Raising future Earth stewards

Teacher honored as environmentalist

September 20, 2006|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Sun

Seven-year-old Ellie Pline brings home her plastic bags from her lunchbox so they can be reused. She turns off the water when she brushes her teeth. She prefers to walk to West Annapolis Elementary School rather than have her mother drive her.

Lisa Foulke Pline credits the changes in her daughter to first-grade teacher Carol Lady.

Pline was one of several parents who nominated Lady for the Jan Hollmann Environmental Education Award, which recognizes Anne Arundel County residents who promote environmental stewardship. Lady will receive the award Sunday at Arlington Echo in Millersville.

The awards committee could see that Lady's projects nurtured future environmentalists.

"She is not one-dimensional," said Ann-Marie Dammeyer, chairwoman and an outdoor education teacher specialist at Arlington Echo. "She is focused about teaching about the environment and grass-roots education."

Hollmann started the Scenic Rivers Land Trust and spearheaded congressional legislation to help protect the Severn River. She died of cancer in 1990 at the age of 44. The award was established in 1994.

A longtime naturalist, Lady admired Hollmann's accomplishments. She remembers reading about the first recipients of the award and was stunned that she won.

"I was totally overwhelmed," Lady said.

A former homemaker who lives in the Annapolis area, Lady began teaching in 1993. Now 61, she teaches all subjects to her pupils, but it is science that excites her most. Her science shelves hold books and nature specimens. A local birdwatcher donated a nest made by a Baltimore oriole. An empty wasp nest hangs from a dead tree branch perched atop the bookcase.

Lady laughs loudly when she recalls the pupils' reactions to them and their school projects.

For the past two years, Lady's first-graders have raised two terrapins and released them into the bay at the end of the school year. On Sept. 27, Lady's first-grade class will get its terrapin eggs from Chesapeake Connections. Lady can't wait.

"This is my heart and soul, to make science why kids get excited to come in here," she said.

In 2002, the first-graders helped plant a garden that would attract butterflies to reproduce and feed. Every year, they get butterfly larvae and document their metamorphosis into butterflies.

a tiny meadow

Last year, Lady and fourth-grade teacher Jessica Moran teamed up to have their classes create a tiny meadow of plants and rocks to slow the schoolyard's muddy runoff into Weems Creek.

The first-graders also spent the day with eighth-graders planting pine and spruce trees and magnolia bushes along the Wilelinor stream to prevent runoff.

"To look down from the top and see all of them digging, digging. ... It was exciting," she said. "It was thrilling."

Those lights

Lady loves hearing from parents that her students chide them about leaving lights on. She tells her students the same thing every year, that her generation has made a big mistake in neglecting the environment.

"I say, `It's up to you 6-year-olds to fix it,'" Lady said.

In 2002, West Annapolis Elementary School began to participate in Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center's Chesapeake Connections program, which has students participating in environmental projects.

During a field trip to Arlington Echo in the spring, Pline said, Lady and the students waded into the Severn River and planted grasses to create habitat for fish and oxygenate the water.

"She went swimming," Pline said. "She got completely wet planting her own bay grasses."

Lady was also instrumental in providing the documentation needed to win the 2005 Maryland Green School award.

A resource

Teachers nominated Lady for the Hollmann award because she became a resource for them, said fifth-grade teacher Clare Goggin. She went to Lady to find out how her fifth-graders could plant bay grasses. Lady not only gave her the information but also had her first-graders show the older students how to do it.

Lady's passion for the environment gets children excited about science, Goggin said. "The kids just respond to it," she said.

The award ceremony, which is open to the public, will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center, 975 Indian Landing Road in Millersville. John Page Williams, senior naturalist of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, is the keynote speaker.

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