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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 the 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.

2020 Winner: Leigh Adams

Leigh Adams has worked passionately to connect children and youth to 
the natural environment. She has taught in Southern California for 
over 40 years in public and private schools and for over 25 years at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. Her curricula have included outdoor education, plant-based arts, habitat gardening, soil science, and other activities promoting environmental awareness, with a focus on water, carbon, and biodiversity. At the LA County Arboretum, Adams served 
as lead educator for the landmark Crescent Farm project, a one-acre outdoor classroom and demonstration site dedicated to creating a healthier urban ecosystem. Through her inspired teaching and leadership there, nearly 75,000 visiting children have participated in tours and activities. 
She has also been highly successful 
in reaching youth from low- income communities, with several individuals now pursuing careers in environmental organizations and the green industries due to her mentorship. Her sponsors consider Adams “among our region’s very finest environmental educators.”

 


2020 Winner: Sandy Greene

Sandy Greene has demonstrated 
a lifetime commitment to the environment and inspires children to become better stewards of the earth. A visionary leader, she creates innovative hands-on programs to excite children of all ages and cultures about conservation and natural resources. Examples of her work include creating forest walks at the Wildlife Center of Virginia for students to learn about their forest animal mascot (owl, hawk, opossum, or snake) and how it lives within its habitat; developing an innovative program for second and third graders to learn about wetlands habitat at the George Washington National Forest in Augusta Springs; and helping to construct the Marl Creek Trail within the Cyrus McCormick historical farm. Here she provided the wording for interpretive signs on the importance of riparian ways and armed teachers with ideas and equipment for teaching field trips. Greene, always wearing green so the remember her name, celebrates every child with infectious enthusiasm and makes them feel special.


2020 Winner: Mindy Jaffe

Proposed by Jann Boxold and Heidi Ho, The Garden Club of Honolulu,
Zone XII
 Mindy Jaffe is an environmental champion who has devoted her time to educating Hawaii’s keiki (children) to be proud stewards of the land. She instructs 2,200 students annually about the science of food waste, thermal composting, and vermicomposting. She sought to address the overwhelming problem of food waste in Hawaii schools by introducing the Zero Waste program to teach the students to recycle daily food waste they do not eat and to turn it into compost. Their mulch 
is used in school gardens where 
crops are grown, harvested, and eaten. Caring for the environment becomes a daily practice for students. The program was first introduced at Pearl City High School, which subsequently was honored with the US EPA Food Recovery Challenge award. The program was expanded to five elementary schools and one intermediate school, creating the Windward Zero Waste School Hui, co-founded by Jaffe. Since 2014, students have diverted over 300,000 pounds of food waste from landfills.


2020 Winner: Cathy Justis

Cathy Justis is the Director of Education for the Wolf River Conservancy in Memphis, Tennessee. With an emphasis on water education, she provides a wide range of programming for K-12 students and others, including frog chorus walks, stream strolls, and service projects. Her activities are designed to provide Memphis and Shelby County youth with a greater appreciation of the natural environment, especially a better understanding of the 
source of clean drinking water. She frequently is invited by local educators to participate directly in the classroom teaching of environmental education. Complementing her direct involvement with children, Justis also is certified to teach “Project WET” workshops, designed to provide educators at all levels with information on diverse water topics so that they can reach children with objective, science-based water education. Over the last few years, Cathy has reached hundreds of educators with Project WET.


2020 Winner: Marlene Mayes

Marlene Mayes has introduced thousands of children to the world of agriculture and horticulture at the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm in Bloomfield, Connecticut, where she has volunteered for 16 years. At Auerfarm she manages both 
the teaching greenhouse and the Foodshare demonstration garden, having grown the latter from a small in-ground project to a 50+ raised-
bed intensive production garden, which is used to engage youth in planting and harvesting over two 
tons of produce annually, as well as teaching them about food sources, biology, and chemistry. She has pioneered educational programs to bring school children to the farm and into greenhouses and gardens, while getting their hands in the soil. She 
has created programming for students with special needs or in need of service hours, Girl Scouts, 4-Hers, and numerous other groups. As a result
of her tireless efforts, roughly 1,200 school children now visit Auerfarm monthly, often leaving with a plant they have planted.


