Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) 2013 Winners
EPA Region 1
Mary Marguerite Murphy, Camden Hills Regional High School
Margo Murphy has been involved in connecting students with their local environments throughout her 27 year career. In 2007 she moved to Camden Hills Regional High School where she teaches Global Science and Botany. In her five years at CHRHS, she has helped to guide a student led group, the Windplanners, to reach their goal on installing a 100 kw wind turbine on campus. This multi-year, multi-generation project required students to collect and analyze data, engage the community in discussions, understand permitting and engineering, fundraise and monitor results.The first year anniversary was just recognized. Windplanner efforts are now focused on significant energy efficiency efforts and additional renewable energy projects. The Windplanners received the Presidential Environmental Youth Award for 2013 and were also selected to represent student projects in the USA for the Volvo Adventure international student environmental projects competition in Goteborg, Sweden.
Margo has also helped students install a school orchard and garden that produces food for the school lunch program. This past year students grew over 800 pounds of organically raised produce. This year, the orchard will begin producing food, and the garden continues to expand providing students with opportunities to learn about soil science, permaculture, organic practices, and are introduced to foods they are familiar with.
Margo is also very active on numerous local and state committees and has received many awards. She is a member of the Teacher Advisory Council (TAC) for the National Academy of Science and National Research Council. She currently serves on the state leadership team charged with the review and implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. Margo is a nationally board certified teacher and has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
EPA Region 3
Mary Breslin, George Washington Middle School
Mary teaches 7th grade science at George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia, where she mentors her students through understanding how they can make a difference in their community. Mary does this with the support of multiple partnerships that bring her students unique learning experiences. Earth Force, the Winkler Botanical Preserve, Arcadia Farms, the Alexandria City Department of Planning and Zoning, and the GW Community Garden have supported her students through grant writing, project development and planting their school garden. The accomplishments of Mary's students range in scope, from helping to save a botanical preserve to developing long-term studies within the city.
Mary values the importance of teaching a younger generation how to create a more sustainable environment, and her personal and professional experiences help her inspire students to tackle environmental issues. After graduating from George Mason University as a Biology major, Mary embarked on a mission to re-establish and study natural habitats, first with AmeriCorps and the Florida State Parks, then with the Student Conservation Association in Great Smoky Moutain National Park. However, when the Virginia Department of Transportation moved to condemn her family home to build a portion of the Fairfax County Parkway, she was forced to become an environmental advocate.
The four year journey of saving her father's house forever revolutionized her perspective on the state of our environment. She began working as a Sierra Club intern on Capitol Hill, which offered an eye-opening front row view to our country's decision making processes and allowed her to unravel the intricate web of environmental policy. Mary now draws upon these experiences to connect her students with real world issues and help them learn through community -based activities and youth driven civic engagement projects that integrate science, technology, math, engineering, and a variety of other academic and environmental concepts. Each year she teaches her students to become part of the solution.
Carolyn Ruos Thomas, Wildwood Middle School
Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia
Carolyn Ruos Thomas has been guiding her 7th and 8th grade students through diverse experiences of exploration and creative projects in science at Wildwood Middle School for the past 6 years. ;Carolyn “accidentally fell in love with brook trout” and ended up integrating Trout Unlimited’s Trout in the Classroom Program into her classroom in 2010. Carolyn has tried to create learning experiences which engage students in the classroom, the field and in the future. The brook trout, which are West Virginia’s state fish, have provided unlimited possibilities for her students to study biology, chemistry, physics and earth science as well as engineering, surveying, sustainability, geomorphology, art, literature, the art and practice of fly fishing, and even cooking.
The stream and trout studies conducted by Carolyn and her students have been featured in TROUT magazine. Her work has been supported by an extensive group of community scientists and engineers who share their expertise and resources with her and the students at Wildwood Middle. The interaction of students with scientists and professionals in the community is invaluable as they learn about many careers and gain practical science and engineering skills through interactive learning experiences and projects.
