A Message from Our Former President
- Kimberly Murray


        The past conference at Dauphin Island Sea Lab was a wonderful opportunity to look back on the history of EEAA as well make new friends too. I look forward to these conferences every year because they are a wonderful opportunity to network with like-minded souls. We come from various backgrounds and locations but we all have a passion for environmental education. Dauphin Island Sea Lab was a wonderful host for our conference. Their staff was extremely helpful and patient as we sent endless emails asking questions after questions to make this the best possible conference for our participants. During the conference the participants got a glimpse of what our new website could look like. The EEAA board is currently taking suggestions for improvements. The board has already met for a quarterly meeting and we have many more ideas to share with our members, through Facebook, the newsletter, and website. I am excited for Mandy to take on the leadership of EEAA. She has a passion for teaching EE and I know she will bring this pas-sion to EEAA, and she has great ideas for this upcoming year. Shelly is going to be a great Vice President. She is not afraid of change and her willingness to try something new is evident in her endless enthusiasm for teaching EE. She has done a wonderful job this past year with the newsletter, and with moving forward with the website. The executive committee is complete with Christine, as Secretary, and Shirley, as Treasurer.

       I am excited to still be on the board of EEAA. I will continue my work with the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance and North American Association for Environmental Education. I will continue to share updates about the great things going on in our state, across the Southeast, and across North America. It has been a pleasure serving as your EEAA president over the last year, and I look forward to seeing everyone at upcoming events, professional development opportunities, and at next year's conference at Cheaha State Park.


David Matson

Education Programs Coordinator

Legacy - Partners in Environmental Education

David grew up in northeast Alabama and has always enjoyed the outdoors and all the activities that go along with it. He received his undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from the University of Alabama, in 2012, and his masters degree in Biology from Jacksonville State University, in 2016. David is the Educational Programs Coordinator for Legacy, Partners in Environmental Education, where he has been employed since September, 2016. David says, “I am excited to be a part of a wonderful organization like EEAA and look forward to representing EEAA as a board member.”

Brooke McMinn

Plant Adventures Program Specialist

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Plant Adventures Program Specialist Brooke McMinn came to The Birmingham Botanical Gardens in 2014 from the Rutgers University Extension and New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, where she worked as a horticultural agent, Master Gardener program coordinator, and plant breeding researcher. A graduate of Rutgers University’s Department of Plant Science, Brooke’s specialties are medicinal and economic botany, ethnobotany, sustainable agriculture, and conservation. As The Gardens’ Director of Education and Visitor Experience, Brooke designs and delivers educational programs and experiences to better connect the greater Birmingham community to the plants that power their lives.

Allie Sorlie

Education Outreach Coordinator

Alabama Museum of Natural History

Allie Sorlie is the Education Outreach Coordinator for the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa. Allie is from Niceville, Florida, a place she swears is real. She has a deep love of environmental education, science education, and bringing students into nature. When she is not working, Allie is usually either hiking, at the movies, or playing a round or two of ping-pong. She has been a member of EEAA for 5 years and is looking forward to serving the organization as a new board member. I look forward to meeting and working with everyone!


2018 BEEP Award Winners


Meet Our New President, Mandy Pearson

     Mandy Pearson, our new EEAA President, is the Park Naturalist at Cheaha State Park, and the state Leave No Trace Advocate. Mandy has served on the EE-AA Board for two years and has been a member of EEAA for seven years. She holds a B.S. degree in Ecology and Forensics and a M.S. degree in Biology from Jacksonville State University. Mandy worked in the Children’s Zoo (Birmingham), where she cared for, trained and presented programs with native, domestic and exotic animals as a volunteer for four years and as a zookeeper for 6 years. She volunteered and worked for the JSU Field Schools under the direction of Renee Raney (now also at Cheaha State Park) for 8 years. Renee says, "Mandy is a unique interpreter who knows how to speak to people of all ages and diverse backgrounds. It has been a pleasure to work with her for almost a decade. Everyone loves Mandy, or Bear, as she is known to most visitors." Mandy volunteered with the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife, and the US Forest Service.

