DNCR 50th as Springboard to Brighter Future

Author: Secretary Reid Wilson

Our department’s 50th anniversary year is coming to a close.  We have been celebrating throughout the year, across the state.  While it’s nice to celebrate an impressive past, I view this year as a springboard to an even more dynamic future. 

We’ve got so much work to do in the years ahead to engage more North Carolinians in our state’s remarkable natural areas, our rich history, and our diverse arts, and culture.

A lot of what we do is education.  Whether it’s a school field trip to the downtown Raleigh museums, a day-long science class in a state park, a North Carolina Symphony performance at a school, a family outing at a historic site, or online classroom sessions with a zoo educator, we educate children every day.

These experiences are often transformative for the students, providing moments of awe and wonder that can spur a lifelong interest in a subject.  Our educational experiences and content support three critical attributes that I want EVERY North Carolina child to possess:

Deep understanding of our state’s history and culture

North Carolina has a fascinating and complex history that has shaped who we are today.  Our department is all about uncovering and sharing an expanded set of stories about the people and events that have influenced our history.  The more perspectives we can present, the better because it illuminates a more comprehensive history.  While some of our history is painful and difficult, knowledge of our shared past can both build unity and help divine a path toward a brighter future.

Respect for science

Basing decisions on excellent science is how we solve society’s big problems, from pandemics to climate change to cancer, and more.  A recent Pew survey found, however, that only 29% of Americans “have a great deal of confidence in scientists to act in the public’s best interest.”  That’s shocking.  Scientists have spent their careers expanding our knowledge of how the natural world works; they know what they’re talking about.  Understanding the scientific process is essential to building public trust in science, and our five science museum sites, zoo, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, and over 40 state parks all teach the wonders of science so that students will develop lifelong respect for it.

Lifelong love of the outdoors

From the mountains to the sea, North Carolina is home to countless spectacular natural lands and outdoor recreational assets.  We learned during the early days of the pandemic how tremendously important outdoor exercise is for everyone’s health.  The more time that children spend outside in nature, the better off they are – physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Plus, it’s impossible not to learn something about the natural world while you’re immersed in it.  That creates a strong and durable connection to the outdoors.  It so happens that 2023 has officially been designated as the Year of the Trail in North Carolina, so that means 365 opportunities to connect a child with nature!

Our department is proud of our 50 years of accomplishments, but we’re not about to rest on our laurels.  There’s too much important work to do to help create an even better North Carolina.    

Happy holidays!  Happy new year!  Happy trails!

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