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BETC- Bionomic Educational Training Center


A challenge facing our society today is the need to increase the quality of our teacher workforce and to implement an effective curricula that increases student knowledge and application, particularly in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. Over the past several years, Durham County’s Bionomic Educational Training Center (BETC) Program has been recognized at national and international conferences because the Program addresses these widespread issues. The Program seeks to improve STEM literacy for students by providing teachers with curricula and training and advance responsible student behaviors toward the environment by engaging them in water quality projects (e.g. rain gardens) that address how to mitigate urban storm water runoff that threatens our water quality.

The BETC Program was created in 2010 as a pilot program to teach students of the growing needs, demands and technological developments in agri-science, green industries and green infrastructure. The Program enhances middle and high school education by actively engaging students in hands-on implementation, activities, and research, as well as the development of critical thinking skills. The instruction provided by this Program will lead to better-prepared graduates (and citizens) who understand relevant scientific concepts that pertain to agri-science and green industries, which will foster a better understanding of environmental stewardship. The Program also teaches students the meaningful concept of “social entrepreneurship”, which is the “the attempt to draw upon business techniques to find solutions to social problems (Wikipedia).”

The Program implements an instructional delivery system that supports the existing secondary school North Carolina curricula and expands students' opportunities for experiential learning and inquiry-based investigative skills while improving their agri-science and math/science literacy comprehension. Perhaps most importantly, the Program has been successful in meeting the needs of students across a broad socioeconomic spectrum. Integrating STEM concepts and humanitarian concepts, students learn how to solve current, important societal problems such as the relationship between storm water runoff and water quality.

BETC Brochure [PDF] BETC Brochure- page 2 [PDF]

Video on BETC:


Program Elements

BETC Curriculum

A comprehensive BETC curriculum was created in 2013 and includes a 30 day unit on engineering rain gardens and cisterns for water quality improvements and an 11 day unit on soils and water analysis. A modified 5 day rain garden curriculum was developed in 2017. This curriculum is organized into five daily lessons that include a brief lesson description, list of key terms, objectives (“students will be able to…”), and a lesson template with time, description of activity, and resources linked via the internet. Additional lessons will be developed for two advanced placement courses in 2017-18 (Environmental Science and Human Geography).


Teacher Training

As part of the BETC Program, teachers attend group and individual training sessions on personalizing and implementing the curriculum for their specific classes. They are provided with planning documents and are offered the opportunity to attend a two-day residential Rain Garden certification course offered by NC State Cooperative Extension Service. To date, 6 Durham Public School (DPS) teachers have earned their Residential Rain Garden Professional certification.


2017 Durham Public Schools (DPS) Research Project & Data Analysis

Durham Soil & Water staff and hired researchers co-taught with classroom teachers the revised 5-day BETC curriculum to 75 students in agri-science, applied science, earth science, and horticulture. The student sample was diverse: 35% Black, 29% Hispanic/Latino, 12% Caucasian, and mostly underclassmen (42% Freshman, 30% Sophomore). A total of 548 student contact hours were achieved through the classroom curriculum lessons. Pre- and post-survey/tests were administered to all students for data analysis. Pre- and post-test comparisons revealed a statistically significant improvement with regard to content knowledge.


Summer Internships

In 2017, Durham Soil & Water staff developed the BETC Summer Green Team, made up of DPS teachers and high school students participating in the Durham YouthWorks Internship Program, to implement and maintain green infrastructure projects and community vegetable gardens, and introduce youth to careers in agriculture and green industries. This summer program will be further developed in 2018 to include pre-and post-evaluation measuring tools for a financial management addition to the BETC curriculum. See BETC Summer Green Team PPT .

School-based Agribusiness

At a number of schools, students grow and sell native plants for rain gardens, bio-retention areas and riparian buffers that reduce polluted runoff into Durham waterways.


Awards & Honors

  • Award of Excellence from the North Carolina Source Water Collaborative (2016)

  • Top 12 Finalist in the UL Innovative Education Award by the National American Association for Environmental Education (2016)

“Durham’s BETC program has had a proven track record in its ability to leverage public and private funds for conservation, earned income for schools, and sustainability improvements for local homeowners. BETC is a scalable model that has a strong foundation and well-conceived incremental building blocks to continue to expand the program. Its solid foundation includes teacher training that enables program materials and curriculum to reach more students; solid partnerships with public organizations, government, and additional schools; and successful implementation in both high-achieving and lower-resourced schools. BETC benefits institutions, homeowners, and students: schools earn revenue and students gain workforce and public speaking skills. Meanwhile, homeowners increase their knowledge of stormwater runoff and increase their sustainability. BETC inspires youth to participate in local environmental challenges in real-world service and solutions for homeowners.”

                                         UL Innovative Education Award Judging Panel


BETC has also been featured at the following conferences:

  • 2016 Transforming Local Government (TLG) and League of Minnesota Cities Conference - St. Paul, Minnesota

  • 2016 Best of Both Worlds International Conference - Estes Park, Colorado

  • 2017 American Association for Agricultural Education – Iowa State University, Iowa

  • 2017 Annual Conference of the American Association for Teaching & Curriculum – Denver, Colorado