     For the past five years Mandy has been building an environmental education program at the park through constructing campgrounds, trails, events, workshops, classes, campfire talks, and partnerships. It is her hope that environmental education through EEAA and its partners will serve as a bridge for all of Alabama to reconnect with the beauty, harmony, balance, and tranquility of nature.

Meet Our New Board Members

Thank you for your service to EEAA Kimberly!

Jeffrey Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award:

Dr. Jim Lacefield

             When I reflect on people who have influenced my professional life, some of the first people who come to mind are Dr. Jim Lacefield and his wife, Faye. They are quite a team. Her interest in fossils was an impetus for Jim’s decision to study geology. Jim had a Masters degree in Biology and went to work teaching at a small rural K-12 school, in which he was the science department. In prepping for 8th grade Earth Science class, he fell in love with geology and realized the desperate need to get more information into the hands of teachers and laypersons in Alabama.

            Jim returned to school to get a doctorate in Science Education, with specialties in Geology and Biology. He has taught at several colleges including the University of North Alabama. He can take complex topics such as the geologic history of the earth and make it understandable for children and adults alike.

           In 2000, Jim published what is now the premier book on the south’s geology, Lost Worlds in Alabama Rocks. The book is used in a variety of geology and earth science classes in the state from middle school through the college levels. The book has been adopted as a text or supplemental text by nine universities. The second edition came out last year. When I was teaching Earth Sciences at Alabama School for the Deaf, I was struggling with where to find accurate and current information on local geology and discovered Dr. Lacefield’s book and introduced myself to him and Faye…a fateful day indeed.

           In the past 13 years, Jim and I have worked on many teacher workshops together. He has taught several Lost Worlds workshops at Camp McDowell and helped to develop the amazing Mountains to the Gulf Expedition. As his book explains, what happened in our area millions and even billions of years ago, is what allows us to now have one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Jim can share this in a way that mesmerizes even those who never considered themselves “Rockhounds”!

           Jim is generous with his talent and work. He allows educators to have his writings, diagrams, art work and all the information from his book at no charge. This is amazing in and of itself, but he also will rarely accept payment for speaking to groups of educators. He gladly travels hours to go with teachers to look for fossils, explore local geology, or talk to them about the treasures of Alabama. He and Faye have a 700+ acre property in north Alabama called Cane Creek Canyon Preserve. It is open to the public and free to all. They maintain trails and are often seen leading groups into the forests and canyons explaining the beauty there.

           Dr. Jim Lacefield is certainly deserving of the Jeffrey Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award! His over 40 years of teaching and sharing his passion for Environmental Education is one of the most inspirational stories of which I know! EEAA is honored to present him with this prestigious award. Thank you, Jim, for your significant contributions to environmental education and Alabama!


Written by Maggie Johnston

2018 Best Environmental Educator

Janet Ort

       Many have described Janet Ort as a “Master Educator.” And beyond that - a “Master Environmentalist.” Her nominator, Mr. Jason Gaston noted that “no one I have met is more fluent in environmental science - and its real-world application for students” - than Mrs. Ort.

        Janet is a National Board-Certified Teacher, holds degrees in different disciplines and has experience in both the public and private sectors. She joined Hoover City Schools/Hoover High School in 1998. Since then, she has helped cultivate engaging, authentic experiences for thousands of students at Alabama’s largest and most diverse high school.

         Mrs. Ort was named a Seimen's STEM Fellow 2011. Her student teams have successfully navigated various levels of the prestigious Lexus Eco Challenge. She has spearheaded countless campus and community projects designed to bring awareness to our area’s incredible biodiversity. Mrs. Ort demonstrates innovation, passion, and excellence in all that she does. The school at which she teaches has the benefit of sitting above the banks of the storied Cahaba River, one of Alabama’s most beautiful and biodiverse natural resources. Mrs. Ort often puts on waders and takes her classes into the Cahaba to scientifically study Alabama’s natural wonders. She sponsors on-campus clubs including HHS BioBucs and other student organizations designed to enhance environmental awareness.

