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Hull Award

Elizabeth Abernathy Hull Fund for Early Environmental Education

The Garden Club of America’s Elizabeth Abernathy Hull Award annually recognizes the outstanding achievements of individuals furthering the early environmental education of children. Established in 1992, the Hull Award provides $1,000 to chosen recipients who honor Miss Hull’s common sense approach to environmental awareness by inspiring children under 16 to appreciate the beauty and fragility of our planet.

Administered by GCA’s Scholarship Committee, the Hull Award is open to GCA members and non-members alike; however, individuals may not propose themselves. A woman ahead of her time, Miss Hull (1900 – 1996) was an active member of the Ridgefield Garden Club and credited her mother and grandmother with instilling her own passion for the environment. Members of GCA clubs may propose a candidate. Click here for an application.


Jeannette Domaschk, Houston, Texas 
Mrs. Domaschk has been teaching Kindergarten at Hunters Creek Elementary School for forty years. She manages a garden on the campus where she and the children cultivate, harvest and maintain a beautiful garden. All five Kindergarten classes participate in this project, which Mrs. Domaschk oversees during science study time and in her spare time, after school and on weekends. She initiated HCE’s recycling program five years ago, and in that first year, drove the aluminum collected each week to the recycling center across town; she has also worked on a Solar Garden and assisted in the design of HCE’s Butterfly Garden. Mrs. Domaschk is a much-loved teacher who is wonderful, engaging and energetic.

— — Proposed by the Garden Club of Houston, Zone IX


Joan McHenry Hoblitzell, Cockeysville, Maryland 
Joan McHenry Hoblitzell has been a volunteer at Irvine Nature Center since 1995. She works diligently as a Volunteer Naturalist Guide, inspiring children to embrace the outdoors as they learn everything they can about their natural surroundings. She has done this with enthusiasm through the years, thus encouraging and inspiring these young minds to become the leaders we desperately need in the environmental emergencies we all face. She helps with Irvine’s Nature in the Classroom outreach program and Irvine’s Urban Education outreach program where she shares her love of nature with under-served school children from Baltimore City’s public schools.

— Proposed by St. George's Garden Club, Zone VI

Linda Kruhmin, Evanston, Illinois 
Linda Kruhmin is the Farm Operations Manager for The Talking Farm, an Evanston, Illinois, based non-profit “urban farm” whose mission is “to cultivate healthy, sustainable communities by supporting the production and appreciation of locally grown food.” Thanks to Linda’s boundless energy and enthusiasm, The Talking Farm has established numerous urban farms throughout the Evanston/Skokie area, many at local schools. She has inspired our children about the importance of having access to local fresh foods and has shown what fun it can be in the process. Linda inspires all of us, above all our children, about the “beauty and fragility of our planet” and the need to preserve our access to fresh foods. 

— Funded by Ridgefield GC (CT) Zone II

— Proposed by Garden Club of Evanston, Zone XI

Dr. Stewart Slafter, Atherton, California 
Dr. Stewart Slafter has taught for thirteen years at Sacred Heart School, a pre-school through 12th grade private school in Atherton, California. Under Dr. Slafter’s leadership, a 20,000-square-foot organic garden is maintained and operated by students and faculty as part of an Environmental Science and Global Studies course. Dr. Slafter says, “One of the chief purposes of our garden is to teach students how to be stewards of the earth’s resources. By teaching young people about sustainability; how they can grow food and learn every step in the process, they understand that agriculture can be continued on a permanent basis.” Dr. Slafter’s wide knowledge and enthusiasm inspire students in all age groups.

— Funded by Millbrook GC (NY) Zone III

— Proposed by Hillsborough Garden Club, Zone XII

Lisa Kurstin, La Cañada Flintridge, California  
Lisa Kurstin is the Manager of Education Programs for Descanso Gardens as well as Los Angeles County and has provided well-developed opportunities for students of all ages. She offers educational programming at the Harvest Garden established by volunteers in 1964 to provide developmentally disabled children a once-per-week outdoors experience with plants, gardening and nature studies, and education for school children who visit Descanso Gardens on field trips. She is deeply committed to education that is lively, experiential, exploratory, expressive…but always based in the context of the Garden.

— Proposed by Pasadena Garden Club, Zone XII

Mary Patience (Pat) Penchalk, Akron, Ohio 
Pat Penchalk has been teaching 5th graders for 15 years at Leggett Community Learning Center in Akron, Ohio. With her many years of teaching experience and personal interest in science and the environment, she is giving inner-city children a rare opportunity to learn about nature and explore an outdoor world unknown to them. Pat has been enhancing the environmental education of her students by participating in various residential programs at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center. In addition, she has assisted the CVEEC in creating the specialized curriculum for two distinctively different programs as well as providing hands on teaching and assistance with the children.

