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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.

GCA Medal Winners:

Enlarge the photos of winning entries to see more detail: Click on the image and it will pop out. Click outside the full-size image to return to the list of winners.

2018 Winner: Maurice Cullen

Maurice Cullen, a teacher for more than 17 years, says, “I want to teach science all day! Life Science is about anything alive.” His lessons incorporate everyday observations that help his students see the delicate relationships among all things living. His classroom is full of plants and live animals that are incorporated into his lesson plans. Activities include raising and releasing oysters, collecting trash from local waterways, and improving bird habitats. Cullen understands the importance of developing curricula to foster future environmentalists.

Proposed by: Member of The Virginia Beach Garden Club, Zone VII

2018 Winner: Karin Giger

Karin Giger Eustis has been a hands-on leader in gardening and environmental education for 30 years. As president of the Louisiana Children’s Museum, she oversaw experiential learning about the Mississippi River and broad water issues in New Orleans. Her garden project, the Propagators, began in 1999. After Hurricane Katrina it evolved into the Edible Schoolyard, a program integrated into the academic curriculum in four schools serving children from kindergarten to eighth grade. Other initiatives are a sweet potato festival, meet-the-farmer days, composting workshops, and family food nights.

Proposed by: Member of New Orleans Town Gardeners, Inc., Zone IX

2018 Winner: Jane Jackson

Jane Jackson is an educator at heart, and her love of nature is infectious. She has spent time at  The Nature Conservancy and the New York Restoration Project. More recently she founded and administers the North Shore Land Alliance’s Walk in the Woods and Other Cool Things to Do Outside programs. Jackson also designed and teaches the Long Island Water Education Program, with its focus on the sole source aquifer that is the area’s drinking-water source. Additionally, she has spearheaded Earth Day celebrations, introducing underserved youth to a 70-acre preserve near their homes, by planting trees and revitalizing the area after Hurricane Sandy.
Funded by South Side Garden Club of L.I., Zone III

Proposed by: Member of North Country Garden Club of Long Island, Zone III

2018 Winner: Emily Goodwin Martin

Emily Goodwin Martin is a passionate environmentalist. She began her career as a marine biology teacher in San Francisco, later teaching estuarine ecology to grade school students. In 2011 she founded Cascade Mountain School at the base of Mt. Adams in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.  is outdoor science school o ers a range of day and overnight science- oriented educational programs geared to children aged 6 to 15.

Proposed by: Member of Peachtree Garden Club, Zone VIII

2018 Winner: Al Salopek

Al Salopek, a ectionately known to children in Palm Beach County as “Al the Bee Man,” has a mission: to educate, raise awareness, and demys- tify the honey bee for children while helping them connect to nature. In 2009, realizing that the plight of the honey bee illustrates an important lesson for humankind, he set up his own nonpro t, Bee Understanding. Salopek employs multi-sensory tech- niques, using props, role-playing, and hands-on activities that make learning fun. One such program is the Gift of Bees, which he developed to reinforce the idea that “the sustainability of the world we live in will be determined by what we do now with the young people growing up.” His personal presentations and outreach programs reach over 10,000 students annually.
Funded by Ridge eld Garden Club, Zone II

Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Palm Beach, Zone VIII

2018 Winner: Mollie Parsons

Mollie Parsons is the education director for the Santa Fe Botanical Garden (SFBG), where she initiated Garden Sprouts and the Children’s Discovery Nature Zone, both of which engage pre-school children in hands-on exploration of the environment. For elementary and middle school children,  eld trips to both SFBG and its second property, the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve, have varied in focus from soil studies to assessing the health of the garden’s orchard. Parson’s innovative work has served more than 1,500 students in the Santa Fe school system.

Proposed by: Member of Santa Fe Garden Club, Zone XII

2018 Winner: Eileen Prendergast

Eileen Prendergast, director of education at the Chicago Botanic Garden, has dedicated 23 years to encouraging children to view the natural world as a joyful place where they can indulge their curiosity. Programs that are often intergenerational serve 130,000 people each year. Weekend family classes target children aged four to ten. Nature Nights, Little Diggers, and Leave No Child Inside are other popular programs. Prendergast’s Inspiring Nature Play Conference is a highly valued resource for preschool teachers.