         Mrs. Ort’s classes attract a diverse group of students. She never loses focus of her goal: to promote environmental education and its benefits to her campus and ultimately, the community at large. Her career spans decades.


          Throughout her years in education, Mrs. Ort has managed to spark interest in hundreds, if not thousands of students. Just a few of her career highlights related to environmental science include: A+College Ready consultant and review leader (four years); Alabama Water Watch Monitor Certification; College Board AP Environmental Science New Teacher Trainer; Citizen Scientist Longitudinal Project Coordinator; Developer, Co-Teaching Units - Environmental Science. She also serves as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “Climate Steward” - a volunteer post she’s held since 2012 which garners more than 45 professional development hours per year. Beyond that, Mrs. Ort is currently engaged in a pursuit for NatGeo Certification.

         In addition to unique projects around the Hoover High School campus, Mrs. Ort collaborates with students, businesses, school administrators, and community leaders to bring various environmental science projects to life. Mrs. Ort has also captured the attention of our governing body - the Board of Education. In particular, Board of Education member, Mr. Craig Kelley - an environmental advocate – has taken notice of Mrs. Ort’s accomplishments, particularly as they relate to campus enhancements at Hoover High School.

         This past fall, Mrs. Ort and a team of students presented at the November Board of Education meeting. Their presentation was titled “Wildlife Federation Certification as a Curriculum Catalyst.” Ort led a high-level discussion before the audience on how digital devices have caused many students to lose touch with the natural world. Her presentation was informed with bodies of research which now point to the positives of environmental-based education: nature therapy that can alleviate depression, reduce obesity, and better manage attention-deficit disorders. The classroom connection? Enhanced focus on environmental science bolsters critical thinking skills, problem-solving ability, decision making, and ultimately - test scores.

         Mrs. Ort works in tandem with science teachers and instructional leaders across the school system to ensure the vertical integration of curriculum, developing relevant pacing guides and lesson plans that respect current practices in various scientific disciplines. Janet Ort has a storied career in K12 science. Many teachers with her level of experience and expertise would be happy to put their careers on cruise control and coast to retirement. Mrs. Ort proves the exact opposite. With each new school year - and each month therein – she has a new initiative, a new project; innovations which are guaranteed to spark imaginations and creativity - elevating young minds to discover more about the world in which they live. For this, Janet Ort is very worthy of being called the 2018 Best Environmental Educator.

2018 Best Environmental Education School Curriculum

Steve Trash Science Videos

         Steve Trash was born in Texas but grew up in Alabama, where his dad was the district forester for northwest Alabama. He currently lives in an energy-efficient earth-bermed home in Frog Pond, Alabama, has a composting bathtub in his backyard, and has a 21 panel solar array in his front yard. He tours the globe teaching kids about their connection to the natural world. He has appeared in theatres, fairs, and festivals in countries including Japan, Australia, Canada, Portugal, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. To date, he has entertained over 25 million people.

       The premise of STEVE TRASH SCIENCE VIDEOS is that Alabama kids will better protect the environment if they understand the science of “how” our environment works. The Steve Trash Science videos are kid-centric, fun, funny and are based on Alabama Environmental Science Curriculum.



The subjects covered include the following:

• Renewable vs. Nonrenewable Resources
• The Water Cycle
• Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – aka - Waste Reduction
• Pollution






        Each video is accompanied by printable review question pdf’s (grades 1-5). The review questions are shareable, downloadable, printable, and feature answer “keys” to assist elementary school teachers. Each set of review questions was written by an Alabama Elementary Science Teacher – Alison Dilbert – from River Hill School in Florence - to ensure
that the questions were Alabama Curriculum correlated.


BEST OF ALL, the videos are FREE for teachers, kids, parents, homeschoolers, to
download, share, and use.


AVAILABILITY OF VIDEOS - The videos can be viewed on many platforms
(including YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and even on Steve’s Teachers Pay
Teachers site. The videos and printables are FREE on this site too. The videos
can also be viewed, shared, or downloaded and saved, from Steve’s web site:


      Thanks for your dedication to environmental education and thanks for sharing your talents with the students and teachers of Alabama. Congratulations, Steve Trash Video Project, the 2018 Best School Project Award recipient!

