Early Childhood

  • Outstanding Educator
    Dawn Hammon

    Dawn Hammon Outstanding Educator
    Dawn Hammon, Kindergarten Teacher, Center for Inquiry School #84, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Dawn Hammon taught at several public schools in Indianapolis, most recently at Cold Spring Environmental Magnet School, before she joined the Center for Inquiry in 2014. She uses PLT activities to spark interest in the environment in young urban students through outdoor and classroom projects. Her students have started school gardens and composting projects, as well as planting native vegetation to contain surface runoff from a parking lot. Within weeks of starting her new position, she created a Junior Naturalist Club for students in kindergarten through Grade 2.

    Dawn works with community groups to organize outdoor science days for the entire school and develops programs to involve parents in learning about environmental topics with their children. Read her tips for involving parents in their children’s learning. 

    In addition to her classroom duties, Dawn is the lead science trainer to kindergarten teachers in the Indianapolis Public School System. Dawn received the 2015 Barbara Pitman Outstanding Educator Award recipient for her application of and enthusiasm for children’s literature within the field of environmental education.

    “Dawn spends evenings, weekends, and summers helping other teachers become comfortable with science and how to bring the environment into their classrooms.”

    – Amy Hach, Teacher, Cold Spring Environmental Magnet School, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Dawn was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2015.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Will Bollwerk

    Will Bollwerk Outstanding Educator
    Will Bollwerk, Master Teacher, Salt Lake Community Action Program, Head Start, Salt Lake City, Utah

    Will Bollwerk began with the Head Start program as an assistant teacher in 2008 and quickly advanced to his current position. He initiated and implemented a partnership between PLT and Salt Lake Head Start to introduce environmental education into all 84 Head Start preschool classrooms in the city that serve low-income families.

    He leads numerous professional development workshops for Salt Lake early childhood education specialists, mentor coaches, and special needs coordinators, and visits classrooms to assist new and sometimes struggling teachers. Over the past five years, he has facilitated more than 25 PLT workshops throughout the state, always tailored to the group he is training, with themes ranging from educating children outdoors safely to using the environment to teach STEM concepts.

    Will teaches at-risk children at The Road Home’s supportive housing development that helps people overcome homelessness. He enlisted the help of shelter residents and community members to turn an outdoor area into a working garden and uses PLT activities to introduce children to nature and create a new excitement for learning. He has implemented programs to recycle and reduce waste to increase children’s awareness and caring for the environment. In 2014, he was honored as the Utah Head Start Teacher of the Year.

    Will was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2015.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Barbara Adams

    Barbara Adams, Teacher, Clifton Park Nursery School, Clifton Park, New York

    Barbara Adams has taken the lead in helping Clifton Park Nursery School institute recycling, clean with greener products, and teach pre-schoolers about the environment. Using PLT as a foundation, she introduces her students to the natural world, using puzzles, stories, outdoor observation, and other activities. She has developed strong connections with two nearby environmental centers. Prior to coming to Clifton Park, she was head teacher at the Guiderland Community Center Summer Camp, connecting children to the outdoors.

    “Because of her commitment to teaching about the natural world and how to responsibly co-exist with it, all children who are lucky enough to have her as a preschool teacher have instilled within them a true sense of reverence for the environment and for learning.”

    – Lisa Mendel, Co-Chair, Clifton Park Nursery School, Clifton Park, New York

    Barbara was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2014.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Karen Mack

    Karen Mack, Co-Director, Aleph Academy, and University of Nevada Extension Instructor, Reno, Nevada

    Karen Mack wears two hats that support environmental education and PLT, especially for the preschool audience. She became a PLT facilitator in 2010, and Aleph Academy was one of the first schools in the state to adopt PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood program. At Aleph, children spend large blocks of time outside in the school’s natural playscape, and Karen has involved parents and community members in adding features to the area that will enhance student learning. As an instructor with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, she has trained thousands of early childhood educators since 2004. Her emphasis on increasing children’s connections with nature has led to further involvement with PLT. In 2011, she received the Nevada PLT Outstanding Educator Award.

    “Karen Mack’s commitment to environmental education is exemplary…To her, it is all about using learning to instill a love for nature in children.”

    – Sarah Cunin, Educational Director, Aleph Academy

    Karen was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2012.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Ginger Reasonover

    Ginger Reasonover, Science Lab Coordinator, David Lipscomb Elementary School, Nashville, Tennessee

    Ginger Reasonover is a nonformal educator who reaches students through her work as a science lab coordinator, as well as through Scout, church, and other community groups. She has helped shape environmental education at her school by developing an outdoor classroom, school-wide recycling, and other activities to green her school. Thanks to Ginger’s efforts, the school is recognized as a model on the Environmental Education in Tennessee website, and she often answers inquiries from other schools who aspire to meet that criteria. She serves on the Tennessee Outdoor Classroom Symposium committee and the Tennessee Environmental Literacy Plan committee. She uses PLT with 360 students, PreK through grade 4.

    Ginger was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2011.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Rob Marohn

    Rob Marohn, 5th Grade Teacher, Bay View Elementary School, Duluth, Minnesota

    Rob Marohn, who was first introduced to PLT in college, now uses PLT activities every week with his fifth grade students at Bay View Elementary School in Duluth, Minnesota. Rob is a tireless advocate for the Bay View School Forest and is also its primary steward. He encourages all teachers to use the forest site and has helped train fellow educators in how to teach in an outdoor setting to enhance classroom learning, including hosting a two-day PLT “How to Teach in Your School Forest” workshop.

    Rob uses PLT in two programs he created for students: Forest Buddies, in which fifth graders take younger students into the forest to conduct PLT activities, and the after-school Bay View School Forest Club, which offers activities focusing on recreation, education, and conservation for different grade levels each month. Rob’s students have made several presentations to the Proctor and Duluth City Councils on issues affecting forests, watershed health, and land development.

    Rob himself is working with the State of Minnesota, St. Louis County, and City of Duluth to secure an additional 90 acres for the Proctor School District to utilize as a school forest. In addition to planning for an eight-week Urban Wilderness Summer Camp and managing bins full of worms used for vermicomposting, this spring Rob has been helping his students prepare five gallons of maple syrup for their annual community pancake breakfast. The funds generated from this event support their class field trip, a two-night stay at an environmental learning center.

    The mayor appointed Rob to the City of Duluth Tree Commission. Rob is also a board member of the Superior Hiking Trail Association and Hartley Nature Center, as well as a City of Duluth Parks and recreation volunteer. He has helped edit several curriculum guides used statewide, including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Minnesota School Forest Handbook. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Education: Natural Science and Environmental Education degree at Hamline University.

    Rob was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2008.