— Proposed by Akron Garden Club, Zone X

John A. Cunningham, New Haven, Connecticut 
John Cunningham, a science teacher at Foote School for over 25 years, has been a trailblazer while working with young children in horticulture and the environment. John initiated Foote School’s Environment Action Group (EAG) to provide a way for interested students in grades 6 thru 9 to pursue a broad range of activities related to conservation, horticulture and ecology. He has inspired many students during his long career to appreciate the “beauty and fragility of our planet.” With John’s influence, Ecology plays a part in the curriculum of each grade, from the tending of a garden to the more complex ideas about using alternative energy to offset the environmental costs of consumerism.

— Funded by the Long Island Tree Committee, Zone III

— Proposed by Darlene Zimmerman, Garden Club of New Haven, Zone II


Sandy Livermore, Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Sandy was the visionary and the driving force behind the creation of Bookworm Gardens, a landscaped garden based on children’s literature in Sheboygan, Wisconsin which opened in 2010. Here children can safely play, discover, learn and explore, all free and open to the public year-round. Themes from 78 popular and well respected children’s books are incorporated into gardens and features of interest that offer insight into horticulture art, music, environmental science and literature. Special reading programs, plays in the amphitheater and artistic projects are just a few of the extra activities which Sandy single-handedly initiated. Her contribution to outstanding environmental education for youth is to be applauded.

— Proposed by Town and Country Garden Club (WI), Zone XI

Robert MardineyRobert L. Mardiney, Owing Mills, Maryland
Robert is an environmental teacher at Irvine Nature Center in Baltimore County, Maryland. He has served as Director of Education of the Irvine Nature Center where he has provided environmental education to children under the age of 16 for the past 27 years. During his tenure, Rob has expanded school field trips, outreach, summer camp, and public programs in numbers, content, variety and scope. These programs reach over 2,500 students annually. He also creates numerous educational programs for the 50,000 annual visitors to the nature center’s exhibit hall and trails.

— Proposed by Green Spring Valley Garden Club (MD), Zone VI

Pam Sloane, Greenwich, Connecticut
A new Master Gardener, Pam believes gardens are meant to enrich mind, body and spirit. As a teacher at Stamford Middle School where Pam taught French for 20 years, she created an informal Garden Club. Upon retirement in 2009, Pam created G.I.V.E., the Green Initiative for Vegetables in Education. Within a year’s time, many schools signed on to the program and have developed gardens on their school grounds. Throughout the summer months, students are invited to participate and share the yield. During winter months, students cook foods from the autumn harvest. 

— Funded by Ridgefield Garden Club (CT), Zone II

— Proposed by The Stamford Garden Club (CT), Zone II 

Sarah Jane SpiersSarah Jane Spiers, Decatur, Georgia

Sarah teaches science to kindergarten through third grade at The Lovett School in Atlanta, GA, where she reclaimed a greenhouse that had been empty for many years. Soon students were planting seeds and watching them grow! She serves on the school wide Sustainability Committee and leads in the planning of Earth Week activities. Placing “piggy composters” on the playground encourages all students and teachers to compost leftovers from fruit. Sarah includes a service-learning aspect in the second grade science curriculum where students plant and tend raised beds of vegetables which they donate to a nearby shelter for women and children. First graders learn about sustainable agriculture in communities around the world by participating in Heifer International’s “Read to Feed” program.

— Proposed by Cherokee Garden Club (GA), Zone VIII

Leigh TalmoLeigh Talmo, Sierra Madre, California

Leigh has been working with elementary-aged school children since 1994 at The Arboretum of Los Angeles County. Her program, “Roots and Shoots” program brings a designated classroom of children to The Arboretum 14 to 17 times over the course of the school year. In addition to working in their vegetable garden, the children join Leigh in reading stories, journaling their experiences, exploring The Arboretum, collecting seeds, flowers and leaves and observing the life in such a place. Once or twice during the year, Leigh invites a local chef to the garden to help the children prepare meals from their plants. The participating schools have shifted over the years, but consistently there have been low income, disadvantaged, urban children experiencing the natural, outdoor environment with a kind, compassionate, intelligent, experienced and knowledgeable guide. Leigh has had an emotional and intellectual impact on these children for so many years, and has enriched their lives and given them insight into the greater natural world around them.