Proposed by: Member of Lake Geneva Garden Club, Zone XI

2018 Winner: Emi Yoshimura

Emi Yoshimura is the director of education at Descanso Gardens, a 150-acre botanical garden in Los Angeles County. Her 15+ years of experience in museum education have resulted in innovative science- oriented programs exploring the interconnectedness of the plants and animals that make their home at Descanso Gardens. Habitat Detectives, a program for children from kindergarten through the second grade, explores the garden as a wildlife habitat. Seeds of Wonder is an exercise in creating habitats, and Harvest Garden introduces the planting and harvesting of personal food gardens, underscoring the “pleasure of dirty hands.”

Proposed by: Member of Pasadena Garden Club, Zone XII

2017 Winner: Catherine Pierson

Catherine Pierson serves as a volunteer environmental educator in the New Orleans School District. After Hurricane Katrina, she helped to create “Edible Schoolyard New Orleans,” which changed the way children eat, learn, and live. This program has created acres of organic gardens that are used by five FirstLine schools—where over 4,000 garden and culinary classes are taught, and 70 food education events occur each year. One supporter said, “Cathy knew that engaging children through their senses was a magical and transformative experience that many of the urban children never experienced.”

Proposed by: New Orleans Town Gardeners, Inc., Zone IX

2017 Winner: Byrna Bass

Byrna Bass is an outdoor classroom educator for inner city elementary students at the Rothenberg Rooftop Garden in Cincinnati. She teaches environmentally friendly garden practices and is developing a pollinator garden. In her limited space, she uses beneficial insects, a tumble composter, and rain barrel to instill sustainable growing practices and encourage respect for the environment. She has dedicated most of her life and work to fostering a love of the environment in children.
Funded by Jane Chapman, Rochester Garden Club, Zone III

Proposed by: Cincinnati Town & Country Garden Club, Zone X

2017 Winner: Christine Dietz

Christine Dietz has worked in youth education in Dallas for more than ten years, and currently works as the Children’s Program Specialist at the Dallas Arboretum. She is the lead wetlands educator in their children’s adventure garden. More than half of the 5,000-6,000 students who attend her program each year are only familiar with a city biome, and she opens the doors of the natural world for them.
Funded by South Side Garden Club of LI, Zone III

Proposed by: Founders Garden Club of Dallas, Zone IX

2017 Winner: Kathy Gooch

Kathy Gooch has been an occupational therapy assistant in the Dayton public school system for 20 years. She currently works at an urban at-risk school and developed a garden so that her students can connect with nature and enjoy the space. The garden includes a bed of pollinator perennials, native plants, a prairie, raised tables for herbs and vegetables, a compost area, stump stools, and blackboards.
Funded by Kilduff Family Foundation in memory of Jane Kilduff, Zone V

Proposed by: Garden Club of Dayton, Zone X

2017 Winner: Kathryn Kocarnik

Kathryn Kocarnik is a beloved garden teacher and cooking instructor at the Garden School Foundation, an outdoor experiential school for Title I students in Los Angeles. Described as “a rock star on our campus,” she teaches the value of composting and worms, the importance of bees, concepts of germination and photosynthesis, and the science of gardening. Her seed-totable curriculum helps students learn about the environment, sustainability, and nutrition.
Funded by Kilduff Family Foundation in memory of Jane Kilduff, Zone V

Proposed by: Hancock Park Garden Club, Zone XII

2017 Winner: Pat Marks

Pat Marks, the associate director of the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, has been an educator for over 40 years. She created the original curriculum at the center for most of their programming and has devoted her life to educating students about the wonders of native flora and fauna. Whether hiking through the woods in search of armadillos or hawks, dipping in the ponds for crawfish and tadpoles, or planting pollinator gardens full of wildflowers, she encourages a love for the environment in young children.

Proposed by: River Oaks Garden Club, Zone IX

2017 Winner: James McCarron

James McCarron has taught art in Bernardsville, New Jersey, for 25 years and has incorporated a love of nature, gardening, and conservation into his art classes. He turned an unused courtyard into a vegetable garden and greenhouse, creating a micro-eco-system that incorporates New Jersey native plants and trees in this oasis for the community. A high-school senior who came back to work in the garden said, “he brings art, nature, conserva-tion, environmental awareness, and respect into his classroom.”

Proposed by: Garden Club of Somerset Hills, Zone IV

2017 Winner: Jack McWilliams

Jack McWilliams has been a volunteer at the William S. Baer School, a public school for profoundly disabled students in Baltimore, for 20 years. He turned an unused greenhouse into a garden and gazebo where children in wheelchairs can plant and pick the fruit and vegetables in the raised beds he created, making nature approachable for a population that too often is neglected when it comes to environmental education. 

