KAEE Excellence in Environmental Education Awards
The Kentucky Association for Environmental Education (KAEE) recognizes those best exemplifying dedication, commitment, and influence in the field of environmental education (EE).
The KAEE Excellence Awards recognize the outstanding achievements of individuals, organizations, agencies, community efforts, schools, and businesses in the field of EE. The nominee must have a minimum of 2 years involvement in the field of EE, and have made and continues to make significant contributions to EE in Kentucky.
2017 Award Nominations are now closed.
2016 Award Winners
Lifetime Achievement Award:
Horace W. Brown is a dedicated environmental conservationist and environmental educator. Horace is passionate about engaging youth and adults in connecting to nature and helping them to become environmental stewards. His own connection to nature started as young as four years old, when he began memorizing bird calls and calling back to the birds. A born- and bred-Kentuckian, he has witnessed a significant decline in our state’s bird population during his lifetime and does everything he can to protect and preserve birds and their habitat, through personal conservation work on his own property, donating bird photography, and writing a regular column about birds in his local Shelbyville newspaper.
In his spare time, he maintains over 100 birdhouses and maintains other bird habitat on his property. For many years he was a falconer and rehabilitated birds of prey. He is a talented photographer and, for decades, he has donated prints of his bird photography for awards recognizing outstanding individuals in the environmental field, including the Governor’s Conference on the Environment and the Teacher of the Year award for the Kentucky Environmental Education Council’s Green and Healthy School Program.
Horace has also donated his time to the Commonwealth of Kentucky by serving on the Environmental Quality Commission for 15 years (including role as Chairman for 14 years) and as the dedicated Chairman of the Kentucky Environmental Education Council (on Council since 1994; Chairman since 1996). During his time as Chairman of the KEEC, he has supported the agency’s development of the Kentucky Environmental Education Master Plan (the 5-year survey of Kentuckians’ environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors), the Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools program, and the Professional Environmental Educator Certification program, among many other agency achievements. He also serves on the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund Board (since 1994) and was appointed to the Land Stewardship and Conservation Task Force by Governor Beshear in 2008. It is worthy to note that these roles and appointments are voluntary and do not fall into his work duties as a land surveyor.
Congratulations to Horace for receiving the KAEE 2016 Excellence in EE Lifetime Achievement Award.
Rising Star Award:
Mr. Trevor Claiborn is a non-traditional undergrad student at Kentucky State University. He holds an Associates Degree in Arts and Humanities from Bluegrass Community and Technical College. After pursuing a career in rap music, he determined it would be best for him to return to school and finish his education. He is currently a senior at Kentucky State University, majoring in Agricultural Systems and Environmental Science. Because Trevor’s first love is music, he has found a unique way to combine that with environmental education to create a program that is showing promise as a way to get youth, mainly those living in urban areas, engaged with their environment. “Farmer Brown Tha MC” is a project geared towards developing modern strategies in engaging young students in the STEM fields. The project uses hip hop music to educate, entertain, and inform students about topics ranging from organic farming systems, nutrition, sustainable energy sources, civil service, and environmental science. According to Trevor, this project “attempts to meet young impressionable minds where they are as far as their cultural preferences”. Trevor has designed and is putting the finishing touches on and piloting an educational package for teachers and schools that includes: a seven chapter book with background information on a variety of environmental topics (eg. renewable energy, health and nutrition, food production, etc.) for teachers to use with their students; seven educational cartoon brochures on the same seven topics (with characters like “Taffie the Thorobred”, “Coolie the Chicken”, “Freddie the Forester”, and “Mayor Cheddarman”) that include word searches, matches, and scrambles for students to do after their Farmer Brown Tha’ MC lessons; and a variety of Farmer Brown Tha’ MC hip hop videos (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FR839BTl4Pw, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhu_xJ2XOFc).
