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Museum educator wins Order of the Long Leaf Pine

Mary Ann Brittain is not only an outstanding science educator with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, she is now a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of the most prestigious awards bestowed by the Governor of North Carolina. The award, which recognizes individuals with a proven record of extraordinary service to the state, was presented to Brittain by Tom Earnhardt, host of UNC-TV’s “Exploring North Carolina” television series and President of the Friends of the Museum, at a Board meeting Thursday.

During Brittain’s 43 years of service to North Carolina, she has successfully established many innovative, award-winning programs which have had a tremendous impact on students, teachers and Museum visitors. As Director of Prairie Ridge Ecostation for Wildlife and Learning, the Museum’s 45-acre outdoor learning facility in west Raleigh, Brittain has led the conversion of a former cow pasture into an amazing field station for outdoor education. By recreating the traditional biodiversity once found in this area — planting hundreds of native trees, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers — Brittain and her co-workers have prepared an unmatched urban classroom/laboratory for generations to come. Now, amazing wildlife abounds for visitors and school groups to enjoy in an ideal setting for experiential learning about the natural world.

Previously, as Director of School Programs at the Museum for 23 years, Brittain began the Museum’s volunteer program and created hands-on natural science programming in the Museum and across the state for students and educators. She developed Curiosity Classes, hands-on natural science programs for groups visiting the Museum’s classrooms, and developed the award-winning UTOTES (Using the Outdoors to Teach Experiential Science) program, which has been a catalyst for schools to get students involved with learning about the world they live in by using their school grounds as outdoor teaching laboratories.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh documents and interprets the natural history of the state of through exhibits, research, collections, publications and educational programming. Find more information online at www.naturalsciences.org. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9am-5pm and Sunday, Noon-5pm. General admission is free. The Museum is an agency of the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary.