2021 Conservation Teachers Of The Year Announced
Michael P. O'Connor
LINCOLN, MA,--Educators from the Falmouth, Boston, and Agawam school systems have been named 2021 Conservation Teachers of the Year by Mass Audubon, the state’s largest nature conservation organization.
They are Christine Brothers, a Falmouth High School teacher; Georgette Copeland, who teaches kindergarten and first grade at the James J. Chittick Elementary School in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood; and Tammy Rumplik, a teacher at the James Clark and Clifford Granger elementary schools in Agawam.
The awards, which come with $1,000 gifts to be used to support the teachers’ programs, were presented at the annual conference of the Massachusetts Environmental Education Society, held virtually this year March 10-13.
Brothers has helped guide her school system’s Vernal Pools & Pollinator Gardens: Living Laboratories project in collaboration with Mass Audubon, including field trips to its Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary in East Falmouth. The program eventually included Lawrence Junior High School, with students from both schools “head-starting” spadefoot toads, a threatened species, by raising them in classrooms for eventual release in the sanctuary’s vernal pools.
She and her students were also instrumental in building two vernal pools, including one at the high school. Brothers has also played a pivotal role in introducing students to plant-pollinating insects, specifically bees, and has helped create a pair of pollinator gardens at Falmouth schools.
Copeland was one of the first teachers at the Chittick school to work with the Boston Schools Environmental Initiative program at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center in the adjacent Mattapan neighborhood. She had been particularly adept at creating hands-on nature experiences for her young students and adapting environmental education curriculum to meet their learning needs.
This past year, amid the pandemic, Copeland has helped design virtual programming around the topics of plants, animals, and weather. Another new program she partnered in developing had her first-grade students discovering nature in their school’s neighborhood and journaling about the birds and squirrels they observed.
Rumplik, the K-4 STEAM Specialist and the Common Core Curriculum Facilitator for the Agawam Public Schools, trains other teachers and finds new lessons and materials for science in the school district. She is also the founder and director of Camp SEEK, a science engineering enrichment summer camp for students in Grades K-6.
This teacher has also been instrumental in the Agawam schools’ “Cooler Communities” gatherings, the next of which is set to take place virtually on April 28.
Visitors to the event pledge to take “Actions”—based on projects created by students—that will reduce the community’s carbon emissions, while increasing energy efficiency, sustainability, and resilience. Rumplick has played a pivotal role in creating and teaching lessons, encouraging teacher participation, and proposing the Actions that correspond to the projects.
Mass Audubon Director of Education Kris Scopinich said she marveled at the 2021 honorees’ energy and sense of imagination in developing activities and projects that inspire their students, both indoors and in the field.
“Nature-based education has been at the core of Mass Audubon’s mission for generations,” Scopinich noted. “Christine, Georgette, and Tammy exemplify the dedication required of educators committed to helping students appreciate science and engage with the natural world. And that is a big reason why they have been chosen Conservation Teachers of the Year.”
Mass Audubon is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England. Founded in 1896 by two women who fought for the protection of birds, Mass Audubon carries on their legacy by focusing on the greatest challenges facing the environment today: the loss of biodiversity, inequitable access to nature, and climate change. With the help of our 140,000 members and supporters, we protect wildlife, conserve and restore resilient land, advocate for impactful environmental policies, offer nationally recognized education programs for adults and children, and provide endless opportunities to experience the outdoors at our wildlife sanctuaries. Explore, find inspiration, and take action at www.massaudubon.org.