In 2014, Five Rivers MetroParks created the OUTstanding Teacher Award through the Cox Arboretum Foundation with generous grant from the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation. The award recognizes three exceptional educators from the Greater Dayton Area who have gone above and beyond in bringing engaging environmental experiences that inspire students to shape attitudes and actions for nature. Teachers are nominated in either the Rising Star category (less than 10 years experience), the Leader category (10-20 years experience), or the Lifetime Achievement category (20 or more years experience). Nominations come from students, parents, fellow teachers, administrators, and friends. These teachers are catalysts in facilitating a vibrant school community, encouraging teachers and parents to get kids active in nature. It’s important that Cox Arboretum and Five Rivers MetroParks supports and recognizes these educators, because they support the MetroParks' mission to provide outdoor experiences that inspire a personal connection with nature. In order to support these teachers in their quest to get kids outside and weave nature into the curriculum, each teacher receives a membership to the Cox Arboretum Foundation and the Environmental Education Council of Ohio (EECO) for 1 year, registration fees for the “101 Alternatives to the Chalkboard” teacher conference in October to Camp Kern, a plant kit, transportation for their class to take a field trip to Cox Arboretum, and outdoor education school supplies.
Brian is in his element in the outdoors and has weekly outdoor classroom days. These days consist of everything from tapping maple trees, building sapling wigwams, practicing archery, digging holes and climbing trees, as students are given time to explore nature freely. Brian also takes advantage of the school’s proximity to the Glen Helen Nature Center and leads weekly hikes for his students year-round. Brian’s dedication to outdoor learning has inspired many of his co-workers to adapt and have more of their classes outdoors.
Elements of nature can be found scattered around Suzanne’s classroom, as she knows nature sparks creativity in her students. Suzanne was instrumental in creating and maintaining the school’s multi-sensory garden and encourages her students to use this space and other natural spaces at Primary Village South to grow their art and observation skills through the use of a nature journal. Suzanne provides rich, meaningful experiences for her students to understand the connection between themselves, art and nature.
Patricia shares her love and appreciation of nature with her students. Recently, she and her students created the “Roosevelt Garden”, which consists of raised beds for flowers and vegetables, grapevine and a fruit tree. The creation of the garden challenged the students critical thinking skills as they decided which plants would thrive in their garden. When not caring for the garden, Patricia’s students can often be found having outdoor picnics as they read books, using nature to explore new concepts such as measurements or observing and caring for the classroom pets and plants.