Jason Vlcan is Visitor Information Specialist at the National Historic Trails Interpretative Center in Casper, Wyoming. Jason has a keen interest in natural history and helped create Exploring Wyoming’s Natural Environments, a state-specific supplemental guide to many of PLT’s hands-on activities. In his 13 years at the Trails Center, Jason has established connections with a wide range of individuals and organizations, especially educators throughout the state. Each year, more than 30,000 visitors learn about Native Americans’ rich heritage and the history of the pioneers in the West through his hands-on history and nature experiences.
Jason is particularly adept at introducing students to the outdoors, including an annual, overnight program with at-risk high school students. The 3-day, 2-night trip takes students in covered wagons across the historic Oregon, Mormon, California and Pony Express trails. They sleep under the stars, eat meals that they cook themselves, and do hands-on activities, including PLT, to explore the outdoors. Many have never camped outside before this experience.
Jason received National PLT’s Leadership in Education Award in 2018.
Steve operates Abacus Enterprises, Inc., a firm that develops and uses quantitative methods for land management planning. As a forest biometrician, he works with landowners and the forest industry throughout North America. When he realized the importance of educating young people about the environment, he became involved with Project Learning Tree.
He has presented dozens of workshops to teachers, youth group leaders, and other educators throughout the state. His outreach to the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board resulted in teachers now receiving graduate or professional credits when they attend PLT workshops. He has also led Wyoming PLT grant-writing, strategic planning, and other efforts.
“Steve has dedicated his life to forest conservation and education through his work as a private forester and his personal outdoor recreational activities. After attending a PLT workshop in 2006, he has become actively involved in Wyoming PLT efforts. WYPLT cannot run without Steve!”
-Lucy Diggins-Wold, Green River Regional Information and Education Specialist
Steve was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2017.
Dusty Downey, Community Naturalist, Audubon Rockies, Moorcroft, Wyoming
Dusty is a senior regional community naturalist for Audubon Rockies, working to help children of all ages become engaged in local ecosystems. He is also an instructor for the Wilderness Medical Institute of the National Outdoor Leadership School. Although he has lived and taught in California and Louisiana, he returned to Wyoming to share his love of nature in his home state. He set up a traveling nature center to visit rural communities and has shared this “classroom without walls” concept at numerous conferences. He and his wife Jacelyn, also a naturalist, hold PLT workshops for pre-service educators at the University of Wyoming and Sheridan College. Many educators have cited their workshops as the impetus to use PLT in their own classrooms.
“With full confidence, I can state that many young in-service teachers have implemented the PLT curriculum as a direct result of Dusty.”
– Scott Chamberlain, Science and Mathematics Teaching Center, University of Wyoming
Dusty was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2013.
Trish Penny, Education Coordinator, Laramie Rivers Conservation District, Laramie, Wyoming
Last year, Trish Penny educated nearly 6,000 children and adults—about 15% of the entire population of her county in Wyoming! Her environmental education efforts cover a range of activities, including creating gardens, leading environmental camps, and organizing special events. She relies on PLT to complement all of these activities. Trish works with the University of Wyoming to provide PLT workshops for pre-service educators, as well as working with the schools in her area. An eight-year member of the Wyoming Steering Committee, Trish is valued for the stability and energy she brings to the PLT program.
“Whenever Trish is working with us, she is also involving the community. She brings together a variety of professionals and laypeople to interact with students while helping them learn. She provides a great service to our community by continuing to get people involved to improve understanding and enhance learning.”
– Theresa Williams, University of Wyoming Lab School
Trish was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2012.
Jacelyn Downey, Senior Community Naturalist, Audubon Wyoming, Moorcroft, Wyoming
As a senior community naturalist with Audubon Wyoming, Jacelyn Downey covers the entire state. She connects communities with the flora and fauna of their region, protecting Wyoming’s way of life while preserving the integrity of natural systems. She often uses PLT on hikes, field trips, and other activities with children and adults. Each year, she and her husband Dusty, also a naturalist, conduct PLT workshops for pre-service teachers at the University of Wyoming. She also serves on Wyoming PLT’s steering committee and presents many PLT workshops and activities to participants of all ages. She is known to be a pleasure to work with and a pleasure to watch in action.
