Education and Outreach

NHSWCD offers, at no cost to county residents, environmental education programs for all ages. Our qualified staff is available to bring programs to pre-K through college classrooms, to civic or scouting groups, to business professionals as well as Home Owners’ Associations. Each visit and presentation is tailored to meet the groups’ needs.  We also offer scholarships and grants to support environmental education initiatives in the county, and facilitate county-wide education contests. Click on the links below to learn more.

To schedule a program, please complete the following form. Staff will be in contact to schedule presentations after receiving the request form.


Your schoolground’s outdoor wonders can provide real-world lessons about concepts learned in your classroom. These 45-minute, free programs are tailored to meet state curriculum standards for your grade level.  Contact us to learn more and schedule your program!

In all programs, we strive to meet “Science as Inquiry” Essential Standards:

  • Conduct investigations
  • Make careful observations and measurements
  • Work in small groups and share findings with the larger group
  • Use data to create explanations of results
  • Use appropriate safety procedures

Kindergarten Cloud Detectives

Students examine clouds and discuss their favorite kinds of weather and observe weather changes from place to place and season to season. Their discoveries will help them attain a deeper knowledge of weather. (Science Essential Standard Correlation: K.E.1.1)

1st Grade Super Soil

Students will make observations of different types of soil. They will learn the basic needs required for life, including air, water, nutrients, and light. Students will make their own “soil buddy” to grow a plant at home or in the classroom. (Science Essential Standard Correlation: 1.L.1.1)

2nd Grade Weather Toolbox

Students will get to examine and use the tools used to measure temperature, wind direction, wind speed, and precipitation. (Science Essential Standard Correlation: 2.E.1.2)

3rd Grade Thinking Like a Soil Scientist

Students will dig into the importance of soil, including the characteristics that allow it to support plant growth. Using a soil auger, they will work together to dig a soil profile on their school grounds, and observe how soil texture (sand, silt, and clay) changes throughout the profile. They will get the chance to consider how soil is the foundation of life on earth and learn about basic soil conservation. (Science Essential Standard Correlation: 3.L.2.4)

4th Grade From Soil to Your Lunch Box – Vitamins and Minerals

Which foods contain the most vitamins and minerals and how are they connected to healthy soil? Students will use critical thinking to make observations, create connections from the lesson to the real world, and come to conclusions about vitamins and minerals through hands-on learning. (Science Essential Standard Correlation: 4.L.2.2)

5th Grade Incredible Journey

Students will experience a kinesthetic simulation of the water cycle, including how the sun’s energy drives evaporation, transpiration, condensation, precipitation, and runoff. They will understand how humans and life in general depend on this cycle, and how we may engage responsibly with it especially regarding water use and runoff. (Science Essential Standard Correlation: 5.P.2.1)

6th Grade Know Soil, Know Life

Students will look at the importance of soil and how we live. They will discuss the origin of soils across North Carolina and investigate the soil that is found in their own schoolyard. (Science Essential Standards Correlations: 6.E.2.3, 6.E.2.4)

7th Grade Follow the Water

Students will experience a simulation of the water cycle, including the cycling of water in and out of the atmosphere. They will understand how humans and life in general depend on this cycle, and how we may engage responsibly with it especially regarding water use and runoff. (Science Essential Standards Correlations: 7.E.1.2)

8th Grade Enviroscape

The Enviroscape program brings an interactive model of a watershed into the classroom. Our instructors will engage your students in a demonstration to visually learn about stormwater runoff, water pollution, water quality, watersheds, and personal stewardship. (Science Essential Standards Correlation: 8.E1.1)

High School Seeing Watersheds

Students will model river systems to illustrate the function of a watershed and apply these concepts to an investigation of the Cape Fear River Basin. They will discuss human impacts in the Cape Fear River and learn about water conservation practices. (Science Essential Standards Correlations: EEn.2.3.2, EEn.2.4.1, EEn.2.4.2)

These 45-minute, free programs allow for students to engage in scientific thinking and (when appropriate) song, story-time, and crafts! They are ideal for groups of students ranging in age from 4 to 10 years old but can be adjusted for older students. Must have at least 5 student participants, but no more than 20. Location of program to be determined based on the group’s needs. Contact us to learn more and schedule your program!

Making Observations

During this introductory session, campers will work together to make observations of the natural world around. They will also practice investigation, thinking like a scientist, and sensory skills as they explore an outdoor area.

Digging Into the Soil

During this session, students will dig into the soil ecosystem! They will learn how soil forms the foundation for life on earth and investigate the different types of soil that are found in New Hanover County. We might even meet some wiggling worms!

Storm Water Sleuths

Where does storm water come from? And where does it go? Students will investigate how rainwater interacts with the environment around them during this program using an Enviroscape model.


The Envirothon is a fun, hands-on, natural science academic competition for teams of middle and high school students sponsored by the NC Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts with help in organization and implementation from the NC Division of Soil and Water Conservation. The Envirothon helps develop environmentally aware citizens who can assume future leadership roles. Subject areas studied are: Aquatic Ecology, Forestry, Soils and Land Use, Wildlife, and Current Environmental Issues. For more information, please visit The N.C. Coastal Envirothon page and the N.C. Envirothon page.

