The Awards program began in 1999 with the John K. Strickler Award. In 2000, the KACEE Award was added. The Rising Star Award began in 2005. In 2006-07, the KACEE Award changed to encompass several categories, and 2009 marked the first year of the Kansas Green School of the Year Award (presented in conjunction with KDHE). These awards are presented annually by KACEE to recognize those best exemplifying dedication, commitment, and influence in the field of conservation and environmental education (EE).
John K. Strickler Award
Criteria: This award recognizes the lifetime achievements of an individual in the field of EE. The nominee must be a current KACEE member with a minimum of five years’ involvement in the field of EE in general and with KACEE specifically, and have made and continues to make a significant contribution to EE in Kansas.
Criteria: This award recognizes the outstanding achievements of individuals, organizations, agencies, community efforts, schools, and businesses in the field of EE. The nominee must have a minimum of five years’ involvement in the field of EE, and have made and continues to make a significant contribution to EE in Kansas. The nominee does not have to be a current KACEE member.
Nominations for the KACEE Award are in one of the following categories. While nominations in all categories are accepted, awards in all categories may not be given every year.
Rising Star Award
Recognizes individuals who are new to the EE field in Kansas, but are already making an impact. The nominee must have a minimum of two years’ and a maximum of seven years’ experience in the EE field in Kansas. Current KACEE membership is not required.
Kansas Green School of the Year Award
This award recognizes Kansas public and private schools that have demonstrated innovation, leadership, whole school involvement, and an integrated, holistic, sustainable approach to implementing environmental projects with a strong environmental education component into their schools. Individual schools nominated for this award must be members of the Kansas Green Schools Network (registration is free and can be attained at www.kansasgreenschools.org). Current KACEE membership is not required.
To Make a Nomination:
1. Review the award categories and criteria for each category.
2. Complete the online nominations form by January 18, 2013 at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DGJPT96
3. For more information and to request or submit a nomination form, contact Laura Downey, KACEE, 2610 Claflin, Manhattan, KS 66502-2743; phone (785)532-3322; e-mail email@example.com. E-mail nominations will be accepted provided all information requested is included. Please do not fax nominations. Incomplete nominations will not be considered.
Bill Riley has dedicated much of his professional and personal life to helping people understand and appreciate the Kansas environment and outdoors. As a volunteer, Bill devoted a good deal l of his time working with KACEE. At that time, KACEE was an all volunteer organization and Bill was instrumental in the creation of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, a collaborative group which developed a report outlining the goals, strategies and actions that guided environmental education in Kansas and significantly grew KACEE as an organization. KACEE owes much of its success today to the early work that Bill did in laying a strong foundation for conservation and environmental education in Kansas. Mr. Riley furthered his efforts through his work with the 4-H Foundation in Kansas by establishing and maintaining an environmental education position and building the Flint Hills Environmental Education Building at Rock Springs 4-H Center near Junction City, KS. Over the years, thousands of kids have experienced environmental education at Rock Springs because Bill made it his mission to include EE as a regular part of what the organization offered to campers and classrooms alike. Finally, anyone in Manhattan knows that Bill and his wife Erma have made a business from their passion in getting people outdoors with their store, The Pathfinder. Rex Buchanan, Director of the Kansas Geological Survey, perhaps summed it up best in saying, “Because of his efforts, generations of Kansans from across the state know more about, and appreciate, the place they call home.”
PreK-16 Education: Elizabeth Ablah
Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, Elizabeth’s background is in health promotion and chronic disease prevention, but through her work with EPA’s Community Action for Renewed Environment (CARE) grant Elizabeth has become a leader in environmental education and community improvement projects throughout Wichita. Elizabeth was the driving force behind the establishment of Wichita Initiative to Renew the Environment (WIRE). WIRE is a community-based group that identifies and “does something” about environmental concerns in the city of Wichita. WIRE’s mission is to provide education and project leadership to make Wichita an environmentally healthy place to live, work and play. Elizabeth guides this grassroots initiative that collaborates with citizens, neighborhood groups, community leaders, businesses and government to work on projects including engaging Wichita high school students in improving water quality, conducting waste audits at local businesses and working with schools, students and parents to implement a “No Idylling” campaign that helps improve the quality of the air we breathe, while saving energy. As noted in her nomination, “Elizabeth Ablah is a spark of green for Wichita.”
