Our staff of enthusiastic and highly qualified educators make it a priority to create safe and rewarding outdoor experiences for children. Our programs are led and assisted by college graduates with diverse professional backgrounds and a range of experiences working with children. All of our staff is certified in first aid and CPR.
Jonathan Marchal, Youth Education Manager and Discovery Camp Director
With nearly fifteen years of summer camp experience, Jonathan has been with the Discovery Camp program at the Arboretum since it's inaugural year in 2006. He holds a BA in Ecology and an AAS in Recreation and Wildlife Management, and has worked for the National Park Service, NC State Parks, Trout Unlimited as well as several Boy Scout summer camps. A certified Environmental Educator and Eagle Scout, Jonathan has been recognized by the North Carolina Science Teachers Association for his exceptional service to science education. He also serves on the board of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina as Western Section Chair, and received the organization's Outstanding Newcommer award for his service. Jonathan is enrolled in the Park, Recreation and Tourism Management masters program at NC State University.
"One of my favorite summer moments is seeing campers return year after year," says Jonathan about his experience with the Discovery Camp program. "We're now working with high school volunteers who began coming to the Arboretum for programs as second graders. I'm very proud we're able to offer experiences that families look forward to year after year."
Apart from his duties at the Arboretum, Jonathan enjoys hiking with his wife and their daughter, woodworking, camping and learning about the plants and animals of our diverse region.
Michelle Pearce, Youth Education Coordinator
Michelle brings a wealth of experience in outdoor and environmental education to the Youth Education team. She has delivered nature and outdoor recreation programs for the past seven years, including work at Blue Jay Point County Park, Green River Preserve and YMCA Camp Thunderbird. She holds a BS in Biology and is a certified North Carolina Environmental Educator. Michelle serves as Membership Chair on the board of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina.
When asked what part of her job she enjoys most, Michelle comments, "I LOVE getting kids outside and seeing them get excited about a bird or a collection of acorns. My belief is, if you're not getting dirty, then you're not having FUN!" Her enthusiasm for the outdoors and our plants and animals is contagious, and encourages everyone around her to get equally excited.
Apart from leading and educating youth, Michelle loves birding, winter tree identification, identiying fungus and animal scat, and hiking with her dogs Walter and Jet.
Trudie Henninger, Citizen Science Specialist
Trudie recently completed a term as with AmeriCorps's Project Conserve, and served as the Arboretum's first AmeriCorps member. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a BA in Environmental Studies and has spent her time since graduation working with dogs, reptiles, raptors, and of course kids! During her previous work at education centers in Charlotte and Durham, North Carolina, she lead puppet shows, tracked box turtles and shared wildlife with campers. Trudie recently completed her Environmental Education Certification and partnered with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture to create an activity guide for their annual high country farm tour. A natural educator, Trudie genuinely enjoys sharing the joys of the outdoors with students, "there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a child's eyes light up with excitement after discovering a bug and that they actually like it!" Trudies serves on the Bird Friendly Communities Committe with Audubon North Carolina and as a Project Leader for the Box Turtle Connection.
When not at the Arboretum, Trudie is often camping and kayaking or lost in a field guide!