Jacelyn was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2011.
Tammy Brown, Environmental Educator, Casper College, Casper, Wyoming
Tammy Brown has been a driving force in Wyoming PLT since she was first trained in 1993 at the Alpine Environmental Education Conference. She offers PLT pre-service education courses and also conducts teacher and facilitator workshops. No education major leaves Casper College without some experience with PLT. She recently drafted the Wyoming PLT strategic plan and has trained every new facilitator in the state since 2002. She takes advantage of every workshop she conducts by offering update training to veterans. She has also worked with Casper Mountain Science School, an outdoor education program in its third year. Tammy even stepped up to serve as interim PLT coordinator in Wyoming, keeping PLT active in the state during a two-year gap.
Tammy was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2010.
Lucy Diggins-Wold, an information and education specialist in Green River, Wyoming, finds teachable moments at every opportunity. Her weekly radio spots with Wyoming Game & Fish carry her voice and messages about the environment throughout southwest Wyoming. In her work with school programs, youth camps, teacher workshops, and other activities, she consistently seeks to get students (adults or kids) outdoors, learning about the environment first-hand. She accomplishes this when she visits classrooms, teaches at the annual Fish & Game Youth Camp, and holds workshops for educators.
While earning her BS degree in Parks Recreation Management from Idaho State University, she met Rick Bidwell, a contributor of the very first PLT guide. She went to her first formal training in 1983 and has been using PLT ever since. She uses PLT materials because the activities are “fun with a purpose” and have withstood the test of time. For 20 years, she was a trainer and mentor at the Alpine Environmental Education Conference, which prepares generations of teachers to become environmental educators.
She is also a mainstay of Wyoming PLT, often traveling across the state to facilitate workshops and help out wherever she can. She’s currently secretary of the steering committee and the driving force behind developing a long-range strategic plan. Lucy’s dedication to environmental education can be summed up in a comment she made recently to members of the Wyoming PLT steering committee. She stressed that PLT facilitators must stay the course and be dedicated to environmental education, not just in their head, but also in their hearts.
“Lucy’s heart has been 100% in environmental education, and PLT has been an integral part of that effort.”
– Steve Scharosch, PLT Steering Committee Chair, PLT Wyoming
Lucy was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2009.
Hazel Scharosch is a classroom teacher in a one-room school house! Located in a ranching community, Red Creek Elementary School in Casper, Wyoming, has one multi-age classroom for all students. Hazel teaches all subject areas to the school’s kindergarten through sixth grade students, a range of 9-12 students in any given year. She has been teaching in this small rural school for 17 years.
Hazel was introduced to PLT 15 years ago at a four-day environmental education workshop hosted in part by two of the original developers of the PLT curriculum. The workshop forever changed her methods of teaching and deepened her commitment to expanding environmental literacy for all. Since then, Hazel has conducted numerous PLT workshops for both classroom teachers and non-formal educators, including Girl Scout leaders, child care providers, and 4-H club members. She has taught a three-day joint PLT, Project WET, and Project Wild workshop at least twice a year every year. She has correlated PLT activities to the Girl Scout Manuals and shown camp counselors how to integrate PLT with Girl Scout activities to enrich learning.
Hazel has played a critical role in delivering the PLT program to a wide range of educators across Wyoming for many years. She has recruited new facilitators, helping to almost double the number of trained PLT facilitators in Wyoming and expand PLT into other areas of the state. Hazel uses several outdoor study areas close to her school for hands-on studies and organizes a major environmental field trip for her whole class each year, including her students’ parents and siblings. Hazel is currently serving on Natrona County School District’s Science Adoption Committee, which has a goal of incorporating environmental education into a new science curriculum.
Hazel was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2007.