Past EE Awards

Past Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education Awards Recipients:

1999

John K. Strickler Award:
John K. Strickler
Former Acting Secretary of the Kansas Wildlife & Parks Department, retired Kansas State Forester, co-founder of KACEE, and KACEE's first executive director.


2000


Strickler Award:

Mary Clark, Dillon Nature Center

Mary has been delivering quality, non-biased and science-based environmental education to students in Central Kansas for years--she's reached literally thousands with her innovative environmental education. 


KACEE Award:

Kansas Forest Service

The Kansas Forest Service was responsible for helping to bring Project Learning Tree to Kansas and has supported environmental education for over 15 years.  They continue to be a strong partner with KACEE. 

2001

Strickler Award:
Connie Elpers Leger, Great Plains Nature Center
Connie is a naturalist at GPNC, and was instrumental in bringing Project Learning Tree to Kansas. She has served as co-state coordinator for PLT, and has served on KACEE's Education Committee and Conference Committee. She is also a facilitator for PLT, Project WET, and Project WILD.

KACEE Award:
Lee Richardson Zoo, Education Division
This zoo is under the auspices of the City of Garden City, and provides innovative environmental education programs in conjunction with other zoos in Kansas. The zoo's director serves on KACEE's board and the conference selection committee.

2002

Strickler Award:
Clark Duffy
Clark is currently the bureau director for the Bureau of Air and Radiation with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. He has also served as director of the Kansas Water Office, and has been a board member of KACEE.

KACEE Award:
Butler County Community College and Butler County Conservation District
These entities continue to co-sponsor one of the longest-running water festivals in Kansas.

2003

Strickler Award:
Gary Keehn
Until recently, Gary taught at Jackson Heights High School in Holton. He and his students have attended the Kansas Environmental Education Conference for several years, making presentations, showing exhibits, and assisting with the pre-conference workshop. Gary currently manages Banner Creek Wildlife Area and serves as the Archery in the Schools director for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Gary also serves on KACEE's board.

KACEE Award:
Westar Energy Green Team
The Green Team consists of the employees of Westar Energy. It assists schools, nature centers, and wildlife areas in building outdoor habitat and trails. Westar has also been a longtime sponsor of the annual conference and other KACEE programs. The Green Team's leader, Brad Loveless, has been a KACEE board member for several years.

2004

Strickler Award:
Dr. Cindy Ford, Pittsburg State University
Cindy is a biology professor at PSU, and leads a field studies program outside the state each summer. She is also active with the Kansas Wildflower Society. Cindy is currently the president of KACEE's board of directors, and has served as program chair for at least five years. She is also a workshop facilitator for KACEE.

KACEE Award:
Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks
KDWP was the recipient of this award for its longtime support of KACEE and environmental and conservation education in Kansas. KDWP has supported KACEE financially as a conference sponsor since the beginning, and has been a partner in delivering Project WILD and WILD Aquatic. At least one KDWP staff person has served on KACEE's board for several years.

2005

Strickler Award:

Dr. Tom Eddy, Emporia State University
Tom is a founder of KACEE and served as KACEE's board president. He is a beloved instructor at ESU who brings the prairie to life in his classes. He now serves on the Awards Committee and is always in attendance at the annual conference, often as a presenter.

KACEE Award:
Hillsdale Water Quality Project, Inc.
HWQP is a non-profit organization working to improve water quality in the Hillsdale Lake area. Its volunteer-based programs provide information and have engaged landowners and stakeholders in activities to protect the watershed.

Rising Star Award:

Carly Adams
Carly is an environmental program coordinator with the City of Olathe. As an up-and-coming employee of the city, she has implemented several innovative programs to educate the public about water quality and provide teacher workshops.

2006-07

John K. Strickler Award:
Roland Stein

Roland recently retired after many years with KDWP. In his position as education coordinator, he oversaw Project WILD and Project WILD Aquatic, as well as the Wildlife Education Service. Roland was a workshop facilitator, served on KACEE's board, and chaired KACEE's Education Committee.

KACEE Award:
Dr. Valerie Wright (PreK-16 Educator)
Valerie teaches at Kansas State University and runs the Konza Prairie Biological Station near Manhattan. A naturalist, she created the docent program at Konza and directs the Konza Environmental Education Program.

Kansas Accredited Zoo Educators (Community/Non-Profit Organization)

KZE is an informal organization consisting of seven Kansas zoos working to promote a unified voice in conservation. The group develops resources other organizations can utilize, and participates in one statewide event each year focusing on animals, nature, and culture.

Linda Phipps (Community/Non-Profit Individual)
Linda led the efforts to restore a WPA-era Boy Scout building at Schermerhorn Park in southeast Kansas and develop it into a stunning nature center. It is now a premiere destination for residents of four states. Linda is also a kindergarten teacher in the Galena School District, and is a longtime member of KACEE's conference committee.

Wichita Area Treatment, Education, and Remediation Center (The WATER Center) (Government)

The WATER Center was founded to remediate groundwater pollution in downtown Wichita and to educate the public about water issues. Education programs are offered, such as kits on topics including wetlands, geology, and rivers; and Family Adventure Packs that visitors may use as they explore the center. 

 
2008

Strickler Award:

Ron Klataske, Executive Director of Audubon of Kansas 
A leader in Audubon’s efforts to educate citizens about the ecological value and cultural settings of Kansas birding and nature trails, and was instrumental in developing the proposal that led to the establishment of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Chase County.

KACEE Award:
 

Dr. Larry Erickson, K-State Chemical Engineering Department (KACEE PreK-16 Educator)
Larry has maintained an exemplary career in environmental education and service. He has taught over 1,000 chemical engineering students and has served as director of the Great Plains/Rocky Mountain Hazardous Substance Research Center since 1985. In 2007, he established the Consortium for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability at KSU.

Great Plains Nature Center (Community/Non-Profit Organization)
Committed to the idea that only through the appreciation of nature will people see the necessity to conserve our environment, Great Plains Nature Center has spent the past 11 years introducing students, families, and community members to the natural heritage of Kansas. Its unique cooperative partnership provides a model for other organizations sharing compatible goals to educate our citizens.

The Kansas Chapter of the Nature Conservancy (Community/Non-Profit Organization)
Since 1989, the Kansas Chapter of The Nature Conservancy has been at the forefront of protecting the plants, animals, and natural communities of Kansas. By providing educational materials and programs and, in some locations, public access to natural areas, TNC plays a vital role in increasing the environmental literacy of Kansans.

Rising Star:

Andrea Johnson, Ernie Miller Nature Center
As a park naturalist and interpreter presenting 26 different programs at Ernie Miller Nature Center in Olathe, Andrea Johnson brings professionalism and dedication to every task. A certified challenge course facilitator, summer camp director, and president of the Kansas City Metro Interpretive Site Coalition, she shows her passion for environmental education every day.

2009

Strickler Award
Rex Buchanan
No one can describe the varied landscapes of Kansas with as much meaning as Rex Buchanan. A Kansan through and through, Rex grew up near Little River, in Rice County, on the edge of the Smoky Hills. Rex has devoted decades of exceptional service to environmental education in Kansas. He twice served as President of KACEE, and also served as Secretary and editor of the KACEE News. An accomplished editor and author of several books (including Kansas Geology and Roadside Kansas),

KACEE Award:

Tim Oberhelman (PreK-16 Education)
Passionate about ecology is one way to describe Tim Oberhelman, science and biology teacher at Olathe South High School. Thanks to a few good teachers in Gardner, he learned to apply what he was learning in science to real-world problems while in high school in the 1970s. Tim is dedicated to motivating his students to become active in solving challenges to our community and world. He has been instrumental in a successful school cell phone collection program, promoting conservation careers, and in all of Olathe South’s efforts to “think green.”

