Our staff of enthusiastic and highly qualified educators make it a priority to create safe and rewarding outdoor experiences for children. Far from a typical summer camp staff, 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 Coordinator and Discovery Camp Director
With 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 was recently recognized by the North Carolina Science Teachers Association for his exceptional service to science education. He also serves as Western Section Chair on the board of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina.
"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 Discovery Camp program for this, her third year. 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 Camp Thunderbird. She holds a BS in Biology and is a certified North Carolina Environmental Educator. Michelle serves as Membership Co-chair for 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, identiying fungus and animal scat, and hiking with her dog Walter.
Karen Chapman, Environmental Education Assistant
Returning for her fifth summer with the Discovery Camp program, Karen also serves as a Title 1 assistant at Buncombe County Schools. She holds a BA in Economics, a Masters in Art Therapy from Lesley University, and completed her NC teacher licensure in Elementary Education. Karen feels that the Discovery Camp program provides a unique and important educational experience for our campers that they may not have the same exposure to during the school year. "I believe that environmental education is important for children because it provides opportunites for them to interact with and explore the plants and animals in our environment." She also believes that opportunities to be physically active are important to provide as they explore their world.
Karen brings a fun and active perspective to our camp program. She is an ecstatic dancer who loves being outdoors, engaging her artistic side, going on hikes and traveling.
Aaron Jennings, Environmental Education Assistant
Aaron is returning for his third year year with the Discovery Camp program. He is an 8th grade Language Arts teacher at North Buncombe Middle School, where he has taught for the past two years. Aaron also serves as a cross country and soccer coach. Aaron moved here in 2010, having previously lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he taught high school English for two years in Northern Kentucky. He received his Bachelor's in English in 2005 from the University of Cincinnati and his Master's in Secondary Education in 2009 from Xavier University.
Aaron's interest in the outdoors can be attributed to time he spent as a boy scout. "I have fond memories of hiking, fishing and exploring natural places as a young person. I love having the opportunity to share these same types of experiences with our campers, who often do not have a chance to regularly explore creeks and play in the woods."
Aaron enjoys nature photography, hiking and gardening. He lives in West Asheville with his wife and daughter.
David Caldwell, Environmental Education Assistant
David will be joining us for his second full summer with the Discovery Camp program. He graduated from Haywood Community College with an Associate’s Degree in Fish and Wildlife Management, and is currently attending Brevard College working toward a degree in Environmental Science. Since graduating from Haywood he has worked with the Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association, North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission, and of course, Discovery Camp at the Arboretum.
David has obtained certifications in Wilderness First Aid, CPR, and is currently working toward obtaining his certification as a North Carolina Environmental Educator. David strongly believes exposing children to the outdoors is an essential necessity for developing imagination and problem solving skills. The outdoors allows a child to appreciate nature and gain respect for the balance of life outside the walls of reality.
When David is not busy teaching kids the importance of nature, he is wading in one of the many pristine streams of the region with fly rod in hand.
Trudie Henninger, Citizen Science Specialist
After serving as an Environmental Education Intern at the Arboretum, Trudie has joined the team as a year-round educator, and is thrilled to serve on the staff for her second year of Discovery Camp. 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. She is currently working on her Environmental Education certification. 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!"
When not at the Arboretum, Trudie is often camping and kayaking or lost in a field guide!