PreK-16 Education: Steve Woolf
As superintendent of USD 112, Central Plains, Steve isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. In fact, he encourages the students of his school district to get their hands dirty too! Mr. Woolf’s love of the outdoors, coupled with his deep connection to the communities he works within led him, with support from his wife, to identify a pressing community need that he and his students could do something about—making fresh food available. Steve found some space and started preparing the ground to plant. As Steve worked, students and neighbors stopped by to help and together, they planted enough fruits and vegetables to make the produce available to anyone who wanted them. Steve notes that there are many in the community who wouldn’t otherwise have access to this fresh and nutritious produce. And what started with one garden has grown to gardens at many of the schools in his district, where high school students work to construct raised beds and students plant everything from heirloom tomatoes to cabbage. Steve sees this as an opportunity to engage students in hands on service learning and help to feed the community. Steve, with help from his wife, numerous community members and students have experimented with gardening techniques to get the best yield and sometimes those efforts have worked well, other times not as well. As Steve noted, “We want our students to understand that success lies on the other side of failure and if you want to double your chances at success, you have to double your chances at failure. And we’re going to fail a lot and in the process, have some really cool things happen.”
PreK-16 Education: Southwestern College
With a student population just under 1500 (including distance and online learners), the faculty and students at Southwestern College make a big impact in their community and beyond. Southwestern College has established themselves as a national leader in sustainability among higher education institutions. Faculty and students have brought to life the phrase within the school’s mission “to live by and teach a sustainable way of life.” All Southwestern students have the opportunity get a minor in sustainability and environmental studies and students who work as a part of the Southwestern Green Team receive scholarships for school as they learn sustainability principles and put them to practice in service projects at Southwestern and the surrounding community. Projects range from working with the local school district to planting and maintain a community garden which supports the local food bank, coordinating county electronic recycling events, to hosting a serve and learn retreat with 70+ high school students who worked side by side with the college students to learn about water conservation and build rain barrels for a local church camp. The students at Southwestern do more than earn a degree, they make a difference. It is this combination of education and service that has distinguished Southwestern College as leader in environmental and conservation education at the post-secondary level.
Community/Non Profit: Elaine Giessel
Honoring a marine scientist for their contributions to environmental education in Kansas? Absolutely! Elaine Giessel, now a retired naturalist from Ernie Miller Nature Center, has devoted her life to environmental education. One could find Elaine, dressed as Mother Nature or a zebra mussel at Ernie Miller Nature Center, always with the goal of educating children and their families about the environment. Ms. Giessel was instrumental in engaging hundreds of area youth in summer camp programs with the goal of “getting dirty and exploring” the natural spaces around them. She extended this work to train hundreds of students as Junior Naturalists and coordinated competitions such as Eco-Meet, sponsored statewide by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to tests students’ knowledge and understanding of Kansas eco-systems. From teaching preschoolers, to engaging with adults in the community on sustainability in Johnson County parks, Elaine’s long history of educating people about the environment with her unique brand of creativity and passion makes her contributions to the field of conservation and environmental education truly noteworthy.
Business/Corporate Sector: The Coleman Company
With a name so strongly associated with camping and the great outdoors, it may come as no surprise that the Coleman Company has been instrumental in environmental education and outdoor education for many years in Kansas. In fact, the Coleman Company has been key partner, providing support, partnership and sponsorship to numerous environmental education and outdoor education programs in Kansas for nearly two decades. For example, the Coleman company was instrumental in providing significant support for both the educational exhibits and educational materials of the Great Plains Nature Center, located in Wichita, KS. They have also provided support for the Federal Junior Duck Stamp program in Kansas and have made regular donations to benefit countless environmental education organizations througout the years. Because of the generousity and support of the Coleman Company, new generations are developing an appreciation for and experiencing the wonder of nature in Kansas.