Denise Scribner and Marylee Ramsay (PreK-16 Education)
With a combined 40+ years of experience, Marylee Ramsay and Denise Scribner provide the leadership for Goddard High School’s ecology and environmental science classes.Ecology class students provide support for a district-wide recycling program,which collected 20 tons of paper, 28,000 plastic bottles, and nearly 10,000 aluminum cans last school year. The school’s ECO-Meet team, wins top honors in district, regional, and state competitions and students maintain the school’s Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site. Goddard High School was one of the first schools to join the Kansas Green Schools Program, and qualified for an air quality grant earlier this year to aerate a pond that receives runoff from a parking lot

Jim Mason (Community and Non-Profit)
Jim Mason is a staff naturalist at Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita. His work there combined with volunteer efforts for the website Natural Kansas and the Kansas Natural Resources Council make him a perfect fit for this award. Jim’s service includes serving as webmaster of the GPNC website, which received 2.1 million page reads last year. Jim has presented approximately 2,500 nature education programs since 1988, and is the co-author of The Pocket Guide to Kansas Fresh Water Mussels, published by the Friends of GPNC in 2008. As a member of the Kansas Nature-Based Tourism Alliance, Jim created and maintains the Natural Kansas website (www.naturalkansas.org). His combination of computer expertise, knowledge of the natural world, and motivation to communicate that information has resulted in a website that has an amazing amount of environmental content and receives an ever increasing number of hits.

Roberta Spencer (Agriculture)
Roberta Spencer is well-known among agricultural and livestock producers as well as students and teachers in Jackson County. She brings conservation and environmental education to them and searches for ways to utilize resources that will help producers understand the environment and protect water quality. Roberta is constantly searching for ways to utilize resources that will help producers in Jackson County understand the environment and improve water quality management in their farm and livestock operations. She has been active in conservation and environmental education efforts, by serving on the board of the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, supporting local teachers to attend KACEE workshops and conferences, and helping a local college student to organize the first “Ag/Water Day” in Jackson County last spring.


Kansas Environmental Leadership Program (Government)
From a pilot class in 1999, the Kansas Environmental Leadership Program (KELP) has developed into a 10-month-long program focused on enabling citizens to become better versed in environmental knowledge and increasing their leadership skills. KELP attracts participants from a variety of stakeholders in our state’s environment: agricultural producers, regulatory agency staff, educators, industry, environmental groups, and extension personnel. These diverse interests work together as a team to develop, design, and implement projects that have positive effects on communities. The greatest reward of the KELP program is the creation of an increasing cadre of informed and experienced people, who live, work, and lead their communities in cooperative environmental decision making. Including the pilot class, 239 citizens have thus far participated.

Rising Star:

Katie S. Miller
Over and over, Katie Miller is described as a “go-getter.” As project coordinator of the Twin Lakes Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS), she works to inform, educate, and promote water quality in the Neosho watershed. Her job includes putting on the successful Twin Lakes Water Festival, which educates students to explore our natural resources through a multi-sensory, hands-on learning approach. The festival has educated approximately 2,700 students in the past 3 years. Katie also provides technical assistance to landowners and operators working to install best management practices in the watershed to protect or improve water quality, and establishes partnerships to achieve the goals of the Twin Lakes Water Quality Project.

2010

John K. Strickler Award:

Brad Loveless, Westar Energy

As Manager of Westar Energy’s Biology and Conservation Programs, Brad Loveless has provided untold hours of service in support of environmental projects across the state. Through the work of the Westar Green Team, numerous schools and communities have experienced new outdoor classrooms, wildlife habitat areas, river access points, and wind turbine sites. Brad also serves on KACEE’s Board of Directors and has served as its President.

KACEE Award:

Matt Krehbiel, Junction City High School (PreK-16 Education)
At Junction City High School, science and biology teacher Matt Krehbiel has a philosophy of education rooted in teaching students how to think. He is dedicated to helping students establish a connection to the natural world through involving them in maintaining the high school prairie and native plant demonstration area. He has also compiled a textbook of local ecological content and field research protocols.

George Potts, Friends University and OWLS Coordinator (PreK-16 Education)
Since the 1970s, George Potts has been active in environmental education and KACEE, serving on its board and as President. From higher education at Friends University to K-12 science teaching in the Wichita School District, George has been an inspiration to many students who have gone on to natural resource careers. He has also served as OWLS Coordinator for Kansas Wildlife & Parks and helped develop more than 200 OWLS sites across Kansas.

E.A.R.T.H. (Earth Awareness Researchers for Tomorrow’s Habitat), Wichita, (Community/Non-Profit)
E.A.R.T.H. was formed in 1998 to work with middle school curriculum directors to provide these students with innovative, experiential learning opportunities that highlight natural resources and encourage them to become wise stewards of their environment. The program began in Wichita and now encompasses 19 counties in Kansas. Each year, the E.A.R.T.H. steering committee, workshop presenters, and volunteers allocate more than 10,700 hours to the program.

Friends of the Kaw, Inc., Lawrence, (Community/Non-Profit)
Friends of the Kaw is a grassroots organization whose mission is to protect and preserve the Kansas River. Its website hosts the Kansas River Atlas, a watershed-based, interactive tool that delivers information about the river. The website also provides information about cultural and historic sites along the river and lesson plans for teachers. The group hosts Sandbar Schools for 4th graders that emphasize river stewardship and water safety, as well as educational float trips for teachers.

Rising Star:

Delia Lister, Pittsburg State University
Delia Lister is well-known to schools in the Pittsburg area and four-state region as the director of Pittsburg State University’s Nature Reach Program. This outreach program teaches about the natural history of the area, as well as local and global environmental issues. She also cares for raptors at the PSU Natural History Reserve. Delia teaches biology at PSU and serves as President of the Sperry-Galligar Audubon Society, and has made numerous presentations at KACEE conferences and workshops.

Kansas Green School of the Year:

Centre Elementary School, Lost Springs USD 397
Students have led the charge toward going “green” at Centre Elementary. Four Green Teams collect the recyclables each week at the school. The Teams also present skits and assemblies to students about recycling. As a result of their efforts, more households are also recycling. The school has eliminated Styrofoam in the kitchens and planted a school garden. The produce is eaten in the lunchroom. Students tend a worm farm at the school, and have created a short video that was shared with another elementary school to help it begin worm farming.

Clifton-Clyde High School, USD 224
Environmental education efforts at Clifton-Clyde High School have taken multiple directions: classroom curriculum, environmental projects, and community involvement. The school has erected a wind turbine to power halogen lights for a hydroponic watering system. Solar panels power outdoor lights and a water pump for a native flower garden. Students held a “Wind Energy Day” to educate the community about their projects, and are in the process of constructing a greenhouse and planting a community garden. A composting program is also in the works.

Goddard High School, USD 265
Renewing students’ relationships with Kansas ecosystems and the landscape through restoration, reconnection, and reflection is the theme of Goddard High School’s “green” efforts. Students have developed a native prairie demonstration area in a renovated section of the school’s OWLS site near their pond. A wind turbine powers a pond aerator, helping to keep the water clean. Environmental education is cross-curricular at the school, with arts projects ongoing throughout the year. The OWLS site supports instructional objectives and is also used by the community.

2011

John K. Strickler Award

Schanee’ Anderson, Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita
Through her years as a zoo educator, Schanee’ has worked to incorporate environmental stewardship throughout the programming offered to children and adults. She has been actively involved with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for many years, serving on the Conservation Education Committee. Schanee’ has also been involved with the Paraguay Conservation Action Partnership, and has served on KACEE’s Board of Directors and as board president from 2008-2010.

