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"We should teach children to see the land, to understand what they see, and enjoy what they understand." -- Aldo Leopold
When my friend Iris told me at a group luncheon about the nonprofit organization she and her husband Randy established last year, after both had retired from Wake County Public Schools, I asked if she could stay and tell me more. I was hooked! Two hours later, I was on board as a volunteer grant writer and development assistant for the Center for Human-Earth Restoration (CHER).

CHER is a cross-discipline education organization that teaches:

ecological restoration of lands; the value of personal silence and reflection time; journaling skills; nature observation activities and natural play; science/environmental writing and reading literacy skills; understanding that each and every individual needs to establish and grown in his/her personal environmental ethic; and the value of personal health through outdoor physical activities.
Will you join us?

Iris Senzig and I worked together at Wake County Public School System's Evaluation & Research (now Data and Analysis) Department for more than ten years before both of us were laid off due to (very necessary) budget cuts in April 2010.

Iris's husband, Randy Senzig, retired from the system last year after 30 years as a science and environmental science teacher.

Randy and Iris teamed up with Ross Andrews, an ecology restoration expert at N.C. State University, to establish CHER. Randy and Ross had partnered for several years to develop programs and curricula for collaborative teaching efforts at NC State and the high school where Randy taught. And more! The list of their collaborative projects to give students the chance to interact with nature and hone their thinking and learning skills is exhaustive -- and pretty darned amazing.

And now we're offering all that and more to not only elementary, middle, and high schools students but also to kids who attend YMCA camps and to retirees who want to join CHER as EarthElder trainers.

CHER hit the ground running last summer! Already we are collaborating with the town of Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. I'm meeting with Town of Cary (N.C.) officials next week to discuss offering EarthElder classes at the Cary Senior Center. CHER is an official camp offering for several Wake County YMCA's. There are collaborative partnerships with the N.C. Land Conservancy and Triangle Land Conservancy, and Fuquay-Varina's parks program offers creekside park space for students to participate in hands-on training to test water and study both native and non-native plant species in the park.

Feel free to visit CHER's website to learn about the vast array of programs, partnerships -- even our curricula offerings for schools and home schoolers.

Amazing.

So how can you help?

Join us! Subscribe to our newsletter. Come out and take part in a park or creek restoration. Even if you don't live anywhere near Wake County, North Carolina, you can bring CHER to your home, classroom, home-schooling efforts, YMCA .... the possibilities and portabilities are endless.

We also need stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. Some very specific stuff: copies of books, first-aid kits, potting soil, Westcott meter sticks, surveyor flags, digital cameras, water-testing kits, etc. If you can provide these items or would like to pitch in to help us buy them, your contribution will be very welcome and very tax-deductible.

And we need people! In addition to a number of EarthElder volunteer positions, CHER is offering a paid internship, the 2013 Max Mukelabai Diversity Internship, sponsored by a grant from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. Other internships and job opportunities are coming as we receive more grant awards.

Read and post on our blog! Iris is our blogmaster. She'd be tickled pink to know what you think about CHER, its website, and possibilities for its future. Take a gander and offer your bloggy support for this pretty spectacular organization Iris, Randy, and Ross have created.

Right now, our most pressing need is for inkind donations of testing equipment for students, office equipment, books, gardening tools, etc. Most of our equipment and student needs are pretty specific. If you'd like to receive a donor packet listing them, select that option on the CHER website and you can receive an electronic version lickety-split.

I'll be posting more diaries about the Center for Human-Earth Restoration as we roll out additional programs and partnership opportunities. Watch, too, for vlogs created by the students and EarthElders who take part in our camps. They are the heart and soul of CHER and the best ones to tell you where nature's taken them.

Let nature take you, too. Visit us and be part of our efforts.

"When we expand our connection to the Earth, we find a deeper joy in time outdoors and inside ourselves." -- Center for Human-Earth Restoration

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