2020 Winner: Lauren Miller

Lauren Miller has taught numerous environmental programs, including 
at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, Pennsylvania; Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center, Wisconsin; Stratford Ecological Center, Ohio; and at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. Now a teacher of Environmental Education for first through fourth-grade students at the Birchwood School of Hawken, she instills in her students a dedication to making their community and world a better place, teaching them about nature, how they are affected by it, and how the world is affected by them. She brings her passion for experiential science into the classroom, emphasizing hands-on projects. She and her classes created a pollinator garden after much research, planning, fund raising, collaboration, and in-ground construction. Shortly after the creation of the garden, a local news anchor was heard on air saying how much he “hated bees.” Recognizing a teachable moment, she and her fourth-grade students invited him to their classroom, where they shared with him the value of pollinators for the environment. He then apologized on air to the bees for his previous remarks.


2020 Winner: Amy Padolf

As Director of Education at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden 
in Miami, Florida, Amy Padolf 
has inspired thousands of students annually with innovative and engaging science programs. She introduced FTBG’s Million Orchid Project into 250 Florida schools, spearheading the installation of orchid lab materials 
in middle and high schools; working with elementary students to plant 
rare orchids in the trees around 
their schools; and developing the STEMLab program, a mobile 
orchid propagation lab built in a decommissioned school bus, bringing specialized propagation technology 
to seventh graders. The project is now the nation’s largest educational outreach program dedicated to orchid conservation. Padolf also initiated 
the Growing Beyond Earth Project, designed to have students conduct botany experiments on growing plants in space, in conjunction with NASA researchers at the Kennedy Space Center. Additionally, she developed Shade our Schools, a leaf research project for elementary students, in conjunction with the University of Miami, and helped to establish a public magnet school dedicated to the plant sciences.


2020 Winner: Jennifer Toth

Jennifer Toth has taught kindergarten at Maple Glen Elementary School
for 15 years. A self-described “nature and science geek,” she guides her young students through a year-long experience in which the wonders of the natural world come alive. In her unit on “The Five Senses,” children explore an undeveloped natural 
land area, where they watch insect s
up close, touch rocks with different textures, smell different parts of plants, sit in blinds to watch and listen for birds, and draw or write in their journals. Recycling, using scrap bins to avoid wasting supplies, and conserving water when washing hands are all regularly practiced in the classroom. She also infuses environmental awareness into non-science topics, such as using the life cycle of penguins as part of the Language Arts program. Her impact is felt not only in the classroom but also on the curriculum committees for both her school and district, on which she plays a leading role in creating science curricula for kindergarten and elementary grades.


2020 Winner: Julie Wolfe

A teacher for 22 years, Julie Wolfe is a leader in introducing environmental education to her urban public school district, where over 65 percent of the population qualifies for free/reduced lunch, and families have limited access to safe outdoor spaces. She has created a myriad of outdoor education programs. For example, she designed and maintains the school native plant and vegetable garden; started 
a school-wide recycling program; created Science Inquiry kits filled
 with tools for students to observe 
and record their findings in the outdoor environment; and connects elementary students to a local high school environmental program, with the elementary students introducing 
it in turn to kindergarteners. She
 has taken her students on field trips 
to local parks and nearby redwood groves. Partnering with Nature Bridge, an educational partner of the National Park Service, and engaging in significant fundraising so that all could attend, she led her school’s fourth-graders on a two-night experience in Yosemite National Park, which few had ever seen despite it being relatively nearby. Her nominators say, “she stands out as a pioneer in integrating, and in rendering more accessible, the gifts of environmental education.”


2019 Winner: Carol Burton

Carol Burton began volunteering for Urban Harvest 20 years ago and is now director of youth education. She currently oversees the garden and nutrition classes for 22 schools, impacting children aged 4–14 from all over greater Houston. Urban Harvest is a nonprofit organization with three programs: community gardens, farmers market, and youth education. Over the last 15 years Burton has greatly enlarged her job to include training garden educators and project managers who help develop edible gardens. Eighty percent of the schools with an edible garden are Title 1 schools where nearly 100 percent of the students are receiving free breakfast, lunch and now from the garden, dinner.

Proposed by: Member of The Garden Club of Houston, Zone IX


2019 Winner: Regina DeStefano

As the lower school science teacher at Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY, for the past 14 years, Regina DiStefano works with children in Grades K–4 teaching subjects such as earth science, ecology, biology, and living organisms. She also collaborates with middle- and upper-school students to document the ecology of the extensive forest surrounding the campus. Her lowerschool students help by maintaining salamander count, identifying plants and animals, and assisting with trail clean up and restoration. In
2014 she initiated a lower-school project to plant a vegetable and herb garden to attract pollinators that has become a focus of the lower-school curriculum and a source of pride for the students. DiStefano also teaches popular after-school and summer classes.

Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Irvington-on-Hudson, Zone III


2019 Winner: Amy Jagodnik

When Amy Jagodnik’s children were students at Horace Mann Elementary School in Washington, DC, she volunteered to cultivate school partnerships with DC Greens, Shelburne Farms and Center for Ecoliteracy. As the School Improvement Team Chairperson, she directed numerous sustainable and green initiatives that resulted in the school’s 2017 Gold LEED certi cation. In 2010 the school hired Jagodnik to be the garden coordinator at Horace Mann Elementary School with a population of over 400 students ages 4–12. She has developed a year-round school garden program with 16 tower gardens, seven beehives, a developing fruit orchard, and egg-laying hens plus chicks. Twice weekly she teaches the youngest students in the garden. Middle-school classes focus on food production, healthy eating, and waste management. The executive director of Casey Trees noted in his letter of recommendation that Jagodnik organized an event for 400 students emphasizing the importance of trees, and in 2017 she was recognized with Casey Tree’s Canopy Award for Education.

Funded by Lorill Haynes, Trustees’ Garden Club, Zone VIII

Proposed by: Member of The Trowel Club, Zone VI


2019 Winner: Kellie Karavias

Kellie Karavias is the Culinary Arts Educator at Gregory-Lincoln Education Center in the historic Fourth Ward near downtown Houston, with an enrollment of nearly 700 primarily low-income students ages 4–14. Employed by Houston Independent School District, and working with Urban Harvest, she is also the founder of the Cultivated Classroom where students learn about food by working in the garden, caring for chickens, picking fruits from the orchard, and preparing these foods in the kitchen classroom. Cultivating their minds and bodies, Karavias’s students know where their food comes from because they sow it, grow it, share it, and eat it. She initiated a unique program working with a local grocery store to create a Kids Market. There, students are responsible for marketing, display, pricing, and selling the food they grow. Karavias observes that, “the school garden melts barriers and changes everything. It is a safe place for them to be themselves.”

Proposed by: Member of The Garden Club of Houston, Zone IX


2019 Winner: Jackie Kondel

Jackie Kondel is the director of children’s education at Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit, NJ. During the ten years she has held this position, over 10,000 students have participated in the “Hands to Nature” program for children ages three and up. Each year, Garden Club of Madison funds  eld trips for students from Newark, NJ, who otherwise might not be exposed to natural habitats. To prepare students, Kondel travels to the Newark schools beforehand to describe their upcoming Reeves adventure. When they arrive at the arboretum, she guides them in hands-on activities to teach appreciation of nature. She also develops all children’s activities for special events such as Daffodil Day and Celebrate Fall. She now has a staff of three to help support these very popular programs.

Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Madison, Zone IV

and Member of Plainfield Garden Club, Zone IV


2019 Winner: Victoria McMillan

Victoria (Torrey) McMillan is the director of the Center for Sustainability at Hathaway Brown School in Cleveland, the oldest continuously operating college preparatory school for girls in Ohio. She is a mentor to these young girls, setting an example by running marathons, participating in triathlons, and being the only female contestant in a 700-mile kayak race. She tirelessly advocates for youth environmental education in the community. As director she understands that teaching the teachers will bring awareness to more students, but her personal focus is lower and middle schoolers. On campus, she and her students designed and built a bird sanctuary, which is incorporated in many educational lessons. Her goal is to enhance her students’ appreciation of the natural world so they can act to help save it.

Proposed by: Member of Shaker Lakes Garden Club, Zone X


2019 Winner: Nina Miller

Nina Miller has been involved with The Darien Nature Center since 1992. Originally a volunteer, she became a member of the program staff 15 years ago, leading all pre-school program activities. Her imprint in the community is legendary. She has a singular ability to connect with children, knowing how to teach so that they both engage and remember what they have learned. Among the many activities she has developed and taught are Babes in the Woods, Nature Time for two-year-olds, Knee High to Nature for threes, Critters and Kids, Nature’s Playroom, and Story Time with the Animals. Miller also directs a seven-week summer camp for two- and three-year-olds. Her after school program is called Animal Caretakers Club geared for children in Grades 2–6. She also leads elementary school students on environmental tours at the Nature Center and other public parks. The executive director of the Darien Nature Center said “the world is better because of Nina and our environment has a fierce advocate for protection.”

Funded by Sasqua Garden Club, Zone II

Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Darien, Zone II


2019 Winner: Elizabeth Minott

Betsy Minott is the garden coordinator and education technician in the Mount Desert Island School in Maine, working with all students ages 5–14. Examples of her innovative programs include harvesting potatoes and graphing favorite ways to eat them (Grades 1 and 2), and creating seed-to-table salsa recipes in Grade 7 Spanish class. She taught Grade 3 science classes inherited traits by growing  ve different lettuce seedlings. In 2015, The Garden Club of Mount Desert and the town funded a greenhouse to engage students in hands-on food growing to support community connections to nature, sustainability, healthy choices, and food security. Minott created the greenhouse’s programming and according to the principal, “the results are magical.”

