Karen Christenson uses the environment as a way to teach life science. She uses Schoolyard Safari and other PLT activities to introduce students to outdoor exploration. According to the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, 87% of students at her school have reached or exceeded proficiency in science.
From 2003 to 2007, Karen worked at Bruce Vento Elementary School, where she taught K-6 science enrichment and launched the school’s first science fair. Through the Minnesota School Forest Program, Karen helps teachers use their school forest as an outdoor classroom and apply PLT to teach math, art, science, language arts, and social studies. Karen also serves as a lead instructor for summer academies that show PreK-12 educators how to integrate forestry education into their core curriculum.
Karen is a leader in environmental education throughout Minnesota who has received grants to develop environmental education opportunities and action projects for both teachers and students. Since becoming involved with PLT in 2006, Karen has become a PLT facilitator and conducted more than 30 workshops. As an adjunct instructor at Hamline University and guest speaker at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, she offers PLT training to a variety of audiences. She has presented PLT at conferences, with the media, and with legislators in Washington, DC.
“If you are looking for a dedicated professional who exemplifies the commitment to teaching and learning of and about the forest, then Karen is your person. Her ability to partner with public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders is remarkable.”
– Paula M. J. Frings, coordinator of the Itasca County Forest Education and Awareness Program, which hosts an annual Summer Educators Academy, St. Paul, Minnesota
Karen was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2014.
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.
Beth Girard, Acting School Forest Coordinator, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry, St. Paul, Minnesota
Beth Girard helps teachers from 109 participating schools and organizations connect their students to the natural world using school forests as outdoor classrooms. She is also an outreach presenter for Eco Education and a volunteer educator for the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake and for the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center in St. Paul, presenting around 250 environmental programs annually to more than 5,000 students. As a trained PLT facilitator, Beth leads 10 workshops a year, mentoring hundreds of formal and non-formal educators in environmental education. She specializes in researching resources, materials suppliers, literature lists, and other classroom learning tools that help teachers build students’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behavior towards the environment. Beth has also created several activity trunks to support Minnesota PLT’s early childhood supplement, for which she has a particular passion.
Beth was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2007.