KACEE Awards

Dr. Cynthia Annett (PreK-16 Education)
Dr. Cynthia Annett’s dedication to her students, her work, and to Friends of the Kaw knows no bounds. She has taught at the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, and Kansas State University, and mentored many undergraduate and graduate students. With a Ph.D. in zoology, she has taught numerous courses on environmental issues and environmental justice. Dr. Annett has also served as Science Advisor to Friends of the Kaw, taking the lead in designing its website.

21st Century Geosciences Program, Olathe North High School (PreK-16 Education)
Launched in Fall 2002, this elective program is for students interested in environmental science, marine biology, meteorology, geology, and other related fields. Students complete a target curriculum, participate in field trips and workshops, and educate local elementary students and community members about what they are learning through presentations. Geoscience students also teach the community about stormwater management through rain barrel and rain garden projects.

Blue River Watershed Association (BRWA) (Community/Non-Profit)
BRWA focuses its efforts in three areas: community education, environmental stewardship, and strategic partnerships. The organization educates Kansas City-area residents about watershed concerns such as flooding and water quality, and engages the community in addressing these issues. BRWA also works with school districts, and during the 2009-10 school year approximately 3,000 Kansas students participated in the T.R.U.E. Blue program (Teaching Rivers in an Urban Environment).

Heather Loewenstein, StoneLion Puppet Theatre (Community/Non-Profit)
As Founder and Artistic Director for StoneLion Puppet Theatre, Heather is the guiding force behind the company’s amazing performances. She has written, designed, performed, produced, and/or directed more than 75 different productions focused on environmental education. StoneLion uses multiple styles of puppetry to teach environmental concepts such as stormwater management, endangered species, and healthy habitats. Heather also teaches EE classes and creates art and sculptures with environmental themes.

Lattner Family Foundation, Inc. (Business/Corporate Sector)
This Florida-based foundation has generously supported many conservation and environmental education programs in the Wichita area. It has funded Great Plains Nature Center programs such as “Linking Children to Nature,” which is geared to getting Kansas kids (especially at-risk youth in urban Wichita) interested in the out-of-doors; and publication of the book “Kansas Critters: Mammals,” which was written and illustrated by Kansas kids. The foundation has also funded programs at The WATER Center and Chaplin Nature Center.

Rising Star

Brian Pekarek, Superintendent, Clifton-Clyde USD 224
Visitors to the Clifton-Clyde School District can’t help but notice all of the environmental stewardship projects accomplished during the past two years. If they’re lucky, they will learn about these projects through a presentation by students. The driving force behind the “green” changes is district superintendent Brian Pekarek. Through his leadership, teachers, staff, and students have focused on communication with the community, fundraising, and achieving academic excellence through becoming more green! Clifton-Clyde High School was one of the 2010 Kansas Green Schools of the Year.

Kansas Green School of the Year

Hesston Elementary School, USD 460
Hesston Elementary School has made great strides this year in becoming a “Kansas Green School.” Paper recycling takes place in classrooms, with students collecting the recyclables weekly. The “Worm Team” collects leftover food from the cafeteria to feed the worms, and the compost will be used in the school’s rain/butterfly garden. Local church groups help prepare and plant the garden. During Red Ribbon Week the school hosted a recycling relay day, teaching students how to recycle at home. Students also created a “recycling rap” in music class.

Prairie Moon Waldorf School/Okanis Garden, Lawrence
Prairie Moon Waldorf School incorporates the environment into everything the school teaches. Through a Green Schools Grant, the school designed a Waldorf-inspired environmental education curriculum and built a system for rainwater harvesting and storage. The system waters the Okanis Garden, an organic market garden that involves students, teachers, and volunteers in fruit, flower, herb, and vegetable production. The school works in cooperation with the adjacent new native plant medicinal garden established by the University of Kansas and the Kansas Biological Survey.

Tomahawk Elementary School, Shawnee Mission USD 512
Tomahawk Elementary has been working toward a significant reduction in waste for several years. Great strides have been made during the past school year, with a 92% decrease in solid waste trash through composting of lunch waste and recycling efforts. In addition, paper usage declined by 14% and electricity usage decreased by 28% since 2008. Students receive an enriched science and energy education through these projects, and also help their school and families reduce energy costs and become smarter consumers. The after-school environmental club (the “HiP” Club) has expanded greatly this school year.

2012

John K. Strickler Award

Dee Turner
Involved in supporting environmental education (EE) for more than 20 years, Dee Turner has made significant
contributions to the field of EE. Dee has provided long term leadership to the Kansas Association for
Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE) as both a board member and a past president. Dee was also instrumental in working with conservation districts across the state, encouraging each county’s program to include environmental education as a part of the conservation district’s work. As a result, conservation districts have become key partners for EE in Kansas.

KACEE Awards

Kansas Water Authority/Kansas Water Office (Government)                                                                                    The Kansas Water Authority (KWA) and the Kansas Water Office (KWO) have established a long tradition of supporting water education as a high priority in addressing the water issues that Kansas faces. Beginning in 1995, the support of the KWA and KWO for Project WET in Kansas has been invaluable in building partnerships with other state, local and federal agencies and non-profit organizations in providing effective environmental education throughout the state. The Project WET program has proved to be successful in training both formal and non-formal educators in the range of water issues and how to involve students and others in learning the various aspects of these complex issues.

Jared Bixby (Government)
The current Curator of Education at both the Sunset Zoo and the Flinthills Discovery Center, Jared’s
interest for environmental education in Kansas started more than 15 years ago as a Docent at Sunset Zoo. His willingness and passion to do anything to improve his knowledge and teach others, quickly put him in a leadership role. From youth mentoring, to innovative zoo environmental education
programs to stepping into leadership roles with EE organizations, Jared’s commitment to EE is
evidenced in every aspect of his life. One of Jared’s most recent accomplishments is the creation of a nature-based early childhood program at Sunset Zoo. Jared truly embraces the life-long learning that we need to promote an environmentally literate citizenry.

Keri Harris (Agriculture)
As District Manager of Franklin County Conservation District, and a long-term member of KACEE, Keri Harris has made and continues to make significant contributions to Environmental Education in Kansas. Keri is
devoted to providing hands-on education and interactive experiences to engage children and adults in
understanding and conserving natural resources. From hosting teacher professional development, working directly with schools and school districts and their students, and hosting events, Keri’s dedication to
environmental education is obvious. Keri is always eager to share ideas and resources and has emerged as a leader in EE in the state, including most recently, providing critical leadership for a state Environmental Literacy Plan.

Jenny Jasper (Agriculture)
Jenny Jasper serves as the District Manager for the Miami County Conservation District. Through her short time with the Miami County Conservation District Jenny has demonstrated a strong leadership role in the field of conservation and environmental education. Jenny enjoys working with local teachers and students to bring various hands-on learning lessons to schools throughout Miami County to educate the youth about water quality, water conservation, habitats, soil and other natural resources within our environment. In particular, Jenny saw the critical need to educate youth and adults about the precious resource of soil and the creative concept to develop a portable, enclosed tunnel to replicate the world of soil underground was born.

Cheri Miller (Agriculture)
Since 2005, Cheri Miller has served as the Wyandotte County Conservation District Manager. Environmental education is foremost on Cheri’s mind. She is always creating new programs, modifying previously used programs and sharing her programs with others in the field. She is dedicated to educating people of all ages – from school age to senior citizens; from teachers and educators to residents. Cheri’s programs include techniques for incorporating outdoor experiences into the curriculum using school grounds and field explorations. She initiated a rain barrel workshop which assists residents in conserving the much needed rainwater for their use in care for their yards and gardens. Cheri’s knowledge, passion and expertise in environment and conservation education shines through in all she does.