  • Grades: Middle School & High School
  • Open to all public, private, and home school students, church groups, clubs, 4H, scout troops, and FFA programs
  • Important Dates:

Regional Contest: TBD (usually mid-March)

State Contest: TBD (usually April)

Annual Conservation Creativity Contests

Participate in the NC Soil & Water Educational Contests, including Poster, Speech and Essay contests on a particular theme each year! These contests give students an opportunity to explore soil and water conservation through art, writing, and public speaking.  Educational Contests focus on a soil or water theme each year and align with NC Essential Standards.  These contests are a great way to reinforce concepts learned with a homework option or extra credit. Students can compete locally through the school and county competitions. First place county winners will advance to the Soil & Water Area 6 competition. Top winners from all eight Soil & Water areas compete at the state level for cash prizes.

Contest Themes

2022-2023 “Water…The Cycle of Life”

Types of Contests & Age Groups

Poster Contest:  Grades 3 thru 5 (ages 8-11)–Students create an artistic representation of the theme on poster board

Essay Contest:  Grades 6 thru 12 (ages 11-18)–Students write a 300-500 work essay on the contest theme

Speech Contest:  Grades 6 thru 12 (ages 11-18)–Students deliver a 4-6 minute speech on the contest theme presented to a panel of judges

Computer Designed Slide Show: Grades 6 thru 12 (ages 11-18) — Students design a digital presentation using 15 slides or less

Please contact us for more information and to get your school involved!

Official Rules & Entry Forms

Supporting Documents & Programs

Schedule a Classroom Program

2020-2021 Contest Handbook

Important Weblinks:

NC Department of Agriculture: Education Contest Website

NHSWCD staff are trained facilitators for a variety of programs including wetland ecology and agriculture and natural resource management. The aim of workshops is to help teachers and environmental educators stay abreast of new environmental topics as well as providing curriculum guides. Contact us to learn more and schedule your program!

field days

Workshops Include:

Project Food, Land, People

Project WET

Methods of Teaching Environmental Education

Don’t Waste It! 

Listen to what participants from past workshops have had to say about our programs:

– “Dru went the extra mile to help me enroll and feel welcome.”

– “This has been the best workshop I’ve attended in 7 years of teaching experience. Please continue!”

– “I love your program and hope it continues! It keeps us informed about what you offer and the guest speakers keep us excited about bringing new ideas to our classroom.”

– “I look forward to your workshops!”

– “This workshop provides useful information for teachers of any grade level and any subject – even though the subject is based in environmental science. The instructors are helpful and willingly make the course meet your needs. You receive materials that can be used in the classroom and are encouraged to think in ways that are appropriate to your needs. I’ve taken a lot of workshops offered by other institutions and anything offered by the SWCA is always heads above anything else.”

New Hanover Soil & Water Conservation District supports outdoor learning in our area schools. The Outdoor Environmental Learning Center (OELC) Grant Program provides funding of approximately $1000 to help school teachers, administrators, and partner groups purchase equipment and structures to help install or improve an outdoor center at a school. OELCs include but are not limited to pollinator gardens, greenhouse, fruit/vegetable gardens, rain gardens, sitting areas and picnic tables, and compost equipment.

Any K-12 school within New Hanover County is eligible to apply. This includes public schools, private schools, and charter schools.

Learn more about the grant and access the application form by clicking on this link. Please email with any questions.

Let the best team of environmental educators in the county come to you for this fully immersive field day program on your school grounds. Your third-grade students will travel from station to station to learn from the experts in programs that are designed to meet their essential standards and are tailored to the fun of their age! Subjects include landforms, wildlife, plants, and soil! Contact us to learn more and schedule your program!

Perfect for your HOA or special interest group, this free program will illuminate an important issue in our area and will ignite your group into action. Contact us to learn more and schedule your program!

Stormwater 101

Ever wonder where the water goes when it goes down a storm drain?  Ever consider what that water might be carrying?  What is the biggest water pollutant in our area?  Join New Hanover Soil & Water Conservation District to find out the answers to these questions as well as learn actions you can take and/or devices you can install to reduce the amount of pollution that is carried into our local waterways.  Citizens interested in learning about the 6 major sources of non-point source pollution in our waterways and how to make a positive impact and reducing them should attend. This is perfect program to engage your HOA, business, or concerned neighborhood group in conversations about stormwater pollution.

BONUS FOR CITY OF WILMINGTON RESIDENTS: Any City of Wilmington resident that attends will be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card to the Home Depot! Must have at least 10 city residents present for the drawing to take place.

Hosting your own event and would like a representative of Soil & Water to present or table? Table topics can be adjusted to your needs. Our specialty topics include backyard best practices for stormwater and soil types in New Hanover County.

Hosting an event for people and their pet dogs? Our Canines for Clean Water table would be the perfect addition to your event.

Contact us to learn more and schedule your program!

The NHSWCD sponsors one student each year to allow them to spend a week on NC State University’s campus learning about conservation, natural resources, and careers. Click here to learn more about the program. College scholarships are awarded at the end of the week based onto scores on workshop tests, college and career paths, and student need. CLICK HERE FOR THE APPLICATION. Applications should be emailed to

Grades: Rising High School Juniors and Seniors

Applications Due: TBD (usually April)

Workshop Dates: TBD (usually June)



Soil and Water Conservation: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 100 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-7130 • Fax 910-798-7282
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