Funded by Ridge eld Garden Club, Zone II

Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Mount Desert, Zone I


2019 Winner: Kathy Sapienza

Kathy Sapienza works at Old Trail School, an independent day school in Bath, OH, for students in pre-K–8. She successfully implemented a cross- disciplinary edible education program teaching the concept of planting the “Three Sisters,” incorporating history, horticulture, and environmental stewardship. She has established four hives and set up a “Farm Hands-on” elective for students in Grades 6–8. The food the students produce is served in the school dining room almost every day. The curriculum
also includes working with children in Grades 3–5 on raised garden beds, tapping maple trees, and harvesting syrup. Last year, middle schoolers harvested and cultivated organic cotton. Next year they plan to replant cotton using the seeds they saved and also to start a dye garden with  owers, roots, and berries.

Funded by Julie Johnson, Little Garden Club of Columbus, Zone X

Proposed by: Member of Akron Garden Club, Zone X


2019 Winner: Sue Schoenfeld

Sue Schoenfeld has been a third-grade teacher for over 23 years. She has also served as garden club advisor at The Deane Porter School in Rumson, NJ, for the past 15 years, teaching children ages 7–9. In 2003 working with the Rumson Garden Club, Sue created a monarch butterfly garden in the courtyard of the school. She taught the children the importance of the role monarchs play in our ecosystems. As the program grew, she arranged trips for students and their parents to Mexico to take part in the Monarch Watch. Upon their return, students would share their experiences. Schoenfeld also pioneered the school’s recycling program by inviting the senior director of Monmouth County’s recycling department to speak to third graders as well as guiding field trips to the recycling center.

Proposed by: Member of Rumson Garden Club, Zone IV


2019 Winner: Laura & Shawn Sears

Laura and Shawn Sears founded a free residential outdoor education program called Vida Verde Nature Education in 2001. Since then, the three-day, nonprofit, outdoor education camp has positively impacted 11,000 inner- city students ages 10–12 who come from under-resourced schools and have no access to outdoor learning programs. During the school year,  fifth graders camp for two nights in Northern California and participate in many activities, such as milking goats, walking silently through the forest, and harvesting vegetables from the organic garden, which is used to prepare their dinner. Students also visit the coastline exploring sea life along the shore and splashing in the ocean. This hands-on science education and team-building program is life changing for the children. These outdoor experiences provide low- income students with an introduction to the wonders of nature, as well as a respite from their daily routines. Laura Sears says, “Camp is magic.”


Funded by a club member of Little Garden Club of Columbus, Zone X, in honor of a club member of Hancock Park Garden Club, Zone XII

Proposed by: Member of Woodside-Atherton Garden Club, Zone XII


2019 Winner: Norma Simmons

Norma Simmons started the ACCESS garden in 2003, a nonpro t program offering full-time education, therapy, and training for children with developmental disabilities. The students, ages 7–16, grow a variety of  owers, fruits, herbs, and vegetables from cuttings, seeds, and small plugs. Then they host garden sales for the school and community, while learning customer service skills, reading, writing, use of currency, and math. The raised beds in the 3,364-square- foot greenhouse make gardening more accessible for these special-needs students who would otherwise not be able to experience horticulture and caring for plants. Making worm tea is another popular activity. The HydroCycle Vertical System, which Simmons initiated  ve years ago, is also accessible by all, rewarding the student gardeners with plants growing 30–50 percent faster than traditional growing methods.

Proposed by: Member of Little Rock Garden Club, Zone IX


2019 Winner: Maggie Tuohy

Maggie Tuohy is the garden instructor at Seth Boyden Demonstration School, a Title 1 kindergarten to fith grade school in Maplewood, NJ. A Master Gardener and former volunteer, she is now a faculty member working to align the school’s garden and outdoor experience programs with the New Jersey state curriculum. The Outdoor Learning Center, which she helped develop, includes the Strawberry Fields teaching garden, a habitat garden, and a native arboretum. Every grade level has a garden bed to plan, plant, and maintain through which students learn math, history, and language arts. On garden walks in the rain, students also learn to hear the differences in the sounds on rainy versus dry days. Tuohy has empowered thousands of students to appreciate and interact with nature.

Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of the Oranges, Zone IV


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