Maine Environmental Education Association Announces the 2015 Environmental Education Awards
The Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA) has announced the winners of its annual awards recognizing this year’s most outstanding environmental educator, school, business, student and environmental program in the state of Maine. MEEA presented these awards at its annual conference on March 20th. This year’s conference, “Better Together Maine: Partnerships, Collaboration, Collective Impact”, was the state’s key gathering of environmental educators, and featured presenters and participants from conservation organization staff, health advocates, business leaders, governmental agencies, outdoor recreation groups and the agriculture industry.
This year’s conference was funded in part by a generous grant from the Sewall Foundation. MEEA’s goal for the conference was for interested parties to collaborate, increasing their collective impact to address the most pressing nature-based problems in Maine today. MEEA looks forward to the results of their work from the conference and plans on this work leading directly to new projects that will create more vibrant, healthy communities in Maine.
MEEA presented its 2015 environmental education awards at the MEEA annual meeting portion of the conference on Friday, March 20th at the Chewonki Foundation in Wiscasset, Maine. Winners of the awards were honored in a ceremony during the luncheon. This year’s winners include:
Northern Girl: The Maine Environmental Education Association Business of Year
The Lebanon Elementary Schools: The Maine Environmental Education Association School of the Year
The Blueberry Harvest School: The Excellence in Environmental Education Program Award
Don Sprangers: Eberhard Thiele Environmental Educator of the Year
Amber Delaney: The Maine Environmental Education Association Student of the Year
Northern Girl, the winner of the Maine Environmental Education Association Business of Year award, was recognized for its commitment to selling and distributing sustainably grown and harvested local food from Northern Maine to locations all around New England. Northern Girl has shown ingenuity in working to keep Maine at the forefront of the local foods movement by rebuilding Northern Maine’s lost food processing infrastructure. In addition, Northern Girl is committed to providing high-quality locally grown, healthy food to many Maine schools and universities. This small, community minded business started by two sisters is now a thriving operation and provides jobs for over 20 people in Northern Maine. The General Manager, Chris Hallweaver, of Northern Girl accepted the award on Northern Girl’s behalf.
The Lebanon Elementary Schools (Hanson Elementary and Lebanon Elementary School), of Lebanon, Maine, were the winners of the Maine Environmental Education Association School of the Year Award.
These schools were recognized for their efforts to improve the sustainability of their schools, create critical thinkers through hands-on nature-based learning, and increase their capacity for high quality programming for all students. One element of their efforts is a collaborative public-private partnership with The Ecology School of Saco, Maine, where experiential learning is a core tenet of teaching and learning. The Lebanon Schools value environmental literacy – where an understanding of systems, cycles, and our environmental impact is considered as important as proficiency in math, reading, writing and other traditional subjects. Through dedicated staff, students and community efforts, they have accomplished much toward becoming a model expeditionary learning based Green School. Principal Tom Ledue was pleased to accept the award on the Lebanon Schools behalf.
The Blueberry Harvest School, was named the winner of the Maine Environmental Education Association Excellence in Environmental Education Program Award. The Blueberry Harvest School a program of the non-profit organization Mano en Mano, is being recognized for so aptly upholding its mission to provide a three-week, hands-on, and interdisciplinary educational program for the children of migrant workers in Washington County for Maine’s wild blueberry harvest. The program is sponsored by the Maine Migrant Education Program and funded by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind). Mano en Mano / Hand in Hand, a non-profit organization based in Milbridge, has run the BHS since 2013. The BHS utilizes a Project-Based Learning model that relies extensively on environmental education themes and blends math, reading, science, and social studies together in a way that engages and empowers students. The culturally-responsive themes and techniques utilized by the BHS help students foster a love of learning and the program’s experiential format develops students’ appreciation of the natural environment while preventing summer learning loss. Students who attend the school are from “eastern stream” states such as Florida, Mississippi, and Texas, as well as the Passmaquoddy and Mi’kmaq Nations. Executive Director, Ian Yaffe, and the Department of Education Director of the Maine Migrant Education Program David Fisk were both present to accept the award.
Don Sprangers, science teacher at Washington Academy in East Machias Maine was named MEEA’s 2015 Eberhard Thiele Environmental Educator of the Year award. Don, a nationally award winning science educator is being recognized for his incredible contributions to furthering environmental education in Maine and New England. Don has dedicated his career to promoting the importance of ecological literacy and experiential, place-based learning. His students participate actively in their learning, grappling with and tackling major environmental issues head on-not simply learning about the issues but also creating solutions and employing those solutions in their schools and local communities. Don has written and shared his ecological curriculum with many teachers in Maine and around the country and is an adjunct professor for Lesley University, where he inspires and touches the lives of many young teachers in New England. Don has won numerous teaching awards and is also being recognized this year by National Project Learning Tree as an honoree Educator of the Year. Don’s contributions to the field of environmental education are numerous and will be enduring. Don was honored to accept the award in person at the awards celebration and spoke to the importance of community in supporting teachers in their work in Maine.
Amber Delaney, a junior at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay, Maine was honored as the Maine Environmental Education Association’s 2015 Student of the Year. Amber is an incredible student leader who has exhibited a commitment to the environment and a love of learning about ecological concepts. Amber is a member of the Spruce Mountain Envirothon Team and has a genuine passion for learning about the environment, protecting natural resources, and protecting public health from environmental contamination and degradation. Amber has worked with members of the Androscoggin Land Trust to research the creation and development of the Androscoggin Greenway and developed a management plan for the French Falls recreation area, a section of the greenway. Amber is taking A.P. Environmental Science and is involved with her school’s geodesic greenhouse, helping plan and construct a handicap access ramp and helping to raise organic produce that has been donated to local food pantries. Amber has assisted in collecting water quality data from Moosehill Pond; her data was used by the Livermore Falls Water District and the Maine Volunteer Lakes Monitoring Program to help protect this source water body for our drinking water. She has served as an officer in Science Explorer Post #897 (a co-ed program affiliated with Boy Scouts America) and has helped plan trips to Acadia National Park with the Post to explore its unique geology, flora, and fauna. Amber is involved with the development and maintenance of recreational trails in the Jay Recreation Area, a 180-Acre municipal forest that abuts the school property. Amber is an incredible example of a Maine next-generation nature leader and is planning on continuing her studies in college in environmental engineering. Amber was delighted and honored to accept the award at the awards cerement on March 20th.
The Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA) serves as the state association representing environmental education and both formal and non-formal educators in the state of Maine. MEEA has been in existence for over 30 years. MEEA helps connect teachers with non-formal environmental and outdoor education providers in the state, advocate for the importance of environmental education for all Maine residents, and raises funds to help support projects within the state that are working to improve the environmental literacy of Maine citizens. MEEA also represents the state’s interests at the regional level through the New England Environmental Education Alliance and at the national level through the North American Association of Environmental Education.
For more information about MEEA and environmental education in Maine, please explore MEEA’s website at http://www.meeassociation.org/.