Congratulations to our 2017 MAEE Award Recipients!
Student Environmental Stewardship Award
Owen Bachhuber, a senior at Roseville Area High School, is passionate about increasing the public’s interest in and concern for animals, and by extension, the environment. Owen volunteered in Como Zoo’s Nature Walk program for 4 years, serving as a Day Captain for 3 of those years. As a Nature Walker, he educated visitors about Como’s animals and how to protect them. He is an active member of the Minnesota Herpetological Society, having fostered over forty reptiles and finding homes for many. In addition, Owen has an extensive menagerie which he uses to introduce the public to reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. He takes great satisfaction in helping others overcome their fears and begin to appreciate their connections with the natural world. Owen has given numerous animal presentations at his middle school and high school. In addition to being “that animal guy”, he is an active student leader in his school’s choir and theater programs.
Last year, Owen recruited four of his peers to participate in the Youth Engagement Program through Como Zoo. The team focused on increasing awareness of recycling in the high school and promoting reusable water bottles.
Owen looks forward to continuing his education focusing on wildlife biology and education. He hopes to make a career of caring for and educating people about animals and our shared earth.
Formal Environmental Educator of the Year
Devon Vojtech teaches at Forest Lake Area High School and is the adviser of the Environmental Club. The curriculum in her Earth and Space Science course focuses on the science behind climate change and discusses innovative solutions for positive environmental impacts. After seeing students interested in climate action, Devon revived the Environmental Club that had been absent at the high school for eight years. The club now participates as a YES! Team where student chosen projects focus on waste reduction with an increase in recycling, a pollinator garden at our school, and volunteer opportunities within the community.
This past summer Devon participated in the Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development. Twelve U.S. teachers and twelve Japanese teachers collaborated in San Francisco and Tokyo to build cultural connections and focus on the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations. Devon is working with Japanese science teachers to foster relationships with our students and share information on local natural disasters (water resources as it pertains to drought and stormwater reuse in Forest Lake, Minnesota, and earthquakes with tsunamis in Japan).
Devon’s enjoyment of the natural environment led to a Bachelors and Masters degree in Geological Sciences. After working in the research field, she returned to school for a teaching license and pursued an M.S. degree in Secondary Education with an Environmental Education Certificate.
Lifetime Achievement in Environmental Education
Ed and Seliesa Pembleton
As Aldo Leopold said, “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.” Lifelong educators and conservationists, Ed and Seliesa Pembleton count themselves among those who cannot.
The couple delights in introducing children and adults to the wonders of the natural world. For over 30 years as educators, naturalists, and conservationists the Pembleton's have lead field trips to explore landscapes, celebrate wild things and marvel at the annual gathering of more than 600,000 Sandhill Cranes along the Platte River in Nebraska.
As a 14-year employee of the National Audubon Society, Ed was instrumental in directing national and worldwide attention to the river and the cranes. In Minnesota, as director of the Leopold Education Project, he promoted Aldo Leopold’s philosophy of land ethics. An accomplished photographer, Ed’s pictures appear in books and national magazines.
Seliesa has written wildlife books for children, The Pileated Woodpecker and The Armadillo, published by Dillion/MacMillian Press. She worked at the Smithsonian Institution and for 10 years was director of environmental studies at Hard Bargain Farm, an outdoor education facility on the Potomac River. Sil organized a Potomac Watershed Cleanup that within 9 years spanned from the headwaters to the Chesapeake Bay and involved thousands of volunteers. She has been invited to Japan several times to teach environmental education “American style.”
For the last few years, the Pembleton's have worked with the Jeffers Foundation to provide Minnesota teachers with more than 100 professional development workshops focused on taking students outdoors for learning. The couple enjoys birding, hiking, gardening, and canoeing.