Heather Teasley (PreK-16 Education)
Heather has been a Kindergarten teacher in USD 382 for seven years. Heather’s classroom is rich with
environmental education including recycling, partnerships with the local Farm Bureau to do to visit a local farm and learn about farming, health and environment, trips to the local fish hatchery and ‘tree walks.’ It is clear to both students and parents that Heather puts a lot of energy and imagination into her teaching. Heather has also been actively involved in providing leadership for early childhood EE, volunteering her time and expertise to share her passion with other early childhood educators. As her nominator stated, “She promotes care of our earth, while showing an appreciation for nature and the wild.”

Kansas Wildscape Foundation (Community/Non-Profit)
Kansas Wildscape has worked to meet the needs of wildlife conservation, outdoor recreation and outdoor education in Kansas for over 20 years. Through programs such Outdoor Kansas for Kids (OK Kids) Program and the Cabins Project, Kansas Wildscape works to ensure that Kansas children and families have opportunities to learn and explore the outdoors through our state and local parks. Wildscape’s new program, the WildLifer Challenge, encourages kids ages 6-16 to get outdoors and explore. Through their programs, Wildscape impacts more than 14,000 Kansas kids on an annual basis.

Rising Star

Eric Giesing
Eric was hired at the KWEC in 2010 as Educator Director and was charged with creating educational program for grades 7-12, Eric has met this challenge well, and has provided many new ideas that have helped the KWEC to “think outside the box” in how the center provides education to their patrons. In his first two years, Eric has established an impressive environmental education curriculum at the KWEC. He has created and promoted a list of 18 programs available to schools and he has worked with most of the schools in the region. The programs he offers are tied to the Kansas Science Standards. Perhaps the most impressive part of his program
development is his flexibility to provide programs to schools on just about any topic teachers throw his way. Eric has worked hard to help host events at the KWEC on migratory birds, black-footed ferrets and wild turkey hunting, making the KWEC an important player in environmental education in the state.

Kansas Green School of the Year

Brookwood Elementary School, Shawnee Mission Schools
Located in the Shawnee Mission School District, Brookwood Elementary is focused on making their school more environmentally friendly and their students more environmentally knowledgeable. Taking on projects to reduce waste in the school through the HiP Team (I can make a Healthy Planet), the school now composts all their kitchen waste—more than 22.5 tons last year alone. Students also recycled more than 40 tons of paper, cans and plastic last year and through both projects, have reduced the amount of waste going from the school into a landfill by 90%. Brookwood is also involved in reducing their energy use and perhaps most importantly, engaging students and parents in creative and hands on environmental education through a variety of classroom and whole school activities. This has inspired students to take on community projects such as working in the gardens (they planted over 650 bulbs!), park stream cleans, making dog toys from reused material and cleaning up liter on the school grounds.

 

2013

John K. Strickler Award

Bill Riley

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.”

 

KACEE Awards

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.

 

Rising Star Award

Chris Depcik

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!

 

Kansas Green School of the Year Award

Bluejacket-Flint Elementary

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.

 

2014

John K Strickler Award

Paula Henderson, Starside Elementary, Desoto, KS
Fifteen years ago, the Starside Student Council, under the direction of Mrs. Paula Henderson, held a paper drive. That was the beginning of big changes for the school. Since then, Paula has provided strong leadership in educating and raising awareness of environmental issues with the students and staff of Starside Elementary, inspiring them to do more. Paula believes that there is always another mission and there Is no point of arrival and this is reflected in Starside’s ongong work to make their school and their community a better place to learn, work, live and play. Under Paula’s leadership, Starside has been recognized for their great work and visited by many other school groups from the area, as well as groups from Japan and Dubai. The Kansas City Star and surrounding area newspapers have featured the great things the staff, students and parents are accomplishing in numerous articles. The national educational magazine Scholastic News featured Starside’s efforts on their cover, with the title being “Having a Ball GOING GREEN.” Paula is proud, that through her leadership and the hard work of staff and students at Starside, the school now has a wind turbine, solar array, school garden, certified Monarch Waystation, school pond powered by solar energy, and a new natural/native play area. Paula’s theme song has always been “One Small Voice” which talks about one small voice joining another small voice and together changing the world. One does not have to look hard to see how Mrs. Henderson has brought those small voices together to have big impacts. Paula’s school was the first place in the city of De Soto to have a recycling container and now the whole city has opted to recycle. Many stories have been told by parents about their child’s willingness to recycle and teach their parents how to recycle and why it is so important. Starside’s small voices have certainly been heard in this community. Paula sponsors a group that meets after school on Fridays and several years ago the students came to her and wanted their group name changed from Community Service to Earth Keepers. They said “after all that is what we are doing”. Spearheaded by this group, for 12 straight years, Starside has been named by the Presidential Points of Light Foundation as a School of Service. This group works in the school garden, recycles, studies the hawks that live by the school and anything else that helps our surrounding environment. Students at Starside volunteer their time on evenings and weekends to pick up trash, recycle, and work in animal shelters while many times educating the adults around them. Starside’s last Career Day was all Green Careers with people coming from University of Kansas, the City of De Soto, County Extension, Sprint, Hallmark, Nature Centers, etc. showing students that green careers are a growing opportunity and will continue to be. Paula Henderson has and continues to inspire staff, students, parents and community members and exemplifies the John K. Strickler Award for life time achievement in environmental education.

KACEE Awards

Delia Lister, Nature Reach, Pittsburg, KS (Individual, Community/Non-Profit)
Nature Reach is an environmental education outreach program based in the Department of Biology at Pittsburg State University. The southeast Kansas non-profit program is unusual in that it is hosted and partially supported by Pittsburg State University. A program of in existence for 20 years, the current Director, Delia Lister, has helped to significantly grow the program’s reach and engage strong partners to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program. Nature Reach was designed to supplement public classroom curricula with resources that are difficult for teachers to maintain in their classrooms. Live animals, preserved skins, replicas, and especially interpretive expertise is the focus of the Nature Reach program. Delia maintains a variety of spiders, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles (several of which are snakes), birds, and mammals. One of the most popular programs uses educational birds of prey, including a variety of hawks and owls. All of the hands-on programs are designed to be taken to individual classrooms, so Delia presents programs to several classrooms during the visit to a school. In this way students are encouraged to touch and experience and ask questions. Many of those elementary students are now adult and still remember their Nature Reach visits. The critical work that Delia is doing to educate in the community makes Nature Reach a program Pittsburg State University is proud to support. KACEE is proud to recognize Delia Lister as one who exemplifies excellence in environmental education in the state.

Marlene Bosworth, Former Delaware River Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy Coordinator (Agriculture)
Marlene Bosworth is a long time advocate of environmental and conservation education. A former environmental science instructor, Marlene most recently served as the Delaware River Watershed Protection and Restoration Strategy (WRAPS) water quality coordinator and utilized her education background as an underpinning to her work. Recognizing the importance of education about watersheds, Marlene provided the leadership in contacting the Horton School District superintendent with hosting two different two-day classes for teachers to learn more about conservation and agriculture and ways to then incorporate lesson plans into their daily teaching of students.. Throughout her time with the program, Marlene has worked hard to educate and include many individuals, organizations and agencies about the critical importance of their local watershed and her many efforts over the years to educate and be inclusive in the delivery of her program has resulted in the Delaware River WRAPS being one of the top WRAPS programs in the state. KACEE is pleased to recognize Marlene Bosworh and her efforts to make environmental education an important part of her community.