Carolyn has also done exceptional and inclusive work with special needs students who find regular classroom tasks difficult but have more positive responses to learning in the outdoors. She is also an advisor for the Wildwood Environment Club, which supports students who wish to learn more about the environment and make stronger connections with their local ecosystems and community engagement. The club has carried out successful projects such as a collaborative tree planting initiative for the school campus, and a current rain garden installation project. Carolyn has shown tremendous skill in connecting science and environmental education beyond the classroom and into the wider community.
EPA Region 4
Jeanna Goodson, Maiden High School
Maiden, North Carolina
As a National Board Certified AP Environmental Science and wildlife teacher at Maiden High School, Jeanna has provided students with meaningful outdoor and integrated learning experiences. She strives to connect her students with the natural world in a way that fosters an appreciation for the environment while also building a practical understanding of community initiatives and collaboration. Jeanna worked with local community members and groups to design and create a campus nature trail that enables her students to access different ecosystems for outdoor labs and activities in their studies.
On the trail, students conduct science experiments such as water quality testing, and learn about local flora and fauna, population dynamics, air quality and pollution research. She utilizes a variety of creative and integrative education methods such as science simulations, interactive games, hands-on and team based activities and projects to help students to explore larger concepts and gain a better understanding of events and issues they may not otherwise experience. Her students learn the importance of connecting real world issues with their local community and environment which has direct ties to their daily lives.
Jeanna’s students share their learning experiences and enthusiasm for science, cultural and environmental issues with their families and community members through a variety of interactive projects that include creating and sharing an on-going environmental science A-Z booklet which includes images of labs they conduct, outdoor lessons, and written materials. Parents interact with students in this project through their written reflections about environmental science they collaboratively discuss with students. Jeanna also works with other teachers to encourage the integration of nature activities into other subjects and has participated in North Carolina’s rigorous Environmental Education Certification Program. Jeanna’s exceptional dedication to her students is apparent as she tries to help instill a sense of awareness and responsibility in her students as they learn to be mindful of how their actions can impact the world around them and how they can each make a difference as responsible stewards of the earth.
Mary Catherine Padgett, Ford Elementary School
For almost twenty years, Catherine Padgett has worked tirelessly to preserve, develop and sustain close to 30 acres of land into an extensive outdoor learning center for the 800 students at George R. Ford Elementary School in Acworth, Georgia. She included teachers, parents, scouts and community partners in the creation of Ford’s Children’s Garden, the construction of extensive outdoor learning labs, and the restoration of native habitat. The outdoor labs include pollinator habitats, a native tree arboretum, a Math Garden, aquatic habitats and a large community garden. There are also three wooded amphitheaters, an extensive nature trail and stream observation station, composting areas, and an Eco-Therapy natural playscape geared to accommodate special needs children.
A teacher herself, Catherine organizes in-service training for teachers and non-formal educators, and guides community service workdays at Ford. In 1995 she initiated Evening in the Garden, an integrated curriculum celebration attended by over 500 guests, and encourages parental participation in the classroom by helping develop curriculum and best practices for the Earth Parent Program. Catherine’s achievements have been widely recognized on a local, state and national level and received Georgia’s Environmental Educator of the Year Award for 2010. Ford’s environmental education program serves as a model school for The Captain Planet Foundation, and received the National Green Ribbon School Award for 2013.
Her commitment to environmental stewardship is well-respected and she shares her experience through state-wide seminars, and this year helped to organize and host the Learning Garden Conference at Ford. She also serves as Ford’s liaison to schools and outside organizations and this summer will be presenting Ford’s model program at the National Children and Youth Garden Conference.
EPA Region 5
Anne Wiszowaty, North Shore Community School
Anne Wiszowaty teaches second grade at North Shore Community School, a public charter school on forty acres in Duluth, Minnesota. Anne uses the environment as a teaching tool for all her subjects, from math to language arts to science to writing. She has spent a decade carefully developing curriculum that incorporates Minnesota-specific teaching standards with hands-on experiences on the forty acres of school grounds. Anne focuses on providing her students with educational learning opportunities that they can connect with. Her personal teaching philosophy is that learning is not limited to the four walls of a classroom.