2018 BEEP Award for Best School Project:

Hoover High School - Lights, Cameras, Wildlife and Gardens Action Project

       Hoover High School (HHS) is uniquely located along the Cahaba River. It is a wonderful natural laboratory. However, distance often limits access for all students. The purpose of this project was to connect students to the mitigation of human environmental impacts, through service learning.

       The idea for Lights, Cameras, Wildlife, and Gardens Action Project began during the Spring of 2017, when Mrs. Ort’s AP Environmental Science classes participated in a tree planting project and dreamed of adding a pollinator garden to involve and inform the whole Hoover community. Students became excited by and engaged in the power of service learning and research.

        In the Summer of 2017, Mrs. Ort and her students started the process of attaining Green Flag through the National /Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) and developing a certified outdoor classroom, with an advisory board that included students, in an effort to expand on their already successful project. The Green Flag designation forms the centralizing focus for many projects because it requires accomplishments in topical pathways. The Hoover High School team chose to focus on Outdoor Learning Laboratory, Biodiversity, and Energy Pathways.

         To date, they have constructed a sensory garden that is in an enclosed area near the classrooms for the self-contained ExEd students. On a hot, muggy day 20 students removed and replanted boxwoods to clear the space. Two areas for smell and taste that will augment the cooking/life skills of the ExEd students in spring and fall. Two sections are for sight and sound. Streamers, bells, bubble wands, reflective cds, are being installed with the help of small student groups. In addition, a skills/demonstration garden has a feeding station in progress, and learning stations such as a log decomposition area, bat and bird houses, compass skills area, and rain barrels were constructed.
The project has received considerable attention and support from local leaders, such as Hoover City Councilman Derrick Murphy, who organized donations for lumber and a truckload of potting soil.


         The project added two biodiversity studies under the guidance of Samford University professor Dr. Kristian Bakegarrd, who trained the group in auditory biodiversity, monitoring of frogs and toads. The phenology and diversity of the sounds will create a shared database. The data will augment the HHS science curriculum.

         For their Energy Pathway, students worked with Wes Wilbanks, an energy specialist with Hoover City Schools. After hearing Mr. Wilbanks discuss energy issues at Hoover High School, the students got involved with the Great HHS Light Count by counting almost 9000 fluorescent light bulbs; mapping the bulbs’ location by room and room use; and analyzing the cost and energy savings of LED lights. They are editing a final report for use by decision makers and maintenance personnel. In addition, Mr. Wil-banks directed the fabrication and installation a solar charging station. Students helped the operations people wire the USB ports and energy meters. Students planned an Energy Day to dedicate the gardens and solar station, including PR and hands on demonstrations.

         This project exemplifies the power of collaboration and creativity it takes to solve environmental problems today. This experience will affect the students who participated in its implementation, and those who utilize the gardens indelibly. For this reason, we are delighted to present the Hoover High School Lights, Cameras, Wildlife, and Gardens Action Project with the 2018 Best School Project Award.



Congratulations 2018 Winners !!


“Rivers to the Gulf, Flowing Home!” - EEAA Annual Conference

Memories of the conference, from Mrs. Claire Datnow,as described in her blog (

        Just as the cold and rainy spell transformed into sunny and pleasant spring weather, Boris and I left for the much-anticipated 2018 EEAA Conference at Dauphin Island, Alabama. I’ve written this blog to share a taste of the varied, worthwhile, and fun experience.


         A Birding Trip kicked off our first morning. On a balmy, early spring morning, we joined Roger Clay, state wildlife biologist, on a tour of the island in search of wintering coastal birds. Of course, we did not see anywhere near the one hundred and forty-nine documented bird species on the island during February. However, we were fortunate to see several interesting birds. Near the airport we observed Ospreys with chicks in the nest, and the rare Reddish Egret. On the Audubon Trail, we had the opportunity to photograph a Great Blue Heron. A Swallowed Tailed Kite, a Red-bellied Woodpecker. A Yellow-rumped Warbler obliged us by flitting by. At sunset we enjoyed watching and photographing Brown and White Pelicans gobbling fishing along the shore.