Barbara Hardy, Cherryvale, KS (PreK-16 Educator)
Barbara has been a sixth grade teacher at Lincoln-Central Elementary School in Cherryvale, KS, for 23 years and every day, her enthusiasm for science and environmental education is evident to her students. Barbara encourages her students to think about the resources they are using everyday—including how things are made, where they come from, and the importance of conservation. One of the highlights for her students each year is her two-day “spring campout” which takes place at Bill Hill Lake just outside of Cherryvale. She has been organizing this event for her students for 22 years. During this event the students have the opportunity to connect with nature and truly see and feel what they have been learning about throughout the semester. The students get to participate in hands on activities such as fishing, canoeing, owl prowls, fossil digs, fly tying, and much more. Ms. Hardy has encouraged teachers in her school district to get outside and participate and learn right alongside the kids. Barbara’s principal, Steve Pefley says “She has an incredible ability to get kids to think, and her questioning techniques are superb. She is just a natural at taking her class to the next level. Barbara doesn’t stand in front of a classroom and ask her kids to pull out the textbook and start reading. She says things like “Hey, look at this…” or “I promised I would teach you this today, so let’s get started.” She is simply wonderful.” KACEE is pleased to honor Barbara for being an outstanding example of how enviornmental education can be a powerful part of our students’ education.

Dr. Deborah Williams, Johnson County Community College (PreK-16 Educator)
Dr. Williams’ passion and dedication to teaching about the environment is evident in all she does at Johnson County Community College. From the courses she teaches, to the student committees she supports and even to the work she does with her local community and beyond. Deborah supports students in their learning and leadership, serving as a faculty advisor to the Student Environmental Alliance and the Student Sustainability Committee on campus and teaching numerous courses including Biology, Ecology and Bioethics, to name just a few. Her passion for teaching and learning about the environment is evident to her students. When asked to describe her teaching, one JCCC student said, “Wonderful class! Professor is passionate about teaching and the subject. Highlight of the semester was a field trip to the prairie. I learned as much in this class about Kansas as I have learned living in the state for almost 50 years. I highly recommend this class.” Dr. Williams is a shining example of outstanding environmental education at the post-secondary level and KACEE is honored to recognize her for her service, leadership and exemplary environmental education.

Dennis Dinwiddie, Curator of Education, Topeka Zoological Park (Government)
Dennis Dinwiddie has served as both director of conservation and director of education at the Topeka Zoo for the last three years. In the short three years of his tenure at the Topeka Zoo, Dennis has transformed both the education and the conservation programs. Dennis’ accomplishments include the creation of a living classroom that is used for education at the zoo, design and implementation of an interactive insect zoo complete with hands on activities to teach the importance of insects in our lives and a free to the public Conservation Education lecture series. These are just a few of the many accomplishments Dennis has made to enhance, improve and expand the important environmental education that the Topeka Zoo provides in the community. Dennis is a shining example of how community partners play a vital role in educating our students and our community. KACEE is pleased to honor Dennis for his many contributions to environmental education. He is indeed a very special environmental educator who has impacted the field in a direct and very real way.

Rising Star Award

Pam Martin, Kansas Wetland Education Center, Great Bend, KS
It is hard to label Pam as an “up-and-coming” Environmental Educator as she has already done so much in the field; she seems much more like a seasoned veteran. In her 5 years of environmental education, Pam Martin has established an incredible program at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center (KWEC) that rivals any EE program in the region. Pam has worked at the KWEC as an Educator for KS Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism since the Center opened in 2009. For the first year and a half, Pam was the only Educator on staff and was responsible for establishing the core foundations of the KWEC’s educational programs. Pam’s passion and commitment to education is evidenced in sheer volume of programs she does for the KWEC--in 2013 Pam conducted 264 environmental education programs. Pam provides education programming to area elementary students as well as family programs, programs through the Great Bend Recreation Commission, Scouts programs, and festivals. One of the most impressive accomplishments that Pam has achieved is the relationship she has established with the USD 428-Great Bend school district. As a result of her efforts in working with the District Administrators and the various Science Committees, Pam has been able to schedule programs with every Grade K-6 classroom in the district throughout the school year. Pam’s work is helping to inspire and educate our next generation about the important role of wetlands in our state and KACEE is extremely proud to honor Pam with the Rising Star Award for Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education.
 

Kansas Green School of the Year Award

Eisenhower High School, Goddard, KS
Eisenhower High School (EHS) takes going green seriously. A newly constructed school, the district made sure Eisenhower was equipped with the latest technology to be energy and water efficient. But going green at EHS goes well beyond the school building. Led by teacher Denise Scribner, Ecology and biology classes regularly participate in eco-field labs and classroom work which emphasize critical thinking and problem-solving skills central to “good science.” Examples of this approach are easy to find at EHS. For instance, Ecology students manage the recycling project--annually the school has redeems over 700 pounds of aluminum cans, 500 pounds of plastic bottles and 1,500 pounds of cardboard/paper. Having students administer the district recycling project engages them in ongoing investigations of waste stream and waste rededuction in the district. This provides a great real world opportunity for EHS students to study decomposition rates and leachate pollution potentials to groundwater helping them to truly understand the lifecycle of items used every day. Further, Biology and Ecology classes complete the Kansas Green Schools Water, Waste and Recycling, and Energy Audit Investigations annually. In addition, EHS has established a native prairie space of 4,000 square feet to help offset the carbon footprint of the school. This legacy for learning site has a recently developed nature trail that uses repurposed plastics for the sign posts and QR codes to inform the students and the public about various environmental facts and concerns rather than printing out paper trail map brochures. EHS is also working to connect students to the environment research outside of their school grounds. The ecology classes are collecting climate data as citizen scientists to provide important data regarding the growth of the trees planted on the campus to the Smithsonian. EHS also brings in consultants from local community, county and state who work in enviromentally related careers, such as raptor rehabilitation, hazardous waste, energy conservation, land management and conservation efforts to enhance environmental curricula and connect students to career opportunities for the future. EHS exemplifies the real world, relevant, meaningful and engaging environmental education of a Kansas Green School of the Year and KACEE is proud to honor EHS for their outstanding work.

Chase County Elementary School, Strong City, KS
When new principal David Warner took over as the leader of Chase Elementary School in Strong City, the school was facing a ten year trend of declining enrollment and it was clear there needed to be some changes to reverse this trend. So Principal Warner began working with staff to re-envision their school to meet the state standards for learning in a new and different way. The school began designing and constructing an outdoor learning center which is built upon the area’s strong farming and ranching traditions. For instance, a chicken coop was constructed and students are engaged in caring for the chickens, collecting eggs, preparing the eggs for sale, and working with a budget to make sure they have the necessary food and equipment to raise the chickens and integrating these lessons into their reading, writing, math, science and social studies. A greenhouse was also constructed to provide a great hands on opportunity for students to plant, grow and harvest produce, while learning biology and ecology concepts in engaging and relevant ways. This produce also helps to promote healthy eating habits and connect students to farming and agriculture. Students practice good land stewardship by recycling, composting and using rain barrels to capture rainwater for gardens and livestock. This project-based learning approach is not only connecting students to the land, but connecting students to their learning in ways that traditional approaches might not. While the program at Chase County Elementary is relatively new, students, teachers, parents and community members are getting engaged and projects continue to expand at the school. The school now has sheep, cattle and raised beds for gardening. And perhaps most telling, for the first time in ten years, enrollment at the school has increased. KACEE is pleased to honor Chase County Elementary as a 2014 Kansas Green School of the Year for their efforts to get kids outside learning about their environment.
 

