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Martha Webber, Mary Stuart Education Award 2007

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. The OFNC is pleased to give the award for 2007 to Martha Webber.

Martha Webber is much sought after by the Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, home schooling groups and others as a respected nature interpreter and resource person. Martha is an active member of the Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario. Her study of native beliefs has encouraged her to know that people of all ages are comfortable in the out of doors when they acknowledge their kinship with nature.

Martha has a Masters Degree in Botany from the University of New Hampshire. While at the University of Wisconsin, she worked at various conservation camps as a counsellor, and attended the Ranger Naturalist Training School in Yosemite National Park. At the latter, she was involved with a myriad of wildlife studies including banding bats and participating in an annual bird census. She taught high school biology for 6 years in Vermont where she was involved with the development of the then new science of ecology. Eventually she and her family moved to rural Kanata where she has lived for the last 30 years. It is here in her spacious gardens and adjacent natural areas that she runs many of her botany and natural history courses.

For a number of years Martha participated in the Ottawa Valley Field Trips, leading tours and giving courses on botanical subjects. Environmental programs for schools and other groups, nature day camps and backroads bus tours in a fourteen-passenger van were some of the many activities Martha worked on.

Her summer nature interpretation day camps, Look and Listen Nature Camps, are limited to twelve children per group, and focus on personal awareness programs such as Project Wild and Tom Brown Junior's field exploration. Through these creative and innovative programs Martha teaches children the wonder of the natural world. Martha knows that, if one discovers the natural world personally, that memory will always remain and, hopefully, will spark a need to protect the scarce natural resources that we have.

Martha also teaches courses in basic botanical identification as well as a 6 week course in Edible Wild Plants which always ends with a wild food banquet. As well, she shares her knowledge of how native peoples used plants both for food and medicine. In other courses, she instructs participants in the ecology of natural areas, discussing the interconnectedness of all things. By so doing, she has instilled tremendous enthusiasm for nature in many of her students, who often come away with a profound respect for the natural world and a desire to protect it.

Martha gives freely of her time to lead field trips for not-for-profit groups, taking people to some of the special wild places in our region. There she introduces participants to the joy of discovering our wild neighbours and wild places.

Martha continues to educate and instruct both children and adults about natural history through her myriad courses and workshops. She continues to actively pursue protection for the Carp Ridge by conducting guided walks in the area, speaking to interested groups, writing letters, and meeting with politicians.

Martha has worked quietly and competently for many, many years conducting countless courses, nature programs and guided walks, and it is time that she was recognized for this tremendous contribution to the study of natural history.

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