2015 Becker Award Winners

From a South Valley farm to a southern NM trail race, our 2015 award winners have taken environmental education and run with it!

Garcia and Haan-AmatoThe Dr. Richard W. Becker Award honors New Mexico’s outstanding educators who are influencing students through environmental education and service learning. For 2015, we recognize two amazing individuals: Joe Garcia, Farm Education Director at La Plazita Institute, and Stephanie Haan-Amato, Science Education Specialist at the Asombro Institute for Science Education in Las Cruces.

Joe Garcia

Crops at Sanchez Farm

A garden bed at Sanchez Farm. Photo courtesy of Bernalillo County.

Joe Garcia is the Farm Education Director at La Plazita Institute in Albuquerque’s South Valley. He has worked with the County Parks and Recreation office in California, La Plazita Institute as the Garden Manager and Educator, at UNM teaching classes, and working on numerous boards and committees.

During his time as Farm Education Director for La Plazita at Sanchez Farm Open Space, Joe worked with groups from Peanut Butter and Jelly preschoolers to college students to professionals at the Farm.  He has engaged numerous groups in service learning projects that include habitat restoration and garden-related activities, emphasizing the importance of service learning projects in the context of our larger environment and local community. He inspires people to deeply reflect on the incredible planet we live on, and see the magic all around us. Currently, he is working with college students as he facilitates the Garden Wisdom Program for transformative learning.

Joe has continued his own graduate education, now pursuing a Doctorate in Transformative Learning and Holistic Education. He keeps up-to-date on environmental literacy and philosophies of education that result in civic action and personal growth. Joe has partnered with EEANM through several projects, bringing a depth of experience and perspective.

Joe has been described as “the consummate conservation education professional who is passionate, hard-working and knowledgeable in natural history, environmental education and natural resource interpretation. Moreover, Mr. Garcia has a keen ability to relate to varied stakeholders and engage nontraditional audiences all the while being an effective environmental educator.”

Stephanie Haan-Amato

5KArroyo-Desert-Dash-Asombro

Runners enjoying the Chihuahuan Desert during the Desert Dash. Photo courtesy of Asombro Institute.

Stephanie Haan-Amato is the Science Education Specialist at the Asombro Institute for Science Education in Las Cruces. She previously worked as a biologist and a high school biology teacher. Stephanie’s focus has been on three programs that highlight her talent for engaging participants in environmental education through stewardship and collaboration: (1) Earth Squad citizen action program, (2) Climate Hub curriculum development, and (3) Desert Dash Trail Races.

Stephanie created the Earth Squad citizen action program in spring 2013 to give youth a sense of power and personal investment when they implement solutions to environmental issues. Students worked with Stephanie over 11 weeks, learning about greenhouse gases and how to find reliable, online scientific resources about climate change. Equipped with this new knowledge of climate change science, students brainstormed potential actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and then formed 3 committees to implement their plans: (a) a school recycling plan involving students, staff, and parents, (b) a campaign and contest to reduce energy used at school by turning off unused lights and appliances, (c) a “no- idling zone” in the parent pick-up area to reduce carbon emissions from idling cars.

USDA’s Southwest Regional Climate Hub delivers climate-smart information and technologies for agriculture and land management. Stephanie is developing five, inquiry-based education modules for middle and high school students who will become the next farmers, ranchers, land managers, and informed citizens. Stephanie developed the first module on the impact of global climate change on the water cycle in the southwest U.S. The unit includes nine hands-on activities to help students understand causes and consequences of predicted climate change on the Southwest’s water cycle through innovative experiments, games, critical readings, and data interpretation and presentation.                          

The Desert Dash Trail Races are now an annual event at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park. The event brings people out to enjoy getting active and supporting Asombro’s programming.

 

Join us to Honor and Celebrate!

Join us in celebrating Barbara Garrity’s retirement after 8 1/2 years as our Executive Director! She has been selected to receive the Outstanding Service to Environmental Education Award and Joe Garcia and Stephanie Hahn-Amato will receive the Dr. Richard W. Becker Award for Outstanding Environmental Educator.  Joe Garcia will receive his award at this gathering and Stephanie Haan-Amato will receive hers on January 18 in Las Cruces.
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New Partnership with New Mexico MainStreet Program

NMMS logoEEANM will partner with four NM MainStreet Program locations–Raton, Farmington, Grants and Truth or Consequences–to hold teacher workshops using the secondary module of Project Learning Tree (PLT), Places We Live. The PLT guidebook offers a planning curriculum as a way of assessing and affecting the urban environment. Continue Reading →

2014 PLT Outstanding Educator – Taylor Mayer

Taylor Mayer 2014 PLT Outstanding Educator

L to R: Elena Kayak (Energy/Environmental Specialist for Rio Rancho Public Schools), Barbara Garrity (Executive Director of EEANM), Taylor Mayer, Cathy Gaarden (Principal of Sandia Vista Elementary School), and Jean Szymanski (Regional Conservation Ed. Coordinator, USFS)

Taylor Mayer, first grade teacher from Sandia Vista Elementary School in Rio Rancho, received the 2014 NM PLT Outstanding Educator Award.

