Nature Center Coordinator Receives Service Award
On October 22, 2011, Staten Island Greenbelt Nature Center Coordinator Jessica R. Kratz received the Service Award from the New York State Outdoor Education Association [NYSOEA] at the group’s 43rd annual conference, “Planning and Partnering for an Environmentally Literate NY,” at the Villa Roma Resort in Callicoon, NY. She received this award from MaryLynne Malone, the president of NYSOEA, in front of nearly 100 members of the organization and their invited guests.
A member of NYSOEA since 2004, Jessica has attended all but one of the organization’s annual conferences since that year. She began presenting at conferences in 2008, providing her own unique take on incorporating the outdoors into classrooms and community functions, from nature-themed costumes to sustainable event and party planning. Her involvement in the organization increased when she joined the board as Metro Region Director in 2009. As regional director, she hosted several meetings, including a trail building service event at the Seatuck Environmental Association Scully Nature Center on Long Island and a trip to the Five Boro Green Roof on Randalls Island. When the organization became the local host of the North American Association for Environmental Association [NAAEE] conference in Buffalo-Niagara NY, she coordinated an auction raising the targeted amount of $10,000 for the organization’s Stapp scholarship for undergraduate students pursuing environmental education. For the past year, she has been editing the organization’s quarterly Pathways newsletter, which features poems, articles, and other features focusing on developments in the field of the outdoor education and fostering a greater appreciation of the outdoors. Jessica received the Service Award for outstanding support of Association goals by contributing her personal time and energy.
While it has been excellent to receive an award from the organization, Jessica admits, what has been even more rewarding are the contacts and colleagues she has met throughout New York State and the Northeast, and the information and resources she has been able to use throughout her various positions within New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. “As an Urban Park Ranger, I was able to apply the information directly to my students and programs. When I was with GreenApple Corps, I was able to incorporate the information into how the members were trained. While serving as a Nature Center Coordinator, I have been able to share the information with my staff, schedule trainings, form partnerships, and see how to best incorporate the services available.” A chance encounter with a vendor from Tour-Mate in 2010 led plans for listening wands and an outdoor Eco Box to provide additional nature interpretation throughout the Greenbelt.
Another great thing about the organization is the opportunity to seek mentors from experienced professionals and then “pay it forward” by helping others emerging in the field. Jessica, who self-published Sleigh Bells in Springtime: Frogs Calling (AuthorHouse, July 2010) used the knowledge and experience she gained as an author and bookseller and set up the organization’s first ever Authors Corner to connect authors of books about the outdoors and environmental education with educators, librarians, and others who will read and share these stories.
Connecting educators with the outdoors is certainly a personal and professional mission of Jessica’s. Whether it is getting teachers to take their students on class trips to the Greenbelt, offering professional development opportunities for teachers to experience the wonders of the outdoors and share their experiences with their students and families, or to simply understand and appreciate the world being their windows and doorsteps, Jessica is excited to share her knowledge and passion. She is particularly excited that NYSOEA’s next conference is on Long Island. “While I have traveled to the Adirondacks and Buffalo for conferences, learning more about NYS geography along the way, my first conference in 2004 was in Montauk, and the 2012 conference is even closer, at Brookhaven National Lab, and is a great way to get local teachers involved. Even if educators could only make it for the Saturday workshops, they will still gain so much experience and knowledge that they can use in and out of the classroom.” The 2012 NYSOEA conference will take place from October 18-21, 2012 at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton and the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Holtsville. The conference theme is “Outdoor Education has ALWAYS been ‘Green’… and an effective way to teach STEM.” For more information, visit nysoea.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
“Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, 'I'm with you kid. Let's go.'”
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