Upon starting his career at the University of Kansas, Assistant Professor Christopher Depcik wanted to challenge his students with real world design. Christopher began the KU EcoHawks program, which builds upon his enthusiasm for cars and challenges KU students to engineer sustainably. Sustainability in engineering for KU students means applying the five E’s to their designs: energy, environment, education, economics and ethics and Professor Depcik uses real world and relevant topics to engage his students. An example of this approach resulted in KU students recycling a 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle into a model of energy efficiency by converting it to a plug-in series hybrid (PHEV) that runs on 100% biodiesel created from used campus cooking oil. Recent road tests have determined that the Beetle reaches over 100 miles per gallon equivalent. Professor Depcik also believes that engaging students early in engineering is essential. He works with K-12 teachers and students on projects such as the development of lessons to teach K-12 students about biofuels, a summer engineering camp for high school students and a battery-powered car design competitions. In this competition, the winners are judged not just on how fast the car goes, but also on how well the team used recycled materials and built the most sustainable vehicle as judged by the “5 E’s.” These are just a few examples of Dr. Depcik’s impact in environmental education—stay tuned for what’s next!
Located in the Shawnee Mission School District, Bluejacket-Flint (BJF) Elementary School takes being a green school seriously. First, staff at BJF engaged in professional development to learn the best practices for engaging students and community. Armed with tools and great examples, the staff began to find ways to engage students in making improvements to their school that resulted in savings in energy and water, waste reduction and composting, using green technology, installing a rain garden to improve water quality and outdoor service learning projects within the community. Thanks to the partnerships and project-based learning, BJF teacher Lucas Shivers notes that students learned on a highly technical level about the current use of green technologies while exposing them to new career opportunities. Not only did students have relevant hands-on learning that kept them interested and motivated, the lessons paid off in test scores that jumped more than 10% based on classroom science assessments after ‘green’ lessons throughout the year with the averages going from 75% to 88%. Not only was there a pay-off in the classroom, “these ongoing environmental efforts resulting from our collective learning and projects with students translated into real results and economical savings where BJF saw a 29% savings from the baseline year. Thanks to the efforts of students and their work to educate the entire school community, BJF saw the largest increase in reduced energy cost in the whole district,” notes Shivers.
St John Catholic School
Being a green school has become part of the fabric of St. John Catholic School. Says parent Rachel Myslivy, “We encourage students, families and parishioners to sign the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and connect the Catholic faith with conservation efforts.” It started with food waste in the cafeteria—there was a lot of it! As staff began collecting the waste for composting, they noticed they were throwing away a lot of food and began to look for solutions. What resulted was a new way of serving food which encouraged students to make good healthy choices and which eliminated a ton of waste—literally! Actually, it was closer to 3.5 tons over a school year. As principal Pat Newton said, “the nutritional education and the ability to choose resulted in healthier lunches, far less waste, and a financial savings for the school lunch program.” From this project, the school began looking for other ways to make improvements while creating great educational opportunities for students. This approach has resulted in a role for every grade at St. John—from kindergartners creating signs for recycling to middle school students conducting water investigations. These students explore overall water use and ways to reduce, such as the recent installation of aerators on the school’s faucets. Between the K-8 students, they have recycling, composting, energy, water, air quality and outdoor learning spaces covered. Environmental education is not only a part of what takes place during the school day, but the school works to engage parents and parishioners alike with activities like St. John’s annual Family Fun Night which was themed “Good, Green Fun” and included crafts from reused and recycled materials and a free book exchange as well as a Scavenger Hunt with environmental facts covering Waste, Water, Energy, Habitat and Air Quality. The school has set their next goal to be recognized as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, a national recognition for schools.