Goochland County teacher who partners with VCU earns Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators

After SchoolPresident Barack Obama recently named Goochland County middle school teacher Anne Moore a recipient of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. The PIAEE awards are given to 15 environmental educators nationwide who use innovative, hands-on and experiential approaches in their lessons. Moore’s award was based in part on her involvement in a research consortium with Virginia Commonwealth University, informally named the Team Warbler project.

Through collaboration with VCU faculty and students, Moore leads her Goochland Middle School students in the study of prothonotary warblers, a migratory bird that breeds along rivers that feed into the Chesapeake Bay and spends winters in the tropics. Team Warbler includes community partners such as the Audubon Society along with the VCU Center for Environmental Studies and the VCU Rice Rivers Center.

Each winter VCU students who are enrolled in the Panama Avian Ecology course travel to Panama for two weeks to study the warblers wintering in tropical mangrove forests fringing the Panama Bay. While there, they work closely with the Panama Audubon Society and host local Panamanian schoolchildren for a day in the field to observe the research. When the VCU students and faculty return to Virginia, they teach Moore’s students about wetlands, warblers and conservation challenges shared by communities living on both the Chesapeake and Panama Bays.

Moore’s students have participated in hands-on learning activities, from measuring the light reflected in a bird’s feather to collecting data on nest predation rates along a rural-urban gradient. They also design and build nest boxes to be used at VCU’s long-term study sites along the James River. The work culminates at the end of the spring semester with the middle school class joining the VCU team for a day of hands-on learning about warblers and wetlands on the James River.

The project, now in its fifth year, is based on the concept that preservation of habitats critical to migratory birds is often important to the environmental, economic and cultural well-being of nearby communities, and long-term conservation of these habitats requires cross-cultural cooperation and understanding.

“To solve our future environmental challenges, young people need to understand the science behind the natural world and create a personal connection to the outdoors,” said Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy. “These teachers and students are demonstrating the important role of environmental education, and showing how individual actions can help address climate change, protect the air we breathe and safeguard the water we drink.”

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