— Proposed by Pasadena Garden Club (CA), Zone XII

Christine Zeppenfeld, Trenton, New Jersey
Christine is the “Learning through Landscapes” teacher at the Princeton Junior School in Lawrenceville, NJ. She started in 2002 and since that time the school’s program has grown under her leadership to be a distinctive environmental approach to learning. She is the head of the school’s organic garden where all the classes participate in the preparing of the beds, the planting, the weeding and harvesting of the garden each year. The garden is harvested and a Thanksgiving feast is prepared and consumed by the students. The school grounds have pockets of special gardens created under Christine’s leadership which include a butterfly garden, a rain garden, and a native plant garden providing a wide variety of learning opportunities. In 2008, Christine received the Richard Rotter Award for Excellence in Environmental Education from the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed. Princeton Junior School was the first school in her area to receive River Friendly Certification through Christine’s leadership. 

— Funded by Millbrook Garden Club (NY), Zone III

— Proposed by Stony Brook Garden Club (NJ), Zone IV 

Stephen P. Zwolak, St Louis, Missouri
Steve has a passion for improving the quality of early childhood education, and he understands the importance of the outdoors in developing young minds. He has designed and created a unique and innovative curriculum at the University City Children’s Center (UCCC) in St. Louis, Missouri. UCCC is a non-profit school for 130 young children, ages six weeks to kindergarten, located in an underserved urban area. A major part of Steve’s outdoor learning approach is based on the garden at UCCC. Through the Seed to Table Program, the school’s garden provides an opportunity for children to plant seeds, nourish the plants and watch them grow, harvest and consume the plants for lunch and snacks. The Seed to Table Program won the Ann Lyon Crammond Award which is displayed proudly in the front hallway of the school – at a child’s eye level! Another major part of Steve’s outdoor learning approach is the Adventure Playground which provides a secure, happy paradise for young children to explore the outdoors.

— Proposed by Ladue Garden Club (MO), Zone XI


Robert DeWire, Pawcatuck, Connecticut
As an environmental educator for more than twenty years, Robert DeWire has taught natural science to elementary-age children through his NatureScapes programs. He uses local flora and fauna to illustrate concepts such as food chains, plant succession and natural adaptation. Through hands-on classroom demonstrations followed by field trips to local habitats, Robert inspires children to respect and appreciate their environment.

— Proposed by Stonington Garden Club (CT), Zone II 

Jaime Gonzalez, Houston, Texas
He is the Community Education Manager for the Katy Prairie Conservancy in Houston, Texas. A conservationist and educator, Jaime served as a member of a state committee and helped develop The Texas Children in Nature Strategic Plan, to encourage children to better understand Texas’ natural resources. He is currently leading Project Blazingstar, an effort to restore native prairie to three areas in Houston’s Hermann Park. Jaime uses the latest technology to capture his young audience’s attention, cultivating 3,000 young people annually to be the next generation of prairie stewards.

— Proposed by Garden Club of Houston (TX), Zone IX.

Kelly O'Leary, New Haven, Connecticut
As a former science teacher and now principal of St. Martin de Porres Academy, an independent middle school in New Haven, Kelly has implemented a school-wide initiative of environmental education that includes recycling, community gardening and neighborhood beautification. Students planted and watered their garden, then donated the produce to feed the hungry and homeless. In partnership with Community Greenspace, students also have planted 22 trees and more than 50 perennials to beautify the school and create a healthier neighborhood, while developing a sense of responsibility and appreciation for street trees.


— Funded by Ridgefield Garden Club (CT), Zone II

— Proposed by Garden Club of New Haven (CT), Zone II

Richard I. SearsRichard I. Sears, Honolulu, Hawaii
A gifted educator, Richard works with thousands of students annually in the Education and Outreach Program at Lyon Arboretum in Honolulu. His knowledge of island plants, ecosystems, and tropical forestry helps him teach students about sustainable gardening practices, organic gardening, vermi-composting, and water-and-energy-saving systems. Richard’s students come to understand the critical importance of conserving their island’s precious resources.

— Proposed by Garden Club of Honolulu (HI), Zone XII

Renee WrightRenee Wright, Houston, Texas
Renee has encouraged children’s love of nature during nearly three decades as Lower School Science Teacher at St. John’s School in Houston. She has kept her students aware of our planet’s challenges, such as global warming, extinction of species, deforestation and diversity of plant and animal life. She encourages children to recycle at home and at school, use water and electricity sparingly, and to protect wildlife.

— Proposed by Garden Club of Houston (TX), Zone IX