A veteran Richmond Hill Middle School teacher was recognized as a top environmental educator in the nation during a ceremony Friday morning at the White House, according to a news release.
Robert Hodgdon, who has been a teacher for 23 years, was cited for his work developing the school’s Field Studies Program.
According to the list of winners posted on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, Hodgdon started the program, which takes place outside of normal school hours, to provide students with hands-on, inquiry-based learning to augment what is presented in the classroom.
In all, 15 educators from across the nation were named winners of the 2015 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, presented by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in conjunction with the EPA. Hodgdon was joined by Jenna Mobley, who was cited for growing the environmental-science program at Springdale Park Elementary School in Atlanta.
Another 12 teachers, including two from the Atlanta metro area, were given honorable mentions.
The awards are given to environmental educators who use innovative, hands-on, experiential approaches. Winning teachers led unique programs such as conserving nearby aquatic ecosystems, building a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered Model T car, and developing outdoor laboratories and classrooms.
In addition, EPA and the National Environmental Education Foundation announced the winners of the foundation’s 2015 Bartlett Award. The Bartlett Award is given to an outstanding environmental-educator winner for demonstrating creative integration of environmental education across subject areas, engaging others in interdisciplinary solutions to environmental challenges and increasing student achievement within and beyond the classroom. According to the foundation’s website, three winners were named — high-school teachers from North Dakota, Montana and Rhode Island.
“To solve our future environmental challenges, young people need to understand the science behind the natural world and create a personal connection to the outdoors,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said. “These teachers and students are demonstrating the important role of environmental education, and showing how individual actions can help address climate change, protect the air we breathe and safeguard the water we drink.”
The ceremony can be viewed online at https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/white-house-environmental-student-and-teacher-awards.
The description of Hodgdon posted on EPA’s website follows:
As a teacher for 23 years, Robert has been pivotal in developing the Richmond Hill Middle School Field Studies Program (FSP). Robert started the FSP, which takes place outside of normal school hours, to provide students with hands-on, inquiry-based learning to augment what is presented in the classroom. Members of the FSP include students, parents and school staff, and they conduct ecological surveys, monitoring events and real-world data collection and surveying to assist biologists and specialists from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. During these efforts, students learn how to collect and analyze data and discuss conclusions.
Robert incorporates hands-on activities that are relevant to students and the