Proposed by: Amateur Gardeners Club, Zone VI

2017 Winner: Aaron Schomburg

Aaron Schomburg has been a science teacher at Princeton Day School for 25 years. His interactive approach to teaching through outdoor classes and experiential learning sparks creativity and engagement within his students. His pond study and wetlands education, beehives, “Earth-Walks” curriculum, canal clean-up days, composting program, rain garden, and Green Team Summer Camp focus on sustainability and love of the environment. 

Proposed by: Stony Brook Garden Club, Zone IV

2017 Winner: Sean Sheppard

Sean Sheppard founded Backyard Farmer in Richmond, Virginia. The program builds and runs learning gardens in schools, community centers, and afterschool programs. This past year, he ran gardens in 19 different public schools. Students care for the soil, plant, weed, compost, harvest, and taste. The yearlong program teaches garden planning, photosynthesis, pollination, plant structure, seed-germination, weather, and nutrition. The program has cultivated awe and respect for the natural world through teaching the life cycle of plants and giving students the gift of working in the garden. Sean has “cultivated young students’ minds and his exuberance is infectious.”

Proposed by: James River Garden Club, Zone VII

2017 Winner: Sally Shwartz

Sally Shwartz, a volunteer coordinator at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center in Providence, conducts botany tours for elementary students and created a program “to help people look more closely at horticulture and the environment, to be inspired, connect people with plants, and to foster a sense of stewardship for nature.” The goals are accomplished at the center through experiential learning and classes. She created “Fairy Garden Days,” held for two weeks each spring, which attract more than 5,000 visitors to the center. Fairy “homes” are created from natural materials and supplied by volunteers. This whimsical event promotes imagination and observation of the natural world.
Funded by Sasqua Garden Club, Zone II

Proposed by: Perennial Planters, Zone II

2017 Winner: Damian Thompson

Damian Thompson has been a garden educator at the Dunbar Garden Project in Little Rock for 14 years and its director for 12 years. He manages the three-acre urban garden and teaching farm, providing curriculum development, fundraising leadership, animal husbandry, and educational programming. The purpose of the garden project is to teach sustainable urban agriculture to the nearly 800 students it hosts each month. One supporter wrote, “Damian and the garden are the most powerful assets to ensure my kids WANT to become stewards of the environment.”

Proposed by: Little Rock Garden Club, Zone IX

2017 Winner: Cesar Zuniga

Cesar Zuniga has developed school community gardens in Redwood City and Atherton since 2000. He most recently developed The Selby Lane School Garden serving as its coordinator. With 85 percent of his students at or below the poverty line, he believes that planting, caring for, and harvesting healthy fruits and vegetables will help these children develop a special relationship with the earth, and have a new appreciation for what it provides.

Proposed by: Woodside-Atherton Garden Club, Zone XII

2016 Winner: Mud Baron

Mud has helped to convert 1.5 acres into an urban farm, Muir Ranch, located on the grounds of the John Muir School in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles County. At-risk and special needs student’s learn to plant, grow, and harvest fruits, vegetables, and flowers year-round. Children become fascinated with nature and learn to till the soil, set irrigation lines, and dig in compost. They also learn the business aspects by selling fruits and vegetables at their farm stand and filling orders for weekly subscribers. He is a tireless advocate for students and without him Muir Ranch would not exist.


Proposed by: Member of Diggers Garden Club, Zone XII

2016 Winner: Maria Blakeslee

Carrie T. Watson Garden Club, Zone V

Maria, a member of the Carrie T. Watson Garden Club, Zone III, is a volunteer at the Asbury Woods Nature Center where she organizes classes, games, and activities for children to learn about the environment. She teaches about everything from Monarch Butterflies, frogs, bats, and insects to watershed issues, sometimes donning costumes to emphasize the lesson. She also volunteers at the Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier, helped to organize festivals at Earth Force where she teaches environmental lessons at Presque Isle State Park, and at Goodell Gardens a non-profit botanical garden where she coordinates programs for field trips and summer programs. Her efforts have touched the lives of many children over the years. 

Proposed by: Member of Carrie T. Watson Garden Club, Zone V

2016 Winner: Meg Caley

Meg designed a “hands-on, brains-on” urban farm program to teach children about sustainable living and caring for the environment. She co-founded and developed Sprout City Farms, a non-profit, urban farm dedicated to developing local food systems in the Denver metropolitan area. She created curriculum for a living classroom where Pre-K through 8th grade students study the natural environment and our food system. The food produced is used in the school cafeteria system. As “farmer-in-chief”, Meg manages all aspects of operations and programs at the Denver Green School Community Farm and oversees staff at the Mountain Park Community Farm. 

Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Denver, Zone XII

2016 Winner: Marie Culver

Marie has been an elementary educator for 27 years and is a gifted resource teacher at Seatack Elementary School, a Title 1 school in Virginia Beach, Va. She has created a curriculum for each grade level involving sustainable environment education, as well as, butterfly gardens, rain gardens, and organic gardens along with a greenhouse and compost area on the school grounds.  She started a “Go Green” group to participate in environmental field trips. After a beach clean up day, they learn how the trash can affect sea life. Her “breakfast club” enjoys an outside breakfast where they plan the day’s garden activities.

Proposed by: Member of The Virginia Beach Garden Club, Zone VII

2016 Winner: Ryan Koch

Ryan Koch started a not-for-profit called Seedleaf, which educates children about the environment through the creation of neighborhood gardens. He has built 16 free u-pick gardens in low-income areas by partnering with civic groups in the city. Children learn the benefits of hands-on-gardening and sell their produce to local restaurants, then take field trips to the restaurants to enjoy the fruits of their labor. He is known for “cultivating attention and affection for particular places, plants, animals, and soil.” In addition, he has piloted garden, cooking, and other food literacy programs at Growing Together Preschool, Sayre School, and the Lexington Parks and Recreation after-school program at the Gainesway Community Center.  

Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Lexington, Zone VII

2016 Winner: Kay McConnell

Guilford Garden Club, Zone VI

Kay McConnell, a member of the Guilford Garden Club, Zone VI, has shared her expertise with three Baltimore schools. At New Song Academy, an elementary school, she developed an award winning native plant garden and is writing a manual about the plants in the garden. She helped develop a conservation plan for water, energy, and native plants at the Friends School where a series of gardens have become a “eaching campus showing the progression of water through the campus and highlighting the native plants of the Chesapeake Bay area. At the Kipp School, a public charter middle school, she helped create a native garden with the Honeybee club. She inspires students to get their hands dirty and appreciate the beauty and fragility of our planet.

Proposed by: Member of Guilford Garden Club, Zone VI

2016 Winner: Mary Hills Powell

Mary is a member of a sustainability team that began in 2009 at the Watkinson School in Hartford, CT. They are working to eliminate pesticides, recycle, and plant outdoor gardens for food to be used in the cafeteria. Over the years, her leadership has lead to the construction of a greenhouse, planting a fruit orchard, creating a compost area for worm composting, recycling paper for mulch and worm bedding, creating pollinator gardens, and installing perennial gardens to beautify the campus. Her creation of the school’s farm to table initiative has taught the students about environmental sustainability and exemplifies her passion for the environment.

Proposed by: Member of Connecticut Valley Garden Club, Zone II

2015 Winner: Gordon Black

Gordon’s CLEAN (Children Linking with the Environment Across the Nation) program successfully fosters environmental education by introducing thousands of Birmingham area youth to the Cahaba River.  He has taken about 14,000 children and their teachers into the Cahaba River for hands-on environmental science stream walks, canoe trips, and educational service-learning projects, such as river clean-ups and forest restoration.

Proposed by: Member of Little Garden Club of Birmingham, Zone VIII

2015 Winner: Elisabeth Cary

Elisabeth, a much-loved Berkshire Botanical Garden director, has promoted environmentalism through creative education and hands-on experiences for children of all ages.  Her creation of a “Farm in the Garden Summer Camp” and enthusiastic teaching style has given children the knowledge of caring for animals, planting gardens and making food from what they grow.  
Funded by Sasqua Garden Club, (CT) Zone II

Proposed by: Member of Lenox Garden Club, Zone I

and Member of Lenox Garden Club, Zone I

2015 Winner: Maria Conroy

Maria has been the visionary and the driving volunteer force behind the over 125,000 annual visiting school age children to the Children’s Adventure Garden in the Dallas Arboretum.  Her leadership has built a garden like no other.  The garden has seventeen unique learning galleries, each one devoted to a specific life, earth or environmental science concept.  Maria has brought urbanized children back to nature through interactive education, creative play and outdoor exploration.

Proposed by: Member of Founders Garden Club of Dallas, Zone IX

2015 Winner: Mark Fallon

As the senior naturalist at Briar Bush Nature Center in Abington, Pennsylvania, Mark helped launch the ACORN (Abington Children Observing Real Nature) to the public and private schools in the area.  He was involved in the installation of a butterfly house at Briar Bush, oversaw the planting of many native plants and most recently designed, installed and landscaped an outdoor Playscape at Briar Bush.  This was the first “natural” outdoor play area in Pennsylvania.  This trailblazer has truly had an emotional and intellectual impact on his community and its children.