In early 2016, Mr. Claiborn began doing in-school presentations with elementary-aged youth, starting out at his alma mater, Northern Elementary School, in Lexington, KY. Since then, he has presented at various schools in Lexington and Frankfort, as well as presenting to youth involved in summer camps in both Cleveland and Chicago. Since early 2015, Trevor has presented his project at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research in North Carolina, the Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Annual Research Symposium, ReForest Frankfort, the Central KY MOSAIIC Conference, KSU’s Liberal Studies Symposium, and more. Trevor is a member of the KSU Student EE Leadership Cohort, part of the EECapacity Kentucky EE consortium, and took a leadership role in everything the KSU campus cohort took on over the semester. He did all of the artwork and fliers for the group’s Go Green, Be Gold: Sustainability Series that was held in April of 2016, keeping the art themes as close to Farmer Brown Tha’ MC as he could.
When one thinks of the attributes of a rising star, Trevor Claiborn is what comes to mind. He is the promise of a better tomorrow and a stronger field of environmental education, and one that reaches children and adults representative of all facets of diversity, as he is patient, open-minded, and never one to judge. This young man holds great promise for Kentucky and beyond and will certainly be well known in the field of environmental education throughout his career.
Congratulations to Mr. Trevor Claiborn for being named KAEE’s 2016 Rising Star in Environmental Education.
M.K. Dickerson Individual of the Year Award:
Kathy Miller, in her previous school district, earned an Environmental Steward Award. Throughout this school year, she has taken several initiatives to improve the grounds and the environment of our school. Cox’s Creek Elementary sits on 36 acres and used to have outdoor gardens and walking trails. The school has had several changes, so the grounds became neglected and overgrown. Kathy worked with the FFA, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts to clean and create gardening areas around our perimeter. She had her classroom clear the trails, so they could be used by the classrooms for nature hikes. She organized volunteers to donate a day of clearing the trails. She utilizes and encourages the school to be green and has students recycle many things. Her most recent work has been with the local Lowe’s store. She received a quote to update the landscaping of the grounds. Lowe’s is providing the trees, shrubs, and flowers, along with labor to beautify our school.
Congratulations to the Kathy Miller on being the 2016 KAEE Excellence in EE M.K. Dickerson Individual of the Year.
Outstanding Pre-K-12 Environmental Educator:
As a 6th grade Science teacher at Rowan County Middle School (RCMS), Jennifer Pecco has worked diligently to incorporate environmental education into the school atmosphere. Over the past five years she has established numerous environmental initiatives at RCMS. She has worked with students to help RCMS become a Green and Healthy school. Her students have conducted surveys and established numerous projects as a result of those surveys. She and her students established a paper and plastic recycling program, which placed paper recycling bins in every classroom and plastic recycling bins in the cafeteria and hallways. She also leads the initiative to establish an outdoor wetland (which is one of the largest for a school in the state). The wetland has 5 different wetland environments and has developed a well established ecosystem that students use to collect data. They also implemented an energy initiative program to help teachers throughout the school conserve energy. All of these initiatives allowed RCMS to gain the Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools School in Progress Status in 2013.
Beginning with the 2015 school year, Jennifer implemented the RCMS gardens in conjunction with a Project Based Learning Initiative through Morehead States 21st Century Enterprise. Seven raised beds were created so students could plan, maintain, and harvest vegetables with hopes of combating community hunger. Students used the money raised to purchase Thanksgiving baskets for families in need of food for Thanksgiving at our school. She also received the Lowe’s toolbox grant this year to help further the development of the RCMS gardens. Future plans include establishing more raised beds, walkways, benches, and rain barrels to collect water for watering plants.
As a result of the gardening project, RCMS also began Vermi-composting using four compost bins. Students were able to see how energy flowed from the vegetable we grew in the garden to worms in the compost bin as they decomposed the food. RCMS and Jennifer received the KAEE KELP Grant to aid in the cost of the Vermi-composting and establish a Pollinators garden near our raised beds. At this time, they are progressing in the establishment of the pollinators garden. Students will learn the importance of pollinators in relation to their gardens and help create a habitat for them to thrive.
All of these environmental initiatives have helped to establish an educational experience that ensures environmental education is included at RCMS. Other teachers at RCMS have built upon the initiatives that I helped to establish. My main objective is that my students learn how to become stewards for their environment and others, in hopes of one day creating positive change in the world.
