Michigan leaders in environmental and outdoor education recognized

Contact: Natalie Elkins, 517-290-0687
Agency: Natural Resources

Oct. 8, 2021

Creativity and commitment to teaching were recognized at the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education annual conference and awards ceremony last weekend at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, where several people were honored.

"The educators receiving awards showcase years of promoting and supporting the advancement of environmental literacy in Michigan, furthering the alliance's mission," said Natalie Elkins, MAEOE awards chair.

This year's award winners include:

  • The President's Award, given by the outgoing MAEOE president to the person deemed instrumental to the president's success. This year's president, Bridget Booth, gave the award to Holt High School teacher and fellow board member Bill Hodges for his constant support over the last two years.
  • The Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award, given annually to up to two nominees. It is most appropriate for someone who has made outstanding contributions to connecting diverse audiences with environmental and/or outdoor education in Michigan, especially in the areas of community engagement, research and teaching. This year's recipients were Brian Peterson-Roest (Bees in the D) and Keith Young (Ecotek).
  • The Recognition Award, given annually to up to two nominees making significant contributions to the fields of environmental and/or outdoor education, in a specialized area such as journalism, photography, curriculum development and interpretation, and/or someone making significant contributions toward creating, delivering, managing or sustaining environmental and/or outdoor programs. This year's recipients are Barb Jensen for her work with ospreys, and Darlene Egbert-Oliver for her work at Maybury Farm.
  • The Rising Star in Environmental or Outdoor Education, given annually to recognize early career professionals who are new to the fields of environmental and outdoor education. Nominees demonstrate leadership, innovation and best practices in environmental and/or outdoor education. Eligible nominees must have been in the field fewer than five years. This year's recipients are U-M Dearborn interpreter Griffin Bray, Michigan Department of Natural Resources intern Leah Higgins and Michigan Sea Grant educator Meag Schwartz.
  • The Impact Award in Environmental or Outdoor Education, given annually to up to two organizations to recognize relevant programs and/or campaigns that enhance the quality and availability of environmental and/or outdoor education (e.g., newsletters, professional development, events, series and/or new initiatives). This year's recipients are Kevin Frailey, representing the DNR's Nature at Home and Nature at School programs, and Jillian Farkas, representing the Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team.
  • The Volunteer Service Awards, honoring those who give their time and skills for more than one year to a school, college, camp, outdoor center, zoo, nature center or other venue that promotes environmental or outdoor education. This year's recipients are Krista Pawloski and Blanche Wicke.
  • The Lifetime Supporter Award, given to one person a year, selected by the awards committee for their behind the scenes work with the MAEOE board for longer than a decade. This year's recipient is Elaine Kampmueller.

Individual and program certification

During the awards ceremony, five 2020 candidates and six 2021 candidates were certified through the nationally accredited Professional Environmental Educator Certification program, an arduous, five-strand process. 

2020 candidates

  • Joan Chadde, Creating Great Lakes Stewards to Promote Clean Water and Healthy Urban Watersheds in Detroit.
  • Beth Christiansen, Invading Our Classrooms: Reducing Aquatic Invasive Species Use in Education.
  • Jessica Hagen, Nature-led Montessori.
  • Samantha Lichtenwald, Missed Connections: Reuniting Alternative Students with their Environment through a Cross-curricular Day in the Field.
  • Lea Sevigny, Healthy Forest Project.

2021 candidates

  • Coert Ambrosino, Follow the (Student) Leaders: Rationale, Process, and Lessons Learned from Launching an Environmental Youth Council.
  • Jen Judson, Merging STEM with Branch.
  • Ellen Koehler, Wet and Wild!: Increasing Youth Water Literacy.
  • Andrea Mayer, Nature Exploration in Missaukee County.
  • Angela Passarelli, Passport to Nature.
  • Ashlie Smith, StoryWalk Adventures: Solving the Pandemic Programming Dilemma.

The alliance also awarded its first Associate Environmental Educator Certificate to David Larson, a longtime MAEOE member. The associate certification was created as a less rigorous path to recognize people who provide valuable support to those delivering environmental and outdoor education programs.

Learn more about the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education, the annual conference and the certification program at MAEOE.com.


Note to editors: Accompanying photos of several Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education award winners are available below for download. Caption details follow.