       Over lunch the next day, Dr. Bob Shipp enlightened us with a fascinating presentation on Ecosystem Transformation on the Gulf of Mexico—Implications for Fishery Management. This may seem a dry topic to the uninitiated. In fact, it turned out to be pertinent data to the wise conservation of the treasure trove of life in the Gulf—and, naturally, to those of us who love to eat seafood.


      In the afternoon, we attended a session on The Marvel Slab: How a Bridge Changed the Course of the Cahaba River. The story of this concrete bridge perfectly illustrates the dire impact man-made structures can have on the ecology of the river and the creatures living in it. Presented by Mallory Pendleton and Lauren Allred of the Cahaba Environmental Center.


      Next, we attended a most entertaining and informative talk, Alabama’s Whooping Cranes: A National Treasure, by Amber Wilson of the International Crane Foundation. The talk easily converted us all into “Craniacs” determined to help save this fascinating and highly endangered species for posterity.


     On Saturday morning, I gave a presentation on How to Become an Environmental Detective! The attendees enthusiastically played the role of sleuths investigating an environmental crime by gathering clues to solve the mystery. This simulation is a powerful way to engage students in scientific inquiry and to explore complex issues—and to seamlessly integrate the unit into the science curriculum. Participants also received a link to The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, Eco Mystery book series (upper elementary and middle grades), and a link to a free Teacher Handout, a curriculum guide that complements the topic.

    Afterwards, we attended a fascinating discussion on Pocketbooks, Snuffboxes and Pigtoes—Oh, My! This awesome presentation by Shelly Taliaferro, of Auburn University of Montgomery, showed attendees ways to introduce students to the science and the mystery of freshwater mussels. Participants received a curriculum guide that complements the outstanding book, Immersion—The Science and Mystery of Freshwater Mussels, by Abbie Gascho Landis.


     The silent auction raised funds for teachers to apply for scholarships to attend the many valuable Environmental Education learning opportunities around the state. Watch for postings on the EEAA website, and then be sure to apply!


     Overall, the conference enlarged our perspective on complex environmental issues and the amazing biodiversity of our state. The conference also provided a great opportunity to network with dedicated environmentalists. It was especially heartening to see recent graduates working as determined environmentalists to conserve our natural heritage for generations to come. Heartfelt thanks to the staff at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and the EEAA board for a stellar event!

Reflections upon the EEAA conference by a Professional Development Grant recipient:
“The Fly on the Wall

By Jerri Lynn Turner



        As an environmental educator, I am always looking for the benefits of particular species to the environment or specific ecosystems. So to what end beneficially is the proverbial “fly on the wall” in the world? Well, flies are highly beneficial to farmers as they eat aphids (1). An aphid is an insect that sucks the sap out of plants. Aphids are the most destructive insect to cultivated crops in temperate regions (2).

       Meet “the fly on the wall”, participant/observer at the EEAA Conference held at Dauphin Island Sea Lab: my husband, Edward Turner, who has no background in the field of education. Edward majored in Anthropology at Emory University, working at several museums in Alabama as an exhibitor, and a debt collector at Regions Bank for 13 years. He is currently the producer of an independent film production company, Road Ahead Productions, LLC. “The fly,” participant/observer, joined me this year, eager to know what environmental educators in Alabama do when they all get together. Which, by the way , did you know flies can walk on the ceiling as well as the wall (4)?


       So what did “the fly on the wall” participant/observer see that weekend? Well, the fly watched the excitement of the organizers and session facilitators throughout the conference. The fly on the wall saw that these organizers, session facilitators, and attendees were not only attentive to environmental education, but also passionate about environmental education. Our fly on the wall, Edward, saw that for environmental educators, teaching is more than just a job. The fly on the wall detected a sense of community amidst the group that all were there for the same reason binding them together.