2015

John K Strickler Award 

Kate Delehunt

KACEE is pleased to announce this year’s recipient of our lifetime achievement award for excellence in environmental education, Kate Delehunt. Ms. Delehunt has over 26 years of classroom experience in public and private schools in the KC metro area, working in a variety of settings with a variety of audiences, but always with environmental education as focal point for her work. Kate has worked with K-12 and post-secondary students in both traditional classroom and summer programs with a special passion for teaching students about water. In fact, many of her former students still refer to Kate as the “Water Lady.” Her passion for teaching young people about the importance of and their connection to water is a life-long endeavor for Kate - she has spent the last ten years of her life doing nothing but that, in fact. In 2005, Kate began working with the Blue River Watershed Association as their Education Director. Ms Delehunt has engaged thousands of Kansas City area students in hands-on exploration of their watershed by getting them into the river, collecting and analyzing water samples and developing a deeper connection to and understanding of our water resources. In 2014, Kate joined the staff at Friends of the Kaw, which focuses water education and outreach for the Kansas River. Kate is currently working with local schools engaging them in exploring ways they can prevent pollutants from running off their school grounds, understanding how water moves in their watershed, calculating stream flow and velocity and testing water for water quality characteristics. Her accomplishments over the course of her nearly 30 years are extensive and impressive. So much so that Kate was recognized by the Prairie Fire Museum (Overland Park, KS) in 2014 as a “Local Water Hero.” Kate embodies the life-long dedication and commitment to high quality environmental education that the Strickler Award recognizes. KACEE is pleased to honor Kate Delehunt as our 2015 Strickler Awardee for life-time excellence in conservation and environmental education.

KACEE Awards

Gary Kannenberg (Business/Corporate Sector)

Gary Kannenberg has enthusiastically become involved in environmental education as an individual, parent, educator and a professional over the last several years. His efforts include doing outreach to schools, working with teachers, volunteering at events, promoting opportunities and supporting Kansas Green Schools with technical advice and resources.  As a member of the US Green Building Council, Central Plains Chapter, Gary has worked with groups in the Kansas City area to help make schools more resource efficient and
healthier places to work and learn. For example, Gary frequently meets with school administrators and board members to promote Green and Healthy schools, has worked with local community partners on a grant to get kids engaged in understanding their role in preserving water resources, established an award at the Greater Kansas City Science and Engineering Fair for projects that promote sustainability and worked with Kansas City
Community Gardens to get raised-bed gardens installed at local schools. Through the Kansas Green Schools program, Gary even helped his daughter’s school get a grant to begin a lunchroom composting project that reduces trash going into the landfill, a project which he has now helped to get started in other schools in the district. Gary makes himself available to visit classrooms in the Kansas City area and teaches at Johnson County Community College as well. Teaching, learning and action are hallmarks of Mr. Kannenberg’s work in environmental education and KACEE is pleased to recognized Gary for his outstanding efforts.

Rachel Myslivy (Community/Non-Profit)

KACEE is pleased to recognize Ms. Rachel Myslivy for her outstanding environmental education work through both her professional and volunteer efforts. As a program director for the Climate and Energy Project (CEP), Rachel jumped in within her first month on the job to set in motion an innovative educational process, engaging local farmers and ranchers in understanding their water and energy usage and identifying what it meant to be innovative in saving water and energy on Kansas farms and ranches. From there, she worked with ranchers and farmers to identify those who were innovating and has develop a series of case studies that other farmers and ranchers can explore to learn about ways to improve their practices, financial resources for assisting them and opportunities to do site visits to learn more. In addition to the work Rachel has done with CEP, she is very active at her daughter’s school in Lawrence, St. John Elementary. Pat Newton, principal at St. John’s has this to say about Rachel: “For the past six years, Rachel has raised our awareness of the environment and environmental education. Our school now actively works to make an environmental difference. A few of the changes that she promoted are: composting in the school cafeteria, elimination of the use of Styrofoam cups and plates, minimum use of paper plates and cups, rain barrels to water our gardens, bird feeders, flower beds to attract butterflies, energy audits to gather information about efficient lighting, window replacement to minimize drafts, electric meters for students to take home, school-wide recycling, establishment of middle school green school elective, and the formation of parent green school committee. Rachel is a “doer” and a motivator. Her passion has motivated parents and teachers to participate in wonderful opportunities to integrate environmental education in our school and make an environmental difference.” Both in her work and her community engagement, environmental education is an integral part of Rachel’s life and KACEE is pleased to honor Ms. Myslivy for her outstanding contributions to environmental education Kansas.

Angela Beavers (Government)

Angela is the District Manager of the Geary County Conservation District, the co-owner of a farming and ranching operation in southern Geary County, the wife of an Environmental Services Technician on Ft. Riley, and the mother of three young men who have learned that environmental stewardship completely intertwines with the agricultural life that their family has loved for generations. In addition to the work that Ms. Beavers does with local landowners to educate and provide resources for improved watershed health, Angela is the first to volunteer to go out to classrooms, local water festivals or competitions like Envirothon, sharing her passion for learning and teaching about the environment. Her passion and dedication means Angela often gives up her evenings and weekends for environmental education activities and she inspires that same ethic in others. Katie Miller, who nominated Beavers noted, “During her oversight of the streambank stabilization projects along the Smokey Hill River, Angela led volunteers of baseball teams, after prom committees, 4-Hers, Envirothon teams, local high schoolers and contractors to plant over 19,000 trees along the streambank restoration site – over 500 treeplanting hours were provided to these projects from high school students alone. And not because these kids were paid, not because they were all dying to give up their Saturdays – but because Angela is the type of
person that inspires you through her passion and her beautiful, fun personality to do more, to be more, and to give back. And because her un-matched work ethic to be knee-deep in the mud with a shovel right next to you!” KACEE is pleased and honored to celebrate Angela and her work with the children and adults in her county and beyond to understand and take care of our natural resources.

Sylvia Davis (Government)

Sylvia’s primary duties at the Office of Utilities and Infrastructure, Water Pollution Control for the City of Topeka Public Works include long-term planning, conducting storm water plan reviews, and assisting in national permitting work for storm water. Sylvia often partners with other local agencies, like the Shawnee County Conservation District, to host workshops for local businesses and citizens, such as a recent sediment and erosion control workshop to train contractors, developers, and engineers in practices that promote cleaner water. Environmental education is a part of what Ms. Davis does on a day to day basis for her work. Yet Sylvia does so much more. For several years, Sylvia has taken on the task of ensuring the participation of the City of Topeka in the annual Topeka Water Festival, a day-long event for area fourth graders that attracts over 1000 students each year. She begins by meeting with city officials so they are aware of the event and understand the role of
educating youth about their local water resources in the long-term health of the city. She also recruits her colleagues in the Office of Utilities and Infrastructure to come and present hands-on activities for children during the festival and makes sure they get training to be well-prepared to teach children. She also presents activities and makes time to observe her co-workers to provide support and assistance so that each activity is the best learning experience it can be for the fourth graders. Judy Boltman, Topeka Water Festival organizer, had this to say of Sylvia, “Sylvia’s goal is a quality program and she promotes high standards to help achieve it. There is no doubt that with the Topeka Water Festival alone, Sylvia Davis makes a significant contribution to
environmental education in Kansas.” KACEE wishes to extend our congratulations to Ms. Davis for her excellence in conservation and environmental education and our gratitude for this important role she plays.

Stephanie Stark (PreK-16 Education)

It doesn’t take long to recognize that Ms. Stark’s high school science classroom isn’t typical —but then, neither is Stephanie. Stephanie recognizes the connections between the environment that students learn within and the high quality of learning that transpires. It is why Stephanie stepped up to be the driving force behind Erie High School becoming the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certified high school and the first LEED Gold K-12 educational building in the state of Kansas. But Stephanie’s leadership doesn’t end there.  Ms. Stark leads an environmental science course at the high school and weaves environmental education into biology and chemistry classrooms, turning the school and the grounds into the students’ learning laboratory. Stephanie has engaged students and teachers in installing community gardens where students explore growing food and sharing with the community, restoring prairie on school grounds and developing a walking path that will allow students to use a pond on school property as another learning opportunity. Steve Woolf, Superintendent of Erie Schools noted, “Stephanie’s students can be found outside working in the environment, in the real world and we know that helps to boost learning. Her goal is to provide an outdoor learning environment for our students and a place for the community to walk through to enjoy the natural environment.” And more recently, Stephanie has become a leader for other teachers, sharing her projects and teaching, what she has learned and the resources she has found with other teachers in her district and from around the state. KACEE is pleased to honor Ms. Stephanie Stark for her leadership and dedication to high quality, non-biased environmental education.

