Chanda Cooper, Education Coordinator, Richmond Soil and Water Conservation District, Columbia, South Carolina
Chanda plans activities based on her research into the impact that outdoor, place-based education can have on students and teachers. She reaches audiences throughout the state, particularly in the South Carolina midlands, with PLT and other opportunities. She often works with farmers and other landowners on strategies to improve their property and the environment. She serves as a mentor for the Green Steps Schools program, making school visits and mentoring teachers on environmental projects. She is also current vice president of the state PLT steering committee and active in the Environmental Education Association of SC and other organizations.
“Much like the impact Chanda Cooper has had on my students, I am constantly revived and rejuvenated when I have the opportunity to share a space with her.”
Jennifer Strickland-Poole, Clinical Instructor, University of South Carolina
Chanda was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2017.
David Shelley, Education Coordinator, Congaree National Park, Hopkins, South Carolina
David Shelley’s goal is to improve the understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of natural and cultural resource dimensions of forests and rivers. Working at the Congaree National Park’s Old-Growth Bottomland Forest Research and Education Center, he provides PLT resources and other workshops to teachers, students, park visitors, and others. He is the driving force behind an annual outreach program for educators in the South Carolina midlands, as well as a project that links art and science. He has also supported Park Service efforts to communicate about climate change.
“David is a strong advocate and role model for PLT in our state.”
– Victoria Pasco, Science Lab Teacher, Catawba Trail Elementary School, Elgin, South Carolina
David was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2016.
Victoria Pasco, Science Lab Teacher, Catawba Trail Elementary School, Elgin, South Carolina
First trained in PLT in the 1980s, Victoria Pasco has used it with a variety of audiences, age groups, and settings. As a science lab teacher, she involves the 550 Catawba Trail elementary students in a hands-on, project-based environmental education curriculum that she created using PLT activities as springboards. She works with students to design, create, and maintain wildlife habitats, school gardens, and a nature trail. She uses these outdoor learning spaces on the school campus and also takes students on field trips to instill in children a love for the outdoors. She helps other educators see how PLT materials can be used in their classrooms to meet state academic standards, and she is a member of the South Carolina PLT Steering Committee.
“Victoria has created a program that not only inspires children, it engages the entire family….Catawba Trail Elementary School opened in August 2011 and it was immediately apparent that the Science Discovery Center would be the heart of the school.”
– Denise Barth, Principal, Catawba Trail Elementary School, Elgin, South Carolina
Victoria was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2015.
Matthew Schnabel uses PLT as a foundation for his Advanced Placement Environmental Science and Environmental/Nature Studies courses. He brings in guest speakers and introduces his students to outdoor learning through field studies at their school, national parks, local universities, and other locations. Matt encourages his students to take action to improve local environmental issues, such as soil erosion and water pollution.
Matt facilitates K-12 PLT educator workshops that emphasize opportunities to apply what students learn in the classroom to real-world situations. He first participated in, and then led, the South Carolina Teachers’ Tour, an annual forestry program for teachers throughout the state.
His numerous achievements include the 2013 South Carolina PLT Outstanding Teacher Award and the 2012 Lexington County Soil & Water Conservation District Teacher of the Year Award. He serves on the South Carolina PLT Steering Committee, as a regional coordinator for the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina, and in many other organizations.
“His enthusiasm for the environment has influenced several students to pursue natural resources or environmental education degrees in college. His dedication and initiative have won him the respect of his peers in both the education and natural resource fields.”
– Stephanie Kolok, South Carolina PLT State Coordinator
Matt was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2014.
Cynthia Gardner, Assistant Professor and Elementary Education Coordinator, Lander University, Greenwood, South Carolina
Cynthia Gardner has been involved with PLT for two decades and has become one of the most active facilitators in South Carolina. She incorporates PLT into her pedagogy classes at Lander University, motivating pre-service educators to use PLT. Before joining the Lander faculty, Cynthia was a long-time classroom teacher and used PLT in her everyday lesson plans. She recognizes PLT’s value in service-learning, and her pre-service students have introduced PLT to the community, in addition to the classrooms where they do their student teaching. Among many other awards for environmental education, Cynthia received the 2010 South Carolina PLT Outstanding Educator of the Year award.
“Dr. Gardner’s dedication to her students, her love for environmental education, her infusion of Project Learning Tree materials into her programs, and her dedication to the PLT program make her the epitome of what this award represents.”
– Jerry Shrum, South Carolina PLT Coordinator
Cynthia was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2012.
Sandy Gresham, a recently retired science teacher and environmental education coordinator, used PLT to completely transform Lowcountry Preparatory School in Pawleys Island, South Carolina.
After becoming a PLT facilitator, Sandy helped change Lowcountry Preparatory School’s curriculum to fully incorporate PLT as a major component, adopting environmental education as the overall vision. She trained the entire faculty in the use of the PLT curriculum, helping teachers in all subject areas incorporate environmental themes into their classes. Sandy also organized a PLT workshop for early childhood educators in coastal area school districts and worked with a middle school in another part of the state to become a PLT School.
Sandy was then asked by her school’s board of directors to serve on the search committee to select a new head of school committed to environmental education as a core value. Through Sandy’s efforts, Lowcountry Preparatory School became a South Carolina PLT Environmental School and is now part of PLT’s GreenSchools initiative, in which students take the lead in investigating and helping to improve their school environment. Sandy also worked with students in various clubs to develop two outdoor classrooms and a trail around their school campus.
