Award Winning Teacher Inspires Students to Volunteer on NPLD

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Students join together to show off their dirty legs after a day of volunteering.

Deborah Wasylik doesn't just teach her students about the environment; she takes them into the surrounding Orlando community to show how each student can play a role in improving the natural world.

On National Public Lands Day, Deborah and 60 students from Dr. Phillips High School put what they learned in the classroom into practice by volunteering at Bill Frederick Park to remove invasive plant species, blaze trails and mulch. Deborah's year-round inspirational work earned her the Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award, which recognizes teachers who best display a passion for, and leadership in, environmental education.

 

Bringing Environmental Education to Life

Deborah teaches Advanced Placement environmental science and marine science at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla. The school has approximately 3,600 students who speak 46 languages and almost half enrolled in the federal free or reduced school lunch program. Despite many challenges and limited budgets, Deborah's students have scored an average of 30 points above the national average on their AP exams and exemplify a strong environmental ethic within the school grounds and the surrounding community. 

Deborah WasylikThrough field experiments and trips, Deborah reinforces the importance of the classroom lessons to the reality of living in Orlando. Students observe birds on their school campus and study lichens on trees near the busy bus loop. Deborah transforms the challenges of an urban setting into opportunities for learning and service. In addition to starting a recycling program, Deborah's students have created an outreach program centered on the school’s new aquaponics program called “Eduponics” – a curriculum for school groups that will introduce the public to aquaponics.

Deborah's students have also voluntarily logged hundreds of community service hours cleaning up beaches, pulling out invasive plants from native habitats, giving tours of the ecosystem section at the Orlando Science Center and removing trash from local roadways. 

 

National Public Lands Day

Deborah Wasylik's students on NPLD.On September 29, 2012, Deborah and a team of 60 students and 3 adults put in over 120 hours of community service at Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake. Hosted by the city of Orlando Department of Families, Parks and Recreation, the Bill Frederick Park event is a long-running NPLD event that combines service, recreation and education into a fun-filled celebration for the whole family. Participants can volunteer, run in a 5K race, learn to fish or create art projects, to name a few.

The students of Dr. Phillips High School focused their attention on volunteering to mulch, blaze trails, remove thousands of pounds of invasive species and assist with a children's art program. They accomplished in a few hours what would have taken months to do with just the regular parks staff.

 

The Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award

The Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award is given annually to an outstanding middle or high school teacher who successfully integrates environmental education into their curriculum and engages students in interdisciplinary solutions to environmental challenges. The award recognizes an educator who can serve as an inspiration and model for others. The National Environmental Education Foundation manages the Bartlett Award program.

The 2012 Bartlett Award was limited to high school teachers, which includes grades 9-12. Because middle and high school teachers may face different challenges in their teaching on the environment, the award alternates between middle and high school teachers each year. 

The Bartlett Award winner receives $5,000 and two merit winners will receive $750 each. The merit winners were Paul Ritter of Pontiac Township High School in Pontiac, Ill. and Kristine Rademacher-Gorovitz of Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz.  Learn more about the 2012 merit winners of the Barlett Award.