Dayton-area teachers recognized for connecting children to nature

Three local educators have been recognized by Five Rivers MetroParks for their efforts to connect children to nature during the eighth annual Miami Valley Leave No Child Summit at Possum Creek MetroPark held April 2.

The OUTstanding Teacher Awards were created to honor Dayton-area educators who “utilize nature as a classroom and facilitate meaningful experiences by weaving nature into the curriculum.”

“During these unprecedented times, nature is integral for mental and physical wellness, and also a perfect venue for students to safely learn about our world,” said MetroParks education coordinator Joshua York, in a release. “We have amazing teachers in the greater Dayton region who have recognized the power of hands-on learning with nature. This award brings the recognition they deserve and spreads awareness of their good work throughout their school and community.”

The winners of the OUTstanding Teacher Awards are:

Rising Star (less than 10 years teaching experience)

Patricia Lewis, Roosevelt Elementary

Second grade teacher Patricia Lewis started her teaching career in 2014, where she quickly recognized that there was a lack of fresh, affordable produce in the school. She planted a school produce garden with help from a Dayton Public Schools Foundation grant.

Leader (10 to 20 years teaching experience)

Beth Allaire, Bishop Leibold

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

In addition to teaching her students about soil ecology, animals and how to identify plants, junior high teacher and STEM Coordinator, Beth Allaire, focuses on nature education. During the pandemic, Allaire started a new student-led initiative called “The Green Team,” which led to students creating an outdoor vegetable garden among other projects.

Lifetime Achievement (20 plus years teaching experience)

Mary Beth Young, Brookville Elementary

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Elementary school librarian Mary Beth Young helps students cultivate an appreciation and exploration of ecological concepts and themes. Young has curated a book collection as a source for learning Earth science and appreciation. She covers a variety of nature-based topics with students, such as habitats, animals, plants and sustainability.

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The recipients received an awards package including outdoor educational materials to assist in connecting students to the environment, a plant kit with plants selected for the winning teacher’s school, and a one-year membership to the James M. Cox, Jr. Arboretum Foundation and transportation for their class for a field trip to Cox Arboretum MetroPark.

For more information, visit metroparks.org/outstanding.

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