Congratulations to Jennifer on her recognition as the 2016 Excellence in EE Outstanding Pre K-12 Educator.
Outstanding Community Partner Award:
Jefferson Memorial Forest
Jefferson Memorial Forest’s environmental education program staff have made a mission to connect urban, underserved youth to the outdoors. Eight years ago, we started our Louisville ECHO (Engaging CHildren Outdoors) environmental education program, serving 4th grade classes in the Jefferson County Public Schools. In 2014, we expanded ECHO to include an Out of School Time Recreation component for youth during the school year. That same year, we added a free Teen Adventure Summer Day Camp for teens in high-poverty neighborhoods. These three components of ECHO allow us to connect 3700 underserved youth to the outdoors! Our other school programs and summer camps add about 2300 youth to that number, for a total of just over 6,000 kids in the outdoors each year!
The ECHO environmental education program serves 6 schools. All our programming is driven by the NGSS and the school curriculum. We work with teachers over the summer to plan the program for the year. The program includes multiple visits to parks, a campout in the forest, a service-learning project (usually tree planting), and a field trip to either Red River Gorge or Mammoth Cave. We strongly believe that we make the biggest impact when we see the kids over and over again, and they can develop a comfort level of the outdoors, and then eventually a connection. Seeing their faces light up makes every single caught tadpole, crayfish, and dragonfly nymph new again!
The ECHO recreation program partners with Metro Parks and Recreation Community Centers, as well as 6 other youth service organizations. We partner with many local and national organizations to make this program happen. One of the most exciting partnerships is with Wilderness Inquiry, who brings their Canoemobile to get kids out on the Ohio River! It’s unbelievable how many urban kids grow up just blocks from the Ohio and have never even seen it, and don’t even know it’s there. This program has been able to get about 300 people out into our parks to go canoeing on the river each year. In addition to canoeing, ECHO Rec participants get to try archery, rock climbing, fishing, hiking, a learn outdoor survival skills. One of the groups we work with, a home for troubled teenage girls has described how she sees the girls’ confidence grow as they climb a wall that they didn’t think they could climb. Our first summer of teen camp, we worked with the Youth Detention Center. One of the boys told me that he had never felt as free as he had in the forest, and that he wanted to come live here.
Congratulations to Jefferson Memorial Forest for its recognition as the 2016 KAEE Excellence in EE Outstanding Community Partner.
Outstanding Business Award:
Thermal Equipment Sales
Our future begins with the education of our children. With approximately 1 in 5 people attending or working in a school every day, where else could you go to educate so many people, including our next generation’s leaders, on the importance of sustainability? By reaching out to schools, we can minimize our impact on the Earth to attempt to leave this place for the next generation as good as it was when we received it, so everybody can enjoy the same opportunities in nature as we had when we arrived. At the end of the day, if the “only” thing we did was help our schools save a lot of energy, thus saving the schools and tax payers money, then we’ve still accomplished something by again helping our next generation. When schools such as Rosa Parks Elementary can save over $50,000/year predominantly through education and behavioral changes, it sure seems like it’s worth attempting, to help put one more teacher back into the classroom.
As a company who allows all of its employees to take some time off from work to volunteer in their communities every year, the Green Schools initiative across Kentucky has certainly been one of their primary focuses for not only volunteering time, but also financial resources, to help lead by example.
Chris Tyler serves as the CEO of Thermal Equipment Sales, as the chair of the Kentucky US Green Building Council’s Green Schools Committee, and is a board member of the Kentucky School Plant Manager Association. Chris has also recently helped launch the Kentucky Green Schools Coalition, a Coalition to bring together our Commonwealth’s strongest supporters to create a statewide infrastructure of green schools that are healthy, high performance educational institutions (pre-kindergarten through postsecondary).
Thermal Equipment has shown a great deal of dedication to environmental education through its support of green schools initiatives through outstanding donations of employee time and financial funding.
Congratulations to Thermal Equipment Sales for being named the 2016 KAEE Excellence in EE Outstanding Business Award recipient.