Congratulations to our 2020 MAEE Award Recipients!
Lifetime Achievement Award
As a dedicated science teacher for over 40 years, Larry ignited passion, curiosity and wonder in the thousands of students that were fortune enough to wind up in his classroom. He used phenology, the study of seasonal phenomena in nature, to connect students to their natural world around them. Larry used phenology to connect with not-so-young learners as well, using a weekly radio program, multiple published books, and regular columns in several newspapers to solicit his same excitement and fascination for the natural world.
“Simply put, Larry Weber is an institution in Minnesota environmental education. His educational reach and impact over the last 50 years is truly astounding.” - Bryan Wood, Osprey Environmental Learning Center.
Over the course of his career, Larry earned awards including the Minnesota Secondary Science Teacher of the Year and the National Biology Teacher Association's Middle School Life Science Teacher of the Year. He has shared his knowledge and passion for phenology as a featured instructor at the University of Minnesota, Hamline University, Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center, Minnesota Master Naturalist Program, and several MAEE conference workshops. Larry has helped naturalists across the state hone their skills, expand their knowledge, and gain confidence to share what they’ve learned with others.
“Thanks to Larry, many Minnesotans have discovered everyday wonders in their own backyard, realizing that nature is not a place you visit but something you are part of. Through this award, we hope to recognize Larry's many achievements for environmental education in Minnesota.” – Elissa Mallory, President of MAEE.
Student Environmental Stewardship Award
Michael Lundquist is being recognized for his innovative and exemplary effort in the practice of environmental stewardship at East Ridge High School and the greater farming community.
How can farmers not only save our ozone layer but create an entirely new revenue stream for their farms in the process? This local student may have found the answer. As part of his Engineering Design & Development capstone course project, Michael Lundquist worked with his classmate, Alec, to figure out a way to capture the methane gas released from cows, convert the gas into liquid form, and create a product ready that is ready for the open market.
His teacher, Dennis Ware, said “Michael is far more ambitious than a small school project. He wants to show farmers how to create an entirely new revenue stream for their farms and protect and save our ozone layer in one process.”
After consulting with farmers, State of Minnesota experts and professors from the University of Texas, it was clear that this idea was not only good in theory, but could be implemented in the real world. As this innovative idea is highly marketable, Michael and Alex are currently pursuing a provisional patent from U.S. Government and expect to pursue to the idea further.
“Michael shows incredible passion, innovation, and strong stewardship for the environment. MAEE is in awe of this young environmental steward and appreciates the opportunity to recognize Michael’s talents with this award.” - Elissa Mallory, President of MAEE.
Non-formal Educator of the Year
During her tenure at Saint John’s Outdoor University, Sarah Gainey has grown the environmental education program by almost double. Not only has Sarah worked to provide education to school-aged students, she has also mentored over a dozen Environmental Education Fellows in addition to numerous college students and education volunteers.
Due to the recent pandemic, Sarah had to transition last spring from in-person field trips to creating curriculum that students could complete from their homes. Sarah mentored student naturalists to be flexible while adapting to this new type of programming. She provided leadership and mentorship in the brainstorming, creation, and execution of at-home summer camp. Currently, Sarah is leading the implementation of “Nature Near Me,” a program aimed to support schools by providing environmental education resources that create opportunities for students to engage with nature.
“Sarah’s hard work made environmental education accessible not only during the time of COVID but also for under-served populations for whom accessibility to nature is more limited.” - Carolyn Rowley, Saint John’s Outdoor University.
Sarah has previously served on the board of MAEE, Minnesota Naturalists’ Association, and North American Association for Environmental Education. She also coordinates a science teacher’s network that offers networking events with professional development for teachers.
“Amidst these challenging times, Sarah Gainey has gone above and beyond to help Minnesotans find a way to engage with nature and has been a leader in the environmental education field. This award helps honor her efforts for Minnesota.” – Elissa Mallory, President of MAEE.
Formal Environmental Educator of the Year
For over twenty years, Jean Schneeweis has inspired a love of nature in grade school students at Rockford Area Schools by creating meaningful learning experiences outdoors. Putting on their boots and coats, students head outdoors to a DNR school forest to explore. Jean and her students lovingly call this “Forest Fridays”. Together as a class, the first graders and Jean have taken ownership and stewardship of their forest.
First graders showed an excitement for learning, a greater appreciation for the natural world around them and a willingness to try new things. Through Jean’s instruction, students are able to make connections between ideas learned in the classroom and the world outside.
You might often hear comments from students on Forest Fridays like “Ethan is the best tree climber!” or “Sidney isn’t afraid of any of the bugs!”. Jean created wonderful opportunities to educate the “whole child.”
“Jean has spent many years re-imagining the school forest space, creating an outdoor classroom and trails. She has been using the space to connect students to nature as well as standards, which has created excitement among students, teachers, and parents about learning outdoors.” - Polly Trandahl, teacher at Rockford Area School.
Jean Schneeweis is a leader and in inspiration to other formal environmental educators around the state. MAEE is honored to present her with this award in 2020.” - Elissa Mallory, MAEE.