      The Dauphin Island Sea Lab has the best meals! You can imagine what a fly on the wall would say about a cafeteria! Actu-ally, though, flies consume an all liquid diet; however, flies have their taste buds in their feet (4). The time spent in the cafeteria each day, enjoying not only delicious meals, but also the camaraderie of the EEAA conference attendees, as well. The cafeteria was abuzz with attendees conversing with one another about what they had learned in the sessions, and the adventures they had experienced on the boat excursion. The fly on the wall noticed that not only were we sitting with old friends, renewing friendships, but also attendees would often sit with one among those they did not know, creating new environmental educators friendships.

      Our fly on the wall remembers the infamous Gilligan’s Island “three-hour tour” and still boarded the Sea Lab’s research vessel for a three-hour tour of Mobile Bay. Now a fly on the wall for a boat trip can be sort of dizzying, since those 4000 lens can see in all directions at the same time while the boat is going up and down and, at the same time, side to side. Thankfully, Edward did not get seasick! The fly on the boat trip saw a different catch in each of the three trawls and that was exciting to him. He learned all about the bay creatures that were caught. He enjoyed seeing the birds flying around and perched impatiently, waiting for a tasty snack.


      This was the fly on the wall’s first research vessel tour.. Edward’s trip included crossing the line where the Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico meet. It was quite clear that the bodies of water were changing. The Mobile Bay looked like Chocolate Milk and the Gulf of Mexico was a clear blue-green. Our facilitator, Greg, told us this was a place that was hard for animals and plants to cross because of the change in pressure, oxygen, and salinity right up against one another. The fly on the wall saw the Sand Island Lighthouse, and was amazed to see the actual Sand Island now connected to Dauphin Island at the former Dauphin Island Pier. Greg told the fy on the wall that the island moves every 150 years. It has been connected to Dauphin Island for a while now and the staff/facilitators at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab have noticed that the island is beginning to move east again back toward the lighthouse. Don’t travel far or fly very fast (4).

     Just like a picnic, the fly on the wall was able to save and savor the tastiest dish of the EEAA Conference for last. The very last thing the fly on the wall, Edward, got to see that weekend was something that he was elated about and had waited for all weekend to see: for the very first time, Edward got to see his wife facilitating in a classroom setting -- learning with the others in the class about salt marshes. Salt Marsh Savvy was a breakout session held Saturday morning, February 24, 2018 from 9:45-11:45. Flies are quite important to the salt marsh ecosystem on Dauphin Island. Fly species are premium food sources for many migrating birds who need as much energy as possible. Salt marshes can be susceptible to eutrophication, algae spurts that de-oxygenate the water and suffocate the aquatic life, while flies “have been shown to reduce algal proliferation.” Without flies, our species of birds and fish would dwindle. Conserve flies. Do not eradicate them (3).

    In conclusion, flies on the wall play a very important role in the world’s food chain. Flies are food sources for bats, amphibians, and species of fish , including endangered fish species. Fly larvae supply beneficial nutrients for specific mold and fungi (4).


Alabama Represented at the SEEA Conference in Florida

by Kimberly Murray

          The League of Environmental Education in Florida hosted the 6th annual conference of the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance on March 16-18 in St. Petersburg, FL. The goal of the conference was to provide tools and strategies for formal and non-formal educators to further their success in the EE field. Everyone gathered as a community to share successes and challenges. The conference was ideal for classroom teachers, nature centers, park employees, environmental agency personnel, post secondary students and faculty, and others from throughout the southeast who have a passion for teaching EE.


        Two board members, Kimberly Murray and Jo Dale, represented Alabama at the conference and the SEEA leadership team retreat following the conference. During the conference there were so many opportunities to see Florida's unique ecosystems and how students and adults were taught about these ecosystems and are able to take their learning home. There is a fabulous collaboration between the non formal and formal educators and primary and secondary educators in Florida. We learned several strategies to bring back to Alabama.

          Meeting with the leadership team, we discussed ways on how to use upcoming grant funds and and we are patiently waiting to hear if we are receiving an EPA grant for SEEA. Lots of ideas are being discussed among the EEAA board and we will hopefully be sharing with the EEAA membership soon on how to use the EPA funds. We are looking forward to continuing to share all the great EE work being done in Alabama at the North American Association for Environmental Education in Spokane Wash, in Oct 2018.