Rising Star Award

Jennifer Rader

When Jennifer Rader became the Director of the Southeast Kansas Nature Center in 2013, she was just five years out of college. But what one quickly recognizes about Jennifer is that her preparation to do her job has been years in the making. As a young person, her parents instilled in her a love of nature and the outdoors and that love led Jennifer to volunteer and participate at outdoor and nature events such as Eco-Meets and Wilson State Park’s OK Kids Events as a high school and college student. Upon graduating from Fort Hays State University in 2008, Ms. Rader began working with environmental education organizations and took leadership in developing innovative and engaging environmental education programming, including a program through Kansas Wildscape which encourages kids to earn “badges” and win prizes for doing outdoor activities through a program called “Wildlifers.” Today, she uses that passion and creativity to develop outdoor programs for people of all ages. Jenn hosts preschoolers for story time, class visits from local schools, community groups and more, reaching literally thousands each year with her environmental education. Linda Phipps, the founder of the nature center notes about Jennifer, “I have seen seasoned nature lovers listen to every word she has to share. Every time I am around Jenn, I learn something new. She has a genuine love for and curiosity about nature and conservation and she shares that with everyone she meets.” KACEE is proud to recognize Jennifer with the Rising Star Award for excellence in environmental education and look forward to her leadership for many years to come.

Kansas Green School of the Year Award

Rose Hill High School

The Rocket Green Club was chartered and sponsored by Roger Grier, a science teacher at Rose Hill High School, in 2009. Over the last 6 years, their impact has sky-rocketed and KACEE is pleased and proud to honor them as the Kansas Green School of the Year for 2015. Environmental education is integrated into the curriculum for middle and high school students and students at the high school have even taken leadership for educating local community members, parents and elementary students though special events and activities. For example, the club sponsors the annual “No Waste Christmas Crafts Festival” where elementary students with help from high school students, make gifts by reusing and recycling materials into items like ornaments or bird feeders. The Rocket Green Club is also active in learning by doing and that is exemplified in their recycling efforts. Together, they have implemented strategies at the high school which have resulted in a diversion of 87% of the schools waste from the landfill. That means that just 13 out of 100 pounds of school waste goes to the landfill, the remaining 87 pounds is recycled, composted or re-used. A big boost to the their efforts came in 2013, when the club launched the “No Trash Can Left Behind” project, placing more than 80 recycling bins at locations throughout the district and educating students and staff through lunch hour educational campaigns. According to teacher Roger Grier, “Starting from a point of basically having no recycling, we are now collecting over 13,000 pounds of recycled material annually. We have diverted over 50,000 pounds of school district solid waste from the landfill stream to the recycling stream over the past 6 years.”  The club also has raised more than $10,000 and uses some of that funding to support field trips that bring students’ environmental education to life. These include field trips to see the full waste stream, from landfills and recycling centers to companies that use these resources. Students also use a nine acre pond located on the campus to do water studies. Rose Hill High School students are leaders in their school and their community and KACEE is pleased to honor the school with this recognition.

 

2016

John K Strickler Award

Joyce Wolf

KACEE is pleased to announce this year’s recipient of our lifetime achievement award for excellence in environmental education, Joyce Wolf. Joyce has been involved in environmental education for more than 30 years and is a familiar, respected and trusted among those who work in the field of environmental education. With early beginnings in leading educational efforts on the Clean Air Act, to her leadership for the Jayhawk Audubon Society, the consistent pattern in Joyce’s career and volunteer work is a dedication to the important role that good environmental education plays in understanding and caring for the places we live. For instance, in her volunteer work with Jayhawk Audubon, Joyce and her husband Ron frequently lead a project called the Wetlands Learners Program, (now the Learning About Nature Project.) which was eventually replaced with the Learning About Nature Project. Both projects involved taking students to sites where they could have hands-on experience in nature and develop an awareness, appreciation and understanding of complex environmental issues. This hands on, up close and interactive form of environmental education epitomizes excellence. From 1995 –2001, Joyce served as the Executive Director for the Kaw Valley Heritage Alliance (KVHA). The mission of the KVHA was to form a broad coalition of organizations cooperating to promote greater awareness, appreciation and stewardship of the cultural and natural resources of the Kansas River (Kaw) Valley. Joyce successfully wrote a significant grant from the EPA, which permitted the KVHA to hire two coordinators to plan and carry out the “Rollin’ Down the River” festival in 1997. This successful grant also led to the first Kaw Valley Eagles Day event, a highly successful event that showcases many organizations and approaches to environmental education. 2016 is the 20th Kaw Valley Eagle Days Celebration and it seems fitting that Joyce be honored for her leadership this year. Her involvement in environmental education in Kansas is extensive and long term. These are a few of the many examples of ways which Joyce Wolf embodies the essence of the Strickler Award, lifelong dedication and commitment to high quality environmental education. (These are but a few of so many examples that Joyce Wolf embodies the life-long dedication and commitment to high quality environmental education that the Strickler Award recognizes.) KACEE is pleased to honor Joyce Wolf as our 2016 Strickler Award recipient for life-time excellence in conservation and environmental education.

KACEE  Awards

Kim Bellemere (Community/Non-Profit)

Kim Bellemere has a contagious passion for conservation and community. Her leadership in several non-profit organizations, including the Grassland Heritage Foundation, the Kansas Women’s Environmental Network and the Kaw Valley Native Plant Coalition demonstrate her passion for both environmental education and gathering people together to make a difference. Ms Bellemere exemplifies the importance of civic engagement in environmental education. Over the last several years, Kim has worked extensively in environmental education with youth and parents in northeast Kansas. She was a member of the Lawrence Sustainability Network Leadership Council from 2009-2011 and a co-founder and coordinator of the Raintree Montessori School Monarch Waystation Program from 2009 to 2013. The projects she founded at schools in Kansas continue to thrive and encourage our students to appreciate native plants and animals, every day. At her current position with the Grassland Heritage Foundation (GHF), Kim serves as the Membership and Education Coordinator and is responsible for organizing and planning their educational activities, reaching thousands each year. Kim works within and between communities to identify volunteers, target projects appropriate for GHF, and educate the public on the importance of conservation work. Most recently, Kim was instrumental in founding the Kansas Women’s Environmental Network, a network of more than 200 women from around the state who share ideas, information, job opportunities, host a book club and more, ultimately encouraging the kind of collaboration and cooperation among and between organizations that makes a difference. KACEE is pleased to honor Kim Bellemere for her leadership in environmental education.

Stephanie Carlson (Community/Non-Profit)

KACEE is pleased to recognize Ms. Stephanie Carlson for her outstanding environmental education work through both her professional and volunteer efforts. Upon returning to Kansas in 1998, Stephanie began volunteering with the Dillon Nature Center. With a degree in Forestry, running educational programs as a volunteer might seem a bit daunting, but as her colleague, Mary Clark, Director of the Dillon Nature Center noted, “Stephanie was one of those dream volunteers who was never satisfied with ‘just the basics.’ Before each nature hike she would read and reread the training material and then research more information on her own. She was always willing to dive in and try anything we put before her.” It is no wonder that when funding at the Dillon Nature Center became available in 2009, Stephanie was hired as a half-time employee and has since moved to a full-time employee in 2012. Most recently, Ms. Carlson has been responsible for aligning programs with the Next Generation Science Standards, implementing STEM programming in schools, and training volunteers to lead programs. In the 2015-2016 school year, Stephanie presented STEM programs to more than 700 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students on Green Energy, Invasive Species, and Energy Transfer. Each year she meets with curriculum directors from our contract schools to make sure we are providing the services that meet their needs at each grade level. Besides providing programs for more than 20,000 school age children, Stephanie leads public programs for preschoolers, adults and families, and prepares lesson plans for our summer camp staff. In honor of the enormous contributions Stephanie has made in the Hutchinson community, KACEE is pleased to honor her with this award for excellence in environmental education.