Now that she has retired, Sandy trains teachers in McCormick to use PLT and is serving as vice chair of the South Carolina PLT Steering Committee.
“Never in my 14 years as the South Carolina PLT State Coordinator have I seen an individual educator who so enthusiastically embraced the PLT program and made such a difference in her school and community so quickly.”
– Jerry Shrum, South Carolina PLT State Coordinator
Sandy was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2011, as well as being a National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2010.
A North Carolina resident who teaches in South Carolina, Denise Trufan is active in environmental education in both states. She is a certified Environmental Educator in North Carolina, where she volunteers at state parks and other facilities. In South Carolina, in addition to her work at Indian Land Elementary School, she often volunteers at workshops and conferences promoting PLT to other educators.
As Indian Land’s science lab facilitator, Denise helps teachers and students in grades K through 5 to enhance learning with hands-on activities, many based on PLT. She is planning PLT workshops for the 85 teachers at Indian Land Elementary, bringing the school one step closer to becoming a “South Carolina PLT Certified School,” which means PLT will be used to strengthen learning throughout the entire curriculum. She has also organized many PLT trainings for teachers at other schools.
Denise has used PLT activities to increase the school’s performance on science standardized tests. For example, she created a Discovery Box containing nature items, such as acorns and bark, that students use to conduct both quantitative and qualitative analysis. They also go outdoors as often as possible to learn about tree characteristics and plant growth. Last year, Denise launched a recycling program that both saved the school thousands of dollars and enthusiastically involved students in all grades. In one year, they recycled more than two tons of paper, more then 4,000 plastic bottles, and thousands of aluminum cans. Her after-school club, the Ecowarriors, performs environmental plays for the school and community, researches environmental issues, and designs gardens that have been certified as Backyard Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
“Denise’s dedication to her students, love for environmental education, and infusion of PLT materials into her programs make her the epitome of what this award represents.”
– Jerry Shrum, South Carolina PLT State Coordinator
Denise was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2009.
Susan Ward has been involved with PLT since the start of her teaching career in the late 1980s, when she helped field-test many of the activities that became part of the revised PLT PreK-8 Guide. She uses PLT with her seventh grade science students on field excursions, camping trips, and in the outdoor classrooms and gardens that she helped create at her school, Whittemore Park Middle School in Conway, South Carolina.
In 2005, Susan worked with the Horry County School District to get PLT activities incorporated into the curriculum as examples of how to include the natural environment within state standards and, as a result, increase student achievement scores. She trained all the district’s middle school science teachers to use PLT activities effectively. She has also conducted many other PLT workshops, training over 200 educators in the Coastal area of South Carolina, as well as Girl Scout leaders.
At Whittemore Park and two other schools where she has also been a teacher, Daisy Elementary and Loris Middle, Susan has launched school-wide recycling programs for paper, plastics, and metal. She teaches students to conserve energy, and takes them on field trips to the Horry County Waste Management site to make them more aware of their civic responsibility as environmental stewards. At Daisy Elementary School, Susan helped to develop and maintain a nature trail and led her students in the planning and creation of a backyard habitat. At Loris Middle School, she created an outdoor classroom area and worked with her students to create a garden for environmental studies.
For the past seven years, Susan has presented her personal experiences using PLT to science teachers attending the South Carolina Science Conference. She helped correlate PLT materials to South Carolina’s curriculum standards and has continually provided leadership within the South Carolina PLT program. Susan presently serves on the South Carolina PLT Steering Committee as an educational representative, a position she has held for the last two years.
Susan was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2008.
As Director of the Science and Technology Enrichment Program at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center in Aiken, South Carolina, Anne Bohnet develops a wide variety of natural resource education programs for around 2,700 students in grades 3-12 each year. She inspires students’ interest in environmental careers by teaching science lessons outdoors in a natural environment and instructing students in the use of scientific tools. She conducts most of her environmental education classes, as well as PLT teacher-training workshops, at the National Audubon Society’s Silver Bluff Audubon Center, a 3,000-acre sanctuary located along the Savannah River. She also conducts student programs at the Savannah River Site, a Department of Energy facility, and she provides teacher workshops at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center.
Anne exemplifies PLT’s “awareness to action” philosophy of environmental education. She brings groups of students from select high schools to the Savannah River Site to work side-by-side with experienced scientists. Students get hands-on experience using forestry tools and managing five acres of public forestland. Empowered by increased awareness and knowledge, students explore different viewpoints, challenge ideas and values, and seek consensus on a course of responsible action.
Anne became a PLT facilitator in 1994. She has trained over 500 teachers from Georgia and South Carolina in the use of PLT and other environmental education curricula. She procures grants to provide these workshops for free, as well as substitute pay for the teachers who attend them. She ensures that pre-service teachers at the University of South Carolina-Aiken are trained in PLT before they enter the classroom. Anne also writes PLT into the curriculum of many educational programs. Every year, she leads PLT wildland fire education workshops for PreK-12 teachers and arranges a prescribed burn at National Wild Turkey Federation’s headquarters in Edgefield, South Carolina. Anne is a true advocate of environmental education and she infuses PLT into just about every aspect of her work!
Anne was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2006.