Her nominator, Amy Waymire, provided this description of her work at school:

“Taylor received Planet Learning Tree training in the fall of 2013. Since this time, she has integrated a number of practices and projects into her curriculum at school. In addition to this, she established and led Sandia Vista Elementary’s first green team for staff and an additional after-school club for students. The staff green team has allowed Taylor to share many of the lessons and curriculum she has developed using the PLT training she received.

One piece of education that has benefited a number of classrooms is the compost system she started. This allowed our classrooms to collect our organic waste from lunch and create compost for our community garden. Taylor shared a number of CCSS aligned lessons from PLT to facilitate learning about composting.

In addition, Taylor has used the PLT curriculum to facilitate the student Green Team club she started following her training. Each week, the students in this club explore environmental education through hands on projects and community service based on PLT lessons. Taylor’s enthusiasm and leadership towards environmental education has attracted over 30 students from our school to join this club. She has also engaged many of the staff members through this effort as well.

She has brought awareness and education to the staff and greatly increased the participation of staff in environmental education. We greatly value Taylor as an educator at Sandia Vista Elementary and commend her commitment to environmental education and the contributions she has made as a result of her PLT training.”

Youth Conference on the Environment Returns

Thanks to continued support from Lockheed Martin, we are co-hosting the 17th Annual Youth Conference on the Environment on April 8, 2014.

The free, one-day event offers high school science students opportunities to learn about environmental issues in NM. It is currently booked to capacity, but email Katrina Wagner from Sandia National Labs to join the waiting list or be notified next year.


This article was originally published in EE Connections for Spring 2014 [PDF].

2013 PLT Outstanding Educator – Noel Chilton

Noel Chilton 2013 PLT Outstanding EducatorNoel Chilton is the 2013 NM PLT Outstanding Educator of the Year!

Noel is an highly skilled and dedicated educator, parent and activist. She was nominated by both her former principal at Coronado Elementary School, Anna Marie Ulibarrί, and her colleague, Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, Early Childhood Education Coordinator from the NM Museum of Natural History and Science.

Her work with the students, faculty and parents at Coronado, as well as her advocacy work in NM is well-regarded. Under her direction, the students participated in the creation of the inspiring video, “Coronado Connects the Dots.” Noel also led the 350 Action Day at Coronado, which brought awareness of rising carbon in our atmosphere. She signed up Coronado as a PLT Green School, attended the training, and worked with the students to complete the audits. She was also responsible for arranging the PLT inservice at Coronado. Many other activities were mentioned by her nominators, and we know of more instances than they mentioned in their nominations, such as when she helped facilitate PLT workshops as a volunteer.

Pricipal Ulibarrί, stated, “Noel demonstrates a quiet, focused and inspirational leadership. She has worked effectively with our parents, staff, and students to implement positive changes at our school. Noel is also very knowledgeable and holds a high standard for the capacities of our children. She is open to their ideas and has provided thought provoking, life changing experiences for them. I know she has made a huge difference at our site.”

Ms. Snider-Bryan stated, “in my 25 plus years as an educator and parent, I have rarely seen this level of understanding by elementary-aged children experiencing environmental education. Noel Chilton’s creative actions as Green Team Leader have guided youth to understand human impact on the environment, aided by her ingenuous interpretation of Project Learning Tree curriculum.”

“We know first hand the power and passion of Noel’s dedication to the environment and the role our youth play in sustainability. Not only is she one of the best environmental and art educators I know she is also friend and parent making a profound difference in the world. Our children and our community are thankful for all the small and large moments of beauty, enlightenment and change Noel has shared with us.” ~Lonnie Anderson via Facebook

The Lorax Comes to Jarales, NM

Reading the LoraxJean Szymanski, Education Coordinator with the Forest Service, Southwestern Region, was the guest reader at the National Education Association’s (NEA) Read Across America Day. Read Across America Day is an annual event sponsored by the NEA to promote literacy. This year they read The Lorax, the classic tale of a forest guardian who shares the enduring power of hope.
NEA’s Read Across America Program is their signature literacy effort to help children develop a love of reading. Continue Reading →

2012 PLT Outstanding Educator – Carolyn Nesbitt

Carolyn Nesbitt is NM PLT's 2012 Outstanding EducatorNew Mexico Project Learning Tree (PLT) has announced its first annual Outstanding Educator of the Year. Carolyn Nesbitt is the Fenton Ranch Director for Manzano Day School, where she is responsible for teaching students about the natural environment at a retreat in the Jemez Mountains. Continue Reading →

Project Learning Tree’s Green Schools! Program

On January 19th, four NM schools sent representatives to a training by Al Stenstrup of Project Learning Tree and Vicki Arthur of the Forest Service Conservation Education offices in Washington D.C. The schools are Desert Ridge and Madison Middle Schools, Coronado Elementary School and Rio Grande School. Continue Reading →