|The Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club
The Mary Stuart Education Award was established to recognize members, non-members or organizations, for their outstanding achievements in the field of natural history education in the Ottawa Region. Michael Léveillé, a science teacher at the Educarium, an Ottawa private school, is without doubt a natural history educator par excellence, and a most worthy recipient of this Award.
Michael has taught at the Educarium since 1996. His passion for nature is infectious and inspirational and is observed most keenly by his students. Michael brings an impressive background to his role as science teacher. He founded the Ottawa Paleontology Society in 1991 to advance an understanding of fossils. He has long been associated with the Canadian Museum of Nature where he created a number of popular programs, most notably the "Collector's Corner", a museum discovery center. At the museum he worked with people of all ages, instilling an awareness of, and appreciation for, the natural world. However, there is no doubt that Michael excels at working with young people, encouraging them to be attuned to the rhythms of the natural world around them.
Michael is also an accomplished artist with a degree in Visual Arts from the University of Ottawa. His work has been exhibited at local universities, museums, as well as at the Educarium. Michael was the artist for the children's storybook series "Fergi the Frog".
Under Michael's knowledgeable direction, in 2004 his students designed and implemented the "Macoun Marsh Project" at Beechwood Cemetery, to demonstrate how a thriving and diverse ecosystem can exist inside a large urban centre. This became one of their most ambitious and high profile projects, and is ongoing. Because the marsh was unnamed when they began working on it, they held a "Marsh Naming Contest" and encouraged neighbours and the community at large to join in.
Overwhelming support led to naming it after John Macoun (1831-1920) who is buried at Beechwood.. The contest, and the work done by the students, led to increased public awareness of the site and eventually to the Directors of Beechwood Cemetery making a firm commitment to protect and maintain it.
The Macoun Marsh project encourages students to study the marsh over different seasons. They are taught to record scientific observations in journals, identify and study the different species found, and learn the fundamentals of ecology. They also design, construct, install and maintain bird feeders at the site. Under Michael's careful instruction, the Educarium students have documented nearly 900 species at the marsh.
The project has grown beyond their wildest expectations. Funding to continue with studies and enhancements has been obtained from a variety of sources including the Wetland Habitat Fund and the City of Ottawa. In conjunction with the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation, plans are underway for habitat enhancement, a boardwalk, and an outdoor classroom in spring 2006. The students continue to keep nature journals and will present this work at various venues around the city over the coming year. Michael invited the neighboring Jean Vanier Catholic School to join his students on the project, and now, both schools are sending representatives to Göteborg, Sweden, in May for the Volvo Adventure International contest for natural history projects.
Michael's inspired teaching guarantees that his students will continue to be engaged by the world of nature, and so it is for this most important work, that we are pleased to present Michael Léveillé with the Mary Stuart Education Award for 2005.