Proposed by: Member of Huntingdon Valley Garden Club, Zone V

and Member of Huntingdon Valley Garden Club, Zone V

2015 Winner: Stella Kennedy

As an educator and an inspiration for over forty-seven years, Stella has given children an opportunity to learn about nature and to explore an outdoor world unknown to them through her “Green Team” curriculum in the Piedmont School District.  Growing native plants and providing an outdoor teaching and learning space to support curriculum have been accomplished in this year’s opening of the “Learn Scape Lunch Park.” 

Proposed by: Member of Piedmont Garden Club, Zone XII

2015 Winner: John Markelon

For nearly thirty years John has promoted environmental education in the Litchfield Schools through the Litchfield High School Envirothon team, The Meadow Restoration project and Operation Wallacea.  Native plants continue to be planted on the school grounds where middle school children help to eradicate invasive shrubs and plants from the campus.  Most of the plants have been propagated in the school’s greenhouse under Mark’s direction.

Funded by Ridgefield Garden Club, (CT) Zone II

Proposed by: Member of Litchfield Garden Club, Zone II

2015 Winner: Kathleen McLynn

A teacher of three to five year olds at the St. Columba’s Nursery School, Kathleen has encouraged children’s love of nature for more than twenty-five years.  Each year her young children learn how the water cycle and the life cycles of plants and animals make and utilize compost for growing flowers, herbs and vegetables.  The school’s gardens are the basis on which St. Columba’s has become a registered National Backyard Wildlife Habitat and Monarch Butterfly Way Station.

Funded by Jane Chapman, Rochester Garden Club, (NY) Zone III

Proposed by: Perennial Garden Club, Zone VI

2015 Winner: Sheryl Pedrick

With boundless enthusiasm Sheryl has provided outstanding contributions to early childhood environmental education at the Ladew Topiary Gardens.  She oversees “Storytime,” has started a Butterfly House and a Monarch butterfly workshop. Her Summer Nature Camp for children four to nine years old has an environmental thrust as children hike, play games, perform experiments and create art projects.  She has given children an opportunity to learn about nature and to explore an outdoor world unknown to them.

Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Twenty, Zone VI

2015 Winner: Anita Sanchez

For thirty-five years at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center and the Pine Hollow Arboretum, Anita has promoted environmental education especially for the young. She is the author of children’s books, which are used in classrooms for developing reading skills, imparting information, and instilling enthusiasm and respect for the natural world.  Her programs at Pine Hollow Arboretum have successfully reached both suburban and inner city elementary school children.  

Funded by Millbrook Garden Club, (NY) Zone III

Proposed by: Member of Fort Orange Garden Club, Zone III

2015 Winner: Dorothy Tompkins

Albemarle Garden Club, Zone VII

As a volunteer for many years, Dorothy has donated 3,000 hours of community service to the Albemarle and Charlottesville schools through her work in their programs with young children.  From after school programs at the Greenbrier Elementary School, close alignment with the city Schoolyard garden projects and the 4-H Club Junior Naturalists, this remarkable woman is leaving a lasting legacy in each young life that she touches.

Proposed by: Member of Albemarle Garden Club, Zone VII

and Member of Albemarle Garden Club, Zone VII

2014 Winner: Pam Flory

Pam has been a teacher at the Princeton Day School for over 35 years.

Citation: This award is in recognition of your work to promote environmentalism through education and a hands-on experience in your organic gardens and Green Camps for the children at the Princeton Day School. You have encouraged and inspired young minds to embrace the outdoors and enthusiastically shared your love of the natural world. 

Proposed by: Member of Millbrook Garden Club, Zone III

and Member of Stony Brook Garden Club, Zone IV

2014 Winner: Suzanne M. Smith-Oscilowski

Suzanne, a teacher, has been the visionary and driving force for over a thousand public school children a year in the Wissahickon Watershed and the Evens – Mumbower Mill.

Citation: This award is in recognition of your commitment and volunteer time to hundreds of school children in the Wissahickon Watershed and the Evens-Mumbower Mill in Pennsylvania. As a volunteer Naturalist you have encouraged and inspired young minds to embrace the outdoors and have enthusiastically shared your love of the natural world.

Funded by Jane Chapman, Rochester Garden Club, (NY) Zone III

Proposed by: Member of The Weeders, Zone V