Trailblazing Teacher Awards
The Center for Green Schools Trailblazing Teacher Awards are given twice a year to 10 teachers who have demonstrated their commitment to advance ecoliteracy and bring environmental sustainability into the classroom. The award also gives teachers a small monetary gift to expand their efforts, to purchase instructional equipment, curricular materials, event-related or field trip-related items or similar expenditures.
Applications Open: Fall 2013 Trailblazing Teacher Awards
Do you know a teacher who is using his or her passion and creativity to educate students about environmental responsibility? We want to know! Apply now to be recognized nationally as one of our Trailblazing Teachers. Applications for this round of awards are due no later than 6:00 PM on November 1, 2013.
SPRING 2013 RECIPIENTS
Kristine Denton, Grades 5-8
King Science & Technology, Omaha Public Schools, Nebraska
Kristine Denton has created several ways to use the concept of aquaponic farming with her sixth and seventh grade students. Her students have been working with community partners to use these systems, which utilize fish waste to provide nutrients to a soilless grow bed, to grow food for themselves and for a local shelter. Not only do aquaponics systems use 10 percent of the water used in conventional farming, they also are able to yield full harvests in a third of the time. After hearing that a local shelter was lacking in fresh produce donations, students decided to donate their harvests, which now happen every four to five weeks. Kristine’s students learn from and share their experiences with community members and have gained confidence and leadership skills through their work with local institutions and from their ability to make a difference.
David Ropa, Grade 7 Environmental Science
Spring Harbor Middle School, Madison Metropolitan School District, Wisconsin
David Ropa has spent his teaching career inspiring students, parents and teachers to go bring their learning outdoors. His school in Madison just completed a sustainable greenhouse, and he has used it to engage both his seventh grade students and his after-school field biology club in science, technology and green design. Students have participated in the greenhouse’s planning and construction and will be growing fruits, vegetables and native plants to use in starting new gardens across the city. David and his students have studied water conservation, constructed rain gardens, obtained donations of reclaimed materials and designed a structure around reclaimed, repurposed items. With his seventh graders, he routinely averages outdoor activities about 1.5-2 times per week, giving students who normally find themselves indoors a rich outdoor knowledge and a chance to explore the outdoors in a sustained fashion.
Kathy Rusert, Middle School Science
Acorn High School, Ouachita River School District, Arkansas
Kathy Rusert has brought an extraordinary number of community and national partners - Disney Planet Challenge, Lowe’s Toolbox for Education, Project Learning Tree, the Arkansas Green Schools Challenge and more - to her school to lend energy and creativity to the work of teachers and students. Kathy uses the school’s 15 acre outdoor classroom and has helped students create instructive signage and pathways through nearby woodlands. Because of the district’s proximity to the Ouachita River headwaters and the rich diversity of wildlife in the area, she also engages her students in studying their environment and advocating for responsible stewardship of the resources around them.
Kristin White, Grade 6 Earth Science
Opelika Middle School, Opelika City Schools, Alabama
Kristin White has expanded her community’s understanding of environmental issues through increasing levels of education for students and teachers at her school. For several years, she has incorporated environmental topics into her sixth grade earth science classroom. For example, students have been engaged in monitoring a nearby creek, measuring water quality and mitigating erosion. In addition to teaching, she initiated and is in charge of a weekly after-school recycling club called Project Grow, which has grown to 30 student participants. Her club participated in a "Go Green, Save Green" workshop held by Auburn University and the local USGBC Chapter Green Schools Committee in the fall. The workshop taught students and teachers about saving money through water and energy conservation, and Kristin’s school is currently being benchmarked to determine how much they have been able to save. She is also educating teachers about indoor air quality, particularly about the correlation between levels of carbon dioxide and the ability for students to concentrate. Each small step in implementing these projects has been rewarded with excited and engaged students.
Hannah Purcell, Grade 4-5
Air Base Elementary School, Miami-Dade County Schools, Florida
Hannah Purcell has inspired her students to become leaders in their community through environmental efforts that have branched out into many aspects of school life. She began with an outdoor classroom, butterfly garden and native wildflower meadow in which students learn about sustainability, natural resources, ecosystems, global citizenship, social justice, climate change and more. She partnered with the local LEED certified Kohl’s store to host an event at which her fourth and fifth graders used the learning gardens to teach second and third graders. Enthusiasm about the gardens grew into energy efficiency proposals and recycling advocacy. Students successfully invited the city council to join them in recycling at election polls, and they have been invited annually by the military base to learn about their environmental initiatives. Hannah runs a Green Kick-Off Assembly and an annual Green Education Fair for the local community, and she has won grants to incorporate environmental themes into many subject areas. As the “teacher champion” of her district’s Green Schools Challenge Program, she coordinates and reports on all of the school’s initiatives, showcasing the efforts of teachers and students alike in blazing the trail for greener schools.
