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Forestry Board honors outstanding forest educators
For Immediate Release                                                
Major Media Distribution
November 3, 2011                                                          
Rod Nichols, 503-945-7425
Susan Sahnow, 541-737-3005
The Oregon Board of Forestry today recognized three individuals and an organization for excellence in forestry education. The annual Mary Rellergert Forestry Education award honors significant contributions to public education and understanding of forestry in Oregon. The 2011 winners are:
  • Kari O’Connell, PhD, Oregon State University (OSU), Corvallis - Formal Educator category
  • Tom Fields, Douglas Forest Protective Association, Roseburg - Non-Formal Educator category
  • Forests Today & Forever (FT&F), Eugene - Organization category
  • Norie Dimeo-Ediger, Oregon Forest Resources Institute, Portland – State Forester’s award

Formal Educator category
Kari O’Connell
In her former role as director of Oregon State University’s H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest and current position as project coordinator of the Oregon Natural Resources Education program (ONREP), Kari O’Connell has provided forestry education experiences for a vast array of Oregonians, ranging in age from kindergarten students to life-long learners. As a research scientist also experienced at working with educators, she has demonstrated a unique ability to link researchers with teachers to transfer field research into relevant, field–based projects for students.
In nominating O’Connell for the award, OSU forestry professor Barbara Bond, PhD, highlighted the “Teachers as Researchers” program O’Connell developed.
“Her workshops and training sessions focus entirely on hands-on research experience for teachers, and strategies for them to in turn provide hands-on learning experiences in forests with their students,” she said.
No ivory tower academic, in her former job as director of the Andrews Forest O’Connell played a lead role in an annual open house at the site east of Springfield that typically draws 120 or more, including members of the local community as well as state and local elected officials. In her current position, she has engaged 60 middle school and high school teachers (who reach more than 5,000 students each year) in long-term professional development projects that support teachers in involving their students in field-based science inquiry.  

Non-Formal educator category
Tom Fields
Currently with the Oregon Department of Forestry, Tom Fields served in a dual role as fire educator and information officer with his former employer, the Douglas Forest Protective Association. On any given day with the Association he might have been found in a classroom teaching grade-schoolers fire prevention, or in the forest reporting breaking news on a wildfire. And whenever a large fire broke out and his incident management team was dispatched, the place to look for him was on the fire line leading reporters to the best spots to photograph the action.  
Roseburg elementary school teacher Wendy Jessen described Fields’ ability to connect with kids:
“Information is presented in a clear and easy-to-understand format. Videos and conversations are at the students’ level, and examples are given to help clarify concepts clearly,” she said.
On some occasions, he rode into classrooms on a scooter with music blaring, high-fived kids and danced with teachers to get everyone excited about preventing human-caused fires.
When asked to assist with national Fire Prevention Week (FPW), Fields demonstrated a gift for organizing. As president of the Douglas County Fire Prevention Cooperative, he took his fire safety and awareness message to the community, contacting 13 schools and attracting more than 1,300 students to the 2010 event. In addition to the students, more than 8,000 people of all ages were motivated to make their way through the festivities that year that included participation from 20 volunteer fire departments and wildland fire agencies. The reduction in fires and fire-related injuries in the county can be linked in great part to the success of the fire educator’s annual FPW outreach work.  

Organization category
Forests Today & Forever
Founded in 1985, Forests Today & Forever (FT&F) is best known for its highly successful Forest Field Day (FFD). Begun in Corvallis, FFD teaches sixth- and seventh-graders about forest stewardship through on-the-ground experiences. Some of the tree farmers who hosted the event have remarked that they could actually implement the management plans that the students produced.
Since FT&F brought Forest Field Day to the Eugene area in the early 1990s, some 45,000 students, teachers and parents have been served by the program. Each year FFD draws about 1,500 kids from 34 area schools.
At the Oregon Logging Conference held in Eugene, FT&F and Oregon Women in Timber organize a forestry education event that draws several hundred students annually. They meet a working forester and learn about the job, take a guided tour of the logging equipment on display, and receive an introduction to the science of forestry from professional educators.
The Willamette Valley forestry community’s appreciation for the work of Forests Today & Forever is exemplified in an offer made by a local couple. They plan to bequeath their woodland property to FT&F to be managed as a working forest and forestry education site.

State Forester's award
Norie Dimeo-Ediger
This year a new category has been added to the Mary Rellergert awards: the State Forester’s award.
“This is an opportunity to reach beyond the formal nominating process, bestowing a special honor on an exceptional contributor to the cause of forestry education,” State Forester Doug Decker said. “Norie Dimeo-Ediger is a teacher of teachers, having helped countless teachers open their students’ eyes to the wonder, richness and complexity of forests.”
Dimeo-Ediger is director of K-12 education programs at the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI). In 2010, she led a statewide effort that gathered educators, academics and forest resource specialists, all in pursuit of the answer to the question, What should every student know about Oregon’s forests?
The result is the Oregon Forest Literacy Program.
This year, she played a key role in OFRI’s winning the Project Learning Tree Gold Star Award. The national award singled out Dimeo-Ediger for her leadership in Oregon, and for helping to guide activities that reach beyond Oregon to benefit forestry education programs in other states.
Rick Zenn, Senior Fellow at the World Forestry Center in Portland, described the OFRI educator as “smart, conscientious, hard-working, and committed to advancing public understanding about the value of Oregon’s forests.” 
The Rellergert award series honor the Oregon Department of Forestry’s former forest education coordinator, Mary Rellergert, who passed away in February 2004. Rellergert was a highly regarded forest education leader and founder of the Tillamook State Forest Education Program, which provides high quality forest learning experiences for K-12 students at the Tillamook Forest Center.
The 2011 Mary Rellergert Forestry Education Award winners were selected by a panel of forestry educators from the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Natural Resources Education Program, and past recipients of the award.