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Forestry Board recognizes outstanding forest educators
06/05/2008
Contact: Doug Decker, 503-359-7439, or
Susan Sahnow, 541-737-3005      
 
The Oregon Board of Forestry today recognized two educators and a school district for excellence in forestry education. The Mary Rellergert Forestry Education Award, which honors individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the advancement of education and understanding of forestry, was given to:
  • Pam Wilson, a Philomath Middle School teacher, in the Formal Educator category
  • Tillamook School District No. 9 in the Organization category
  • Kristin Babbs, education program coordinator with the Tillamook Forest Center, in the Non-Formal Educator category.
 
The award was named to honor the Oregon Department of Forestry's former Tillamook State Forest education coordinator, Mary Rellergert, who passed away in February 2004. Rellergert was a founder of the Tillamook State Forest Education Program, which provides quality forest learning experiences for kindergarten through 12th grade students at the Tillamook Forest Center.
 
Pam Wilson, Corvallis
In her 16 years as a fifth-grade teacher, Pam Wilson actively engaged her students in learning by using the forest as a context for studying reading, writing, math and science. In addition to classroom lessons focused on forests, she also initiated a "special places" unit in which her students conducted studies in the forest near the Middle School. And each fall, she took her class further afield to learn about the needs of Chinook salmon in the local watershed. Today, Wilson shares her passion for nature with fellow teachers, and those learning to become teachers, at Oregon State University and Linn-Benton Community College.
 
As a Project Learning Tree (PLT) facilitator, she trains other educators to use the natural resources curriculum to engage their students both inside and outside the classroom. Wilson also mentors numerous facilitators to further extend the PLT outreach and provide educators with the tools to engage their students with the environment.
 
Kristin Babbs, Forest Grove and Tillamook
At the beginning of her career as a forest educator with the Oregon Department of Forestry, Kristin Babbs worked for Mary Rellergert. They conducted hundreds of forestry education programs for school kids together on the Tillamook State Forest. Today, as education program coordinator for the Tillamook Forest Center, she continues the work Rellergert began and has expanded the educational opportunities. Babbs' efforts have opened the door for thousands of Oregonians to connect with the forest through meaningful learning experiences. And, like Wilson, she trains educators in the Project Learning Tree curriculum. Her work also includes forest education outreach to Oregon communities.
 
Tillamook School District
When teacher Ed Armstrong and superintendent Randy Schild decided several years ago to create a natural resources program for Tillamook School District No. 9, they wanted to open students' eyes to the rich and diverse flora and fauna of northwestern Oregon. Looking back on Armstrong's subsequent accomplishments, Schild said, "I find it hard to believe there could be anyone in the state who has done more for forestry in the education system."
 
Armstrong, with the support of Schild and others, created a natural resources focus for the entire district, from kindergarten through 12th grade. Teachers at all levels employ a curriculum centered on project-based learning, forestry education and service learning.
 
The district has generated more than $3 million in grants and gifts to support its premier natural resources program. And teams of teachers go on the road each year to share their projects with fellow teachers across the state.
 
"Kris, Pam and the Tillamook School District exemplify the spirit of this award and the person for whom it is named," said Susan Sahnow, director of the Oregon Natural Resources Program at Oregon State University. "Their ability to inspire and engage people in learning promotes enduring connections between people and Oregon's forests."
 
The 2008 Rellergert Forestry Education Award winners were selected from a list of nominees by a panel of forestry educators from the Oregon State University College of Forestry, Oregon Forest Resources Institute, Oregon Department of Forestry and past recipients of the award.