Tresine Logsdon, Grades 3-12 Energy Education & Sustainability
Henry Clay High School, Fayette County Public Schools, Kentucky
Tresine Logsdon established the first high school Green Team in her school district, and she was also the first to teach AP environmental science in the district. Tresine went on to mentor student leaders to reduce the school's carbon footprint by 20 percent in 24 months through occupant behavior, promote green classroom cleaners, stencil local storm drains to prevent dumping, initiate the district's first composting program, design and install a rain garden, implement green landscaping, increase school recycling by 35 percent in 12 months, incentivize student carpooling and install rain barrels. Tresine also serves as the district’s energy & sustainability curriculum coordinator, working with students and teachers to improve sustainability by exploring their school environment and identifying ways they can make a difference. In September 2012, she partnered with the local USGBC Chapter Green Schools Committee to help one of the district’s lowest-performing middle schools participate in the Green Apple Day of Service, bringing in 20 community partners to participate in a Sustainability Expo before everyone helped plant a garden for the school.
Laura Wood, Biology and Advanced Placement Environmental Science
Ocean Lakes High School, Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Virginia
Laura Wood has used her school’s every day environment to teach students about the intricacy of human and environmental interaction as well as the importance of civic action. Her students participate in canoe field trips with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and follow up the field experience by researching and developing action plans for a local environmental issue of their choice. Students are developing a management plan for the school garden that involves researching heirloom, hybrid and genetically modified seeds as well as the use of pesticides and fertilizers. When students noticed vegetation removed from the school pond, Laura engaged several levels of school and district officials with questions about the change, demonstrating the importance of both making observations and seeking answers. She acts as co-sponsor of the school’s WAVE (Water Awareness Volunteer Experience) club, in which students participate in waterway clean-ups, beach clean-ups and other service learning projects. As one of the district’s sustainable schools liaisons, she also shares environmental education and awareness opportunities with her fellow teachers and any interested students.
Banny Ackerman, Grade 7 Science, Social Studies and Language Arts
Radnor Middle School, Radnor Township School District, Pennsylvania
Banny Ackerman co-teaches a year-long, full-day watershed program at her school for seventh grade students. Watershed replaces the traditional seventh grade curriculum for interested students who come into the program through a lottery each year, and skills and concepts are integrated around the specific study of a local watershed through a combination of classroom activities and site visits. Banny has seen her students become fearless problem solvers, confident public speakers, solid writers, successful stewards and informed citizens about land and water issues, climate change and sustainable living. Current middle school projects include implementing sustainable food service, creating an official Backyard Habitat site, restoring stream habitats, and using technology to go paperless at school.
Beth Marass, Biology, Marine Biology, AP Environmental Science
Sanford High School, Sanford Public Schools, Maine
Beth Marass works with students inside and outside of the classroom to connect environmental and social sustainability for students. After calculating their own energy usage, students come up with and implement a plan to reduce their usage by 20 percent. They find specific pollution sources that they feel impact their town, and they write letters to the City Council to explain their concern and propose solutions. Environmental science students worked with the local Soil and Water Department to raise awareness about an impaired brook that runs through the center of town. They surveyed townspeople as they exited election polls to find out what they knew about water pollution and the brook, and they doubled their expected response rate. Beth has also started an environmental club with her students. The club has been working with students and teachers on recycling, among other efforts, and the school now diverts over a ton of waste from the landfill every month. They collect the funds from returnable bottles and give the $60-$80 to a different local club or charity each month, and they run drives to collect clothing and other items for people in need.
Judith Luber-Narod, High School Science
Abby Kelley Foster Charter School, Massachusetts
Judith Luber-Narod uses an exciting assortment of hands-on activities with her high school students to educate them about the earth. She works with students to construct windmills and connect them to electric generators. Her environmental science class goes on a field trip to Cape Cod to do water quality assessments of their own design. In her classes, she combines study of the environment with civic responsibility and global cultures. The club that she sponsors has also done a number of innovative projects over its three years. Students came in second in Massachusetts in the Mass Recycles event this past year, raised funds for a school bicycle rack, put on a green concert featuring a local acapella group and Melodeego (a band that powers instruments by bicycle) and organized events for Green Apple Day of Service. Plans for the future include starting an email campaign for climate change awareness, initiating recycling at the middle school, raising funds for solar photovoltaic panels for the school roof and composting kitchen waste. Judith is proud of the fact that her students have found these hands-on experiences interesting enough to choose careers in environmental engineering, marine biology, environmental science and policy and related fields.