|The Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club
The Mary Stuart Education Award is given in recognition of outstanding achievements in the field of natural history education in the Ottawa Region.
Angela Skevington is the recipient of this award for 2013. Angela is a primary school teacher who is passionate about natural history education. For over 15 years she has taught a variety of grades in different schools, sharing her dedication to good environmental stewardship and her knowledge and wonder of nature with her students every day, every year. Currently Angela teaches a combined Grade 4/5 class at Huntley Centennial Public School in the village of Carp near Ottawa.
Wherever she works, Angela has championed such environmental programs as EarthCare Canada and more recently Ontario EcoSchools. Last year her school was recognized with a silver level EcoSchool certification. This achievement required years of diligent effort on Angela's part to engage students and the school community in activities across the 6 areas of environmental practice rated by the EcoSchool Program, including waste minimization and energy conservation. Each school year, she instigates a student-led club (previously called an EarthCare Club, currently dubbed The Dragonflies) that undertakes environmental projects, such as a periodic audit of their school's energy and waste practices. If the audit indicates that there is a problem, such as improper waste disposal, then The Dragonflies deliver classroom presentations to fellow students demonstrating the proper practice, such as how to separate garbage for recycling. The students in The Dragonflies club also put on plays at school assemblies to demonstrate proper energy and waste practices. Last year, Angela piloted "litterless lunches" with her class. The Dragonflies promoted the idea and this year the whole school is litter-free at lunch. There are many more examples. Through this hands-on practice, students learn how to be active environmental stewards.
For the past 3 years, Angela has participated in Ottawa's Clean up the Capital Day. She enlisted classes that were interested in being involved, applied through the City of Ottawa to get materials (bags, gloves) and then they cleaned up the school grounds.
On Earth Day, Angela has conducted student plays at the school assemblies featuring pollution, anti-littering, proper recycling. She also encourages the students to create and perform skits, songs and presentations. She does this every year to promote celebration of the natural environment and good environmental stewardship.
Field trips and nature appreciation are important parts of Angela's teaching. Habitat is part of the Grade 4 curriculum. She has successfully applied through Ducks Unlimited Canada's Project Webfoot for funding for field trips to a local wetland (such as the Bill Mason Outdoor Education Centre). They have also had field trips to the Bonnechere Caves.
In addition to all of this, Angela leads informal lunchtime field trips for interested students to a nearby natural area, to learn about and develop an appreciation for nature. One day they may focus on birds, the next day on insects, and the third on plants. She applied for and received funding to organize a field trip for The Dragonflies club for a day to learn about bird banding at Innis Point Bird Observatory. The children were excited to each hold a chickadee or nuthatch. On breaks they played nature games in the field, and went on a nature hike.
Angela teams up with her husband Jeff Skevington to help him lead "kid friendly" field trips for The Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club as well as for other nature clubs in the Ottawa Valley. Angela assisted Jeff and colleagues in hosting a well-attended Bug Day held at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden last year.
Angela's efforts are recognized and appreciated, as evidenced by fellow teacher Donna Christie who said: "I feel honoured to work with Angela and know that she has made a positive impact on her students and our school.... She is a scientifically-oriented, dedicated, hard-working educator."
The OFNC is delighted to present the Mary Stuart Education Award for 2013 to Angela in recognition of her success in raising awareness of environmental stewardship and respect for nature at her school and more broadly.
(Prepared by Eleanor Zurbrigg with input from Donna Christie)