Kerri Ebert (Agriculture)

For the past fourteen years, Kerri Ebert has shown exceptional leadership and dedication to educating Kansans about sustainable agriculture and farm safety through her work as Project Coordinator of the Kansas AgrAbility Project, Extension Farm Safety Program, and Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops (KCSAAC). In this capacity, she provides consultation and review of proposals for Sustainable Agriculture, Research, and Education (SARE) for the North Central Region. She has written several grants and publications to further the cause of sustainable agriculture in Kansas. In addition to the formal nature of her work, Kerri is an incredibly intuitive leader and supportive colleague. She has a keen understanding of the complexities involved in the Kansas agriculture and natural resources scene, along with a dedication to helping others make the connections required to make environmental education a reality across the state. During her time with Kansas AgrAbility and SARE, Kerri has secured almost three million dollars of funding for professional development for natural resources, agricultural professionals, and extension specialists and programs that provide education for youth and adults on farm safety and health. From local farm tours to regional and national conferences, Kerri actively and thoroughly educates herself on the importance of sustainable agriculture and farm safety. The most important piece of Kerri’s work is she makes sure that the knowledge is disseminated across the state. Her collaborative spirit, determination, and genuine good will towards others make her a true leader in the Kansas environmental world. Rachel Myslivy, who nominated Ms. Ebert for this award summed up Kerri’s contributions to environmental education in the following, “A true collaborator, Kerri constantly strives to find what works and make it happen. Her fingerprints can be seem in many outstanding sustainable agriculture projects through the KSAAC logo. She leverages her position to secure funding that expands educational opportunities through various organizations with diverse perspectives across the state.” KACEE is pleased to honor Ms. Ebert with this award.

Erinn Stiles (Community/Non-Profit)

KACEE is excited to honor Erinn Stiles for her excellence in environmental education. Ms. Stiles began her pathway toward environmental education while attending Kansas State and as a docent and part-time seasonal educator for the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, KS. Upon graduation, Erinn moved to the Wichita area and took a position with the Tanganyika Wildlife Park as a volunteer coordinator. Though Erinn greatly enjoyed the challenge of starting a volunteer program, she also wanted to add an environmental education component to her position. In 2009, Erinn began to develop education programs for Tanganyika and in early 2010, she took the official title of Education Coordinator. In a short period of time, Erinn was able to develop assembly shows, classroom programs, overnight programs, and scout workshops, all with an environmental-education focus. Now, Erinn facilitates over 200 education programs and shows per year. Her environmental-education based programs and tours impacted over 30,000 students and adults in 2015. As if developing and delivering school, scout, and community programs wasn’t enough, in 2014, Erinn developed a Safari Summer Camp for Tanganyika. Recognizing the need for students to experience, explore, and engage with the natural world during the summer, Erinn developed a series of week-long camp curricula for elementary-aged students. Over 80 individual campers attended the six weeks of programming offered in 2015, a huge success for a first-year camp. Though she has only been working full-time in the field of environmental education for 6.5 years, Erinn Stiles has already made a tremendous impact on both Tanganyika and the Wichita Metro Area. Her dedication to conservation-based environmental education has grown by leaps and bounds since her start in college, and it is only poised to grow exponentially in the future. KACEE is pleased to honor Ms. Stiles with this award.

Daryl Finch (PreK-16 Education)

It doesn’t take long to recognize that Mr. Finch’s high school science classroom isn’t typical—but then, neither is Daryl. As a biology teacher at Council Grove High School, Mr. Finch has extended his classroom well beyond the four walls of his classroom. Teaching in the heart of the Flinthills, Daryl has spent significant time studying the native grasses of his area by creating learning opportunities with the Konza Biological Field Station (managed by KSU). He has even worked to create his own native grass studies using White Memorial Camp - located near the local federal reservoir. Recently, when Council Grove approved a bond to build additions on to Council Grove High School, Daryl created a plan to develop planting areas of native vegetation in the newly created landscaped areas. Using this area as a classroom, Daryl and his students implemented the plan. This is a hallmark of Mr. Finch’s approach to education—his students are leaders. Daryl and his students have started a school garden as well. During the fall and spring our students study vegetation, watering, composting, and conservation of resources in the real-life classroom of a garden. Not only do the students learn, but Council Grove's food service program utilizes some of the school-grown garden produce. Currently, Daryl and his students have taken a deeper focus on their study of water. Daryl and his students are organizing a "Water Event", to be held in March, at their facility and open to the public, again with students leading the charge. Most recently Daryl has expanded his expertise beyond Council Grove to serving and learning with "Solutioneers." A program funded through the Pisces Foundation, “Solutioneers” are dared to think big and bold to develop more opportunities for students to learn about conservation and environmental education in Kansas. Daryl is co-leading an effort to create a statewide group for students in their schools called WILD. WILD's mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students and the land in which they live by developing their potential for leadership, personal growth, and connection to their environment. Daryl is helping to lead toward a vision of developing students whose lives are impacted by WILD and environmental education. Students achieve academic and personal growth, participate in outdoor activities and provide leadership to build healthy local communities, a strong land ethic, and a sustainable world. KACEE is pleased to honor Mr. Daryl Finch for his outstanding leadership and dedication to high quality, non-biased environmental education.

Kansas Green School of the Year Award

Complete High School Maize

Complete High School Maize (CHSM) is an alternative school located in Maize, KS. CHSM is an experiential, project-based, service learning school that serves between 60-70 students at a time. Eight people make up the entire staff including the principal, science teacher, teacher/assistant principal, english teacher, social studies teacher, business teacher, secretary, and paraprofessional. And while CHSM is small, their accomplishments are mighty. A high school where students lead the way, CHSM began their green school efforts in 2008 when students noticed how much trash the school created. They investigated, researched school recycling programs across the country and developed their own plan to begin recycling at the high school. As the CHSM principal, Kristy Custer noted, “The students soon found that once they began recycling, it was difficult NOT to recycle, and they found themselves going out of their way to prevent throwing things in the trash. For instance, they would carry a separate bag for cans when participating in the Adopt-a-Highway program.” The recycling project has been so successful that CHSM is now coordinating recycling at four elementary schools, the Educational Support Center, as well as the Copy Center. Community members are also invited to drop off recycling in the school’s recycle bins. CHSM students pride themselves on customer service and even arrange pick-up for one elderly resident who is homebound. In 2011-12, CHSM recycled 13.30 tons of paper, which ranked 3rd among schools in the surrounding communities; in 2013-2014, CHSM recycled almost 15 tons of paper, which ranked 2nd. Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, the project became large enough that each of the elementary schools had their own recycle bins placed at the individual schools. CHSM students still assist elementary students or do the pick-up at these buildings. This has led to students exploring ways to compost and experiment with composting larvae and needing a great place to use compost, branching into gardening. Instead of conducting a conventional fundraiser this Spring, students will be starting vegetable and flower seeds to sell. Students will conduct soil testing and research which plants can be transplanted well and when to start the seeds indoors. Plans are in place for the students to sell plants for donations at CHSM and at a local farmer’s market. A Kansas Green School since 2012, Complete High School Maize has progressed from implementing an environmental education program into its school, to teaching and assisting other schools how to implement an environmental education program in their schools. The students and staff are leading the way for environmental education in their community and KACEE is proud to honor Complete High School Maize as a Kansas Green School of Excellence.