hopefully reach more kids and families and increase their science literacy in an entertaining way,” says Kesgen.

Each mission will be closely tied to the challenges that ecoEXPLORERS will do safely at home to earn their badge. These challenges will help kids become more familiar with the kinds of waterways found around them and their value while encouraging them to do their own research. For example, in Challenge One: NC Watersheds, students will access the NC River Basins link from the NCDEQ website to find their watershed and then upload their findings to earn credit for the challenge.

DEQ Water Education Program Coordinator Lauren Daniel says this partnership tied closely to the department’s mission to provide science-based environmental stewardship for the health and prosperity of ALL North Carolinians including all ages. “With this program, children get to learn how to protect our water resources in a manner that is age-appropriate and engaging. Partnering with The N.C. Arboretum on a project like their ecoEXPLORE Program makes a difference in how people understand our natural world and helps ensure a future of knowledgeable decision makers.”

The first video, weekly challenge and newsletter will be available on YouTube and on ecoEXPLORE’s Facebook page July 13.

For more information about the ecoEXPLORE program, visit

For more information about DEQ’s Water Education Programs, visit

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