Students need to realize that learning can take place anywhere! Students grow food in the greenhouse, compost scraps in worm bins, create a rainforest in their classroom, and even compete in a winter dog sledding race. Students and parents are also engaged in learning outside the classroom, through visits to state parks, local nature centers and collaboration with a local recycling plant. Anne enjoys sharing her experiences of the benefits of hands-on, outdoor education through trainings, workshops, and mentoring opportunities as well. Anne is a member of the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education and played a key role in her school’s successful Green Ribbon School Award application.
EPA Region 7
Mike Todd, Ames High School
Mike Todd teaches environmental science, biology, and physics at Ames High School in Ames, Iowa. He is also a dedicated mentor for students in a variety of environmentally related and community based projects and clubs. He believes that it is of the utmost importance to get students involved inside and outside their school learning environment to engage with the wider community about local environmental and community topics and issues. He collaborates with scientists and professionals every year to help connect his students with real issues, scientific techniques and fields of study to create meaningful and community-based projects and learning experiences.
Mike’s students have helped conduct research and collect data for state agencies and university professionals for local water quality issues, monitored fish populations, conducted vegetation surveys and collaboratively planned and managed an outreach event to share their findings and help to educate members of the community about local water quality issues and potential solutions. His students focus their studies around a central environmentally based theme each year to create a platform for making connections across a broad range of subjects and provide space for many community interactions and support activities with projects.
Over the past few years, students have had the opportunity to participate in multi-year prairie reconstruction projects that help develop a deeper understanding of ecosystems, environmental science concepts and stewardship practices. Mike volunteers with many community groups and often integrates the projects of these groups, such as storm drain marking with the environmentally focused lessons to provide his students with practical experiences that have lasting impacts with their community. Mike strives to encourage his students to relate their projects to personal and career interests, network with professionals in those fields, and develop relevant skills and experiences that will be useful in the future, as they become informed citizens who make responsible choices.
Dominick S. DeRosa, F.L. Schlagle High School
Kansas City, Kansas
Dominick DeRosa teaches a variety of science based subjects for high school students at F.L. Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Kansas. Mr. DeRosa has structured his curriculum and teaching methods to include educational opportunities that directly connect and increase students’ awareness and understanding of environmental interrelationships with societal impacts, health and help to promote responsible environmental stewardship practices.
A little over two years ago a small group of urban students, staff and parents joined with Mr. DeRosa to form an environmental team called Project Green. Project Green is a student led initiative, and includes participation from parents and staff, with Mr. DeRosa as a sponsor. From his Earth & Science classes, Project Green team set out to help reduce the school’s carbon footprint. The team has created a recycling program for the school and included ways to teach all members of the F.L. Schlagle community about how to reduce their carbon footprints. Project Green team also designed and created a student vegetable garden. The students work with their local community to learn about organic gardening tips and other gardening ideas community.
Currently in its second year, the garden has doubled in size and type of produce and the students plan to sell their produce at a farmers’ market and to local businesses. Project Green is also currently working to build a greenhouse to enable students to continue gardening through the winter months. Over the last two years, the Project Green team has been invited to speak at the Breaking the Silence conference and will be speaking at the KCEE conference about their work in the schools this summer. They hope to expand the program to the feeder middle & grade schools in the coming years. Mr. DeRosa exhibits tremendous dedication to promoting innovative learning and teaching practices through the integration of environmental and local topics and science that connect with a variety of subjects, including STEM initiatives and exceptional community involvement.
EPA Region 9
Dominique Evans-Bye, Clark Magnet High School
La Crescenta, California
Dominique Evans-Bye teaches biology and geographic information science at Clark Magnet High School in La Crescenta, California. Dominique has been a volunteer public safety diver for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department since 1992. Combining grant funding and Sheriff’s funding, she was able to purchase a VideoRay remotely operated vehicle. The Marine Science Research course she teaches combines marine ecology, DNA barcoding and ROV operations with the fundamentals of GIS.
Through a Teacher-Initiated Inquiry Project grant from UCLA, Dominique led her team to develop a new science elective course, The Geology of Disasters. Following the Career Technical Education model from the University of California, the course combines rigorous academic instruction with the career orientated skills of GIS. For this course, Dominique sought training from FEMA and became a Hazus-MH Practitioner to teach risk assessment, loss estimation and loss mitigation strategies with Hazus-MH GIS software. For their capstone project, Dominique’s students work with city officials to keep the Local Hazards Mitigation Plan up to date using Hazus-MH software.
