Chris Freeman, AP environmental science teacher at Kellam High School, has been selected to receive the 2016 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE). The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) administers the award in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recognize outstanding teachers and students in grades K-12 who employ innovative approaches to environmental education. The national recognition is awarded only up to two teachers from each of the EPA’s 10 regions.
Freeman was recognized at an awards ceremony at the White House Aug. 16, and received a cash award of $2,500 to be used to further his professional development in environmental education. Additionally, Virginia Beach City Public Schools received an award of $2,500 to fund environmental educational activities and programs. In addition, Freeman took part in a panel discussion with White House and EPA officials on STEM education.
Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator, praised the awardees in an Aug. 16 agency press release. “These teacher and student winners are exemplary leaders, committed to strong environmental conservation and tackling problems including landfill waste and climate change head on. Environmental education cultivates our next generation of leaders by teaching them how to apply skills in creativity and innovation. I have no doubt that teachers and students like these will someday solve some of our most complex and important issues.”
Ana Cingel, Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) coordinator of secondary science, praised Freeman for giving his students opportunities to engage in issues scientists grapple with in the field as well as collaborating with the community to provide service learning and outdoor learning opportunities.
Cingel noted Freeman established Pollen-Nation, Kellam High School’s Beekeeping Club, which is the first apiary and bee research site at a public school in Virginia. Students manage and maintain a working apiary that further connects Pungo’s farming community with the school as well as provides a hands-on educational resource for students to learn about beekeeping, ecosystem management, biodiversity, crop pollination, farming and honey production and more.
Freeman also organized Kellam’s 2016 Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Challenge, at which students presented their ideas and solutions to panelists from NASA, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Old Dominion University, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, VBCPS, and the city’s Department of Planning and Community Development.
“I am inspired by his work and dedication to enriching the lives of our students and motivating them to become environmental stewards,” wrote Cingel.
According to the EPA website, award applicants are judged and selected based on sample teaching materials, letters of support and applicants’ responses to questions in five areas: innovation, achievement, Service to the community, leadership and integration.
Freeman was selected as an award recipient from EPA Region 3, which serves Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. He is the second VBCPS teacher to receive the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. Robert Carroll was honored in 2012 for his work as a science teacher at Plaza Middle School.
More information about the recipients of the 2016 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators is available on the EPA website.
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