Dr. Michele A. Korb is an associate professor and science educator in the College of Education and Allied Studies at California State University-East Bay.
Michele consistently inspires students to engage, experience, and connect to the natural world through her enthusiasm and passion for environmental education. She teaches science methods education at the elementary, middle, and secondary levels with a focus on inquiry-based learning, and she has successfully infused the PLT curriculum into her undergraduate courses. Michele has supported California PLT by serving on the advisory committee, participating in program development retreats, and leading facilitator trainings. She has developed an educator tool that uses PLT activities to assist in designing units of study that support Next Generation Science Standards’ three-dimensional teaching and learning. She presented sessions on these topics at conferences of the National Science Teachers Association and North American Association for Environmental Education.
Michele was named a National PLT Leadership in Education Award honoree in 2018.
Meera Varigonda, English Language Learners Instructional Educator, Oak Valley Middle School, San Diego, California
Meera Varigonda has a strong background in urban planning and community design. She came to the United States from Canada, where she was a land use planner and college instructor. She first became involved with PLT as a reviewer for the Places We Live module and has since become an active facilitator and presenter. She is helping to coordinate the PLT GreenSchools program with high schools in San Diego. At Oak Valley Middle School, she works with students in grades 6 to 9 in a multi-language classroom and uses PLT activities with her students. She has also introduced PLT to the California’s Building Healthy Communities Initiative and the California After School Network.
“As a liaison for Project Learning Tree, Meera has been instrumental in bringing the GreenSchools program to my school. Her work to establish environmental education has impacted many young people’s lives.”
– Michelle Stuart, Crawford High School, San Diego, California
Meera was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2013.
Joy Barney, Conservation Education Program Specialist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, coordinates and implements programs that connect children and adults to nature in five counties around Lake Tahoe. She has spent her career working in California’s parks and forests.
When she came to Lake Tahoe in 2007, she found many children were surrounded by the forest but not connected to it. In response, she developed innovative programs for kindergarten through high school students. She created Generation Green of Lake Tahoe, through which high school students learn job skills, teamwork, and an understanding of natural resource management. With a grant from PLT’s GreenWorks! service-learning program, she developed the Angora Burn Tree Education and Planting project, which involved students and the community in learning about and contributing to forest restoration after the devastating 2007 Angora Fire. She also helped establish the South Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition, made up of government agencies, schools, and nonprofit groups.
“Joy is a lifelong advocate for conservation and environmental education. She is also committed to engaging underserved youth and community members in learning about and participating in conservation activities.”
– Kay Antunez, California PLT State Coordinator
Joy was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2011.
Patricia (Tricia) Dunlap grew up in the Los Angeles area, but spent many weekends and vacations enjoying the unbuilt environment. “My love of the outdoors has defined who I am and what I have chosen to do for all my life,” she says, remembering the camping trips and picnics she took with her family as a child.
During college, she became a naturalist-intern at Foothill Horizons Outdoor School in Sonora, where she realized that teaching was the way for her to share her love of the outdoors with others. She earned her teaching credentials in 1992 and has taught in a variety of settings ever since.
Tricia is a science and environmental education consultant, coordinating forestry and other environmental programs within the Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools Office. She teaches science at Curtis Creek Elementary School and also works with Special Education interns for the Stanislaus County Office of Education. In each of these roles, PLT is front and center.
Tricia’s goal is to connect youth with the natural forest community that surrounds them. She organized a program called the Tuolumne County Forestry Youth Partnership, in which high school students shadow U.S. Forest Service staff for six weeks during the summer. Through a PLT GreenWorks! grant, students in the program learned about fire ecology and participated in a unique field trip to the Mt. Elizabeth fire lookout station.
In 2006, Tricia developed the concept and raised the funding for California’s fourth Forestry Institute for Teachers, a week-long program for K-12 educators. In her role as the Region 6 Coordinator for the California Regional Environmental Education Community Network, Tricia also plans and carries out workshops for classroom teachers and after-school leaders.
“Tricia is a lifelong advocate for forestry and environmental education. She is committed to the work we are trying to do in California to support and advance EE.”
– Kay Antunez, California PLT State Coordinator
Tricia was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2009.