In connection to a variety of science studies, art and language art are also an integral part of Dominique’s environmental curriculum as she promotes a coastal art and poetry contest with her students each year. Her students also learn about cartography and digital arts that strengthen their technical, writing and design skills, as evidenced by recognized student success in previous scientific poster events. Dominique created Environmental GIS as a project-based learning course to give students the opportunity to take part in original research projects. To date, EnvGIS students have been awarded over $180,000 in scholarships and grants.
EPA Region 10
Ralph Harrison, Science and Math Institute
Ralph Harrison has been instrumental in creating a unique and innovative approach to high school environmental education, science and physical education at the Science and Math Institute (SAMi). He utilizes the outdoors, experiential, and place-based learning in all aspects of his curriculum. As a direct result of the Outdoor Education program developed and started by Ralph, many students continue participating in the environmental field through environmental, conservation, science activities and projects. He is very enthusiastic about extending environmental education beyond the classroom to actively demonstrate and teach about the natural world with his students.
Through his innovative teaching approaches, students learn to collect data for forest certification and participate annually in the “bio-blitz” inventory of the Point Definace Park area, as well as numerous scientific studies with local Universities and Point Defiance Zoo. Ralph was a member of the team of inaugurating educators who opened his district’s first STEM focused high school. Prior to that, he was one of ten teachers to open the groundbreaking and award-winning Tacoma School of the Arts. Through his interactive methods, students experience daily hikes while maintaining field notes and sketches of their observations and project based classes that are tailored to meet diverse learning needs. Ralph’s students learn environmental education through integrated work in science, natural histories, civic responsibility and connection with community that has a lasting impact and skill set that is carried into their future studies and endeavors.
Lindsey Hoffman-Truxel, Barbara Morgan Elementary
As a seasoned teacher with nearly twenty years of teaching experience, Lindsey Truxel is dedicated to place-based environmental education. She utilizes creative approaches to transform students’ lives and inspire learners. Collaborative teaching is an integral component of Lindsey’s approach as she teams up with community members to bolster discovery and understanding with her students. She has connected her students with experts in the fields of engineering, astronomy, biology, chemistry, as well as community leaders, Nez Perce National Forest employees, city workers, school board members and high school teachers to bring classroom activities to life.
She has been a member of the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) in her community for four years as well as a member of the newly established school district Green Committee. Lindsey is currently working with four government agencies on a special innovative project that teaches her students about invasive species of weeds and the nitrogen cycle. The Knapweed Project has allowed students to learn about botany, soil characteristics, and land stewardship. In addition, she has integrated the project into the areas of art, music, language, social studies and physical education.
The passion and drive she has for teaching is visible in all subjects, though she is especially devoted to math, science, technology and community-based, real-world projects. Through her efforts, students are sending data to NASA, studying fish and plants, and using microscopes and telescopes. She also brought Camp Invention to her school and has been able to share the funding, monitoring, and supervision opportunity with other teachers. Her dream is to see her school, Barbara Morgan Elementary, become a leader in science and math education. Lindsey strives to challenge her students and self to create a positive learning space that encourages lifelong learning and inspires curiosity.
2013 PIAEE Honorable Mention recipients:
1. Edmund Smith, Two Rivers Magnet Middle School, East Hartford, Connecticut
2. Courtney Leard, Fountaindale School for the Arts and Academic Excellence, Hagerstown, Maryland
3. Peter Mecca, George Mason High School, Falls Church, Virginia
4. Traci Knight Ingleright, Gwin Elementary School, Hoover, Alabama
5. Kathleen Ann Diggs King, General Ray Davis Middle School, Stockbridge, Georgia
6. Cheri Goggin, Berkshire Jr./ Sr. High School, Burton, Ohio
7. Keith Hannaman , Blue Springs South High School, Blue Springs, Missouri
8. Lucas Shivers, Bluejacket-Flint Elementary, Shawnee, Kansas
9. Dana Jenks, George Washington Carver, Sacramento, California