This fall, the Center for Green Schools received another wave of impressive applications from around the country for our Trailblazing Teacher Awards - a small grant that we give out to deserving teachers to use toward an environmental initiative in their classroom. The creativity and dedication that shows through each of the educators’ applications is humbling and inspiring (it’s no secret that our staff love to be picked as the review committee for these awards). For the second time this year, the committee narrowed down the applicant pool to 10 award winners.
We are excited to see that this group of award winners includes many educators who focus on interdisciplinary strategies to incorporate environmental literacy into every aspect of school life. Chris Freeman, an AP Environmental Studies teacher in Virginia, has developed a unit with the school’s AP English language course to take a comprehensive look at the Dust Bowl and modern factory farming using both readings from classic literature and explorations in environmental science. Judith Weaver, a middle school media specialist in Florida, got her entire school engaged in discussing global water scarcity issues by focusing on one book and then spinning off lessons, field trips, fundraising and other activities across subject areas.
Several of the winning educators take environmental sustainability on their campus into their own hands, using civic action and physical effort to teach important lessons in the classroom. Michael Hershiser, a middle school teacher in Illinois, encourages his students to research and problem solve around real-world environmental issues in their community. Last year, students raised $3,000 through the sale of painted rain barrels to help the school district buy gutters and barrels to reduce stormwater runoff at the school. Amrik Brar, a high school science teacher in Ohio, has built a trail with his students through a small deciduous forest on the school site, which was previously inaccessible to students and teachers. His students also created two vernal pools, where they monitor frogs, salamanders and other amphibians in partnership with the Ohio Vernal Pool Partnership.
The examples detailed here only represent a sampling of the incredible work done by our winning teachers. In addition to the national recognition, each of our 10 Trailblazing Teachers will receive an official certificate, free access to the Green Classroom Professional Certificate program, information from our Powering Down Toolkit for energy conservation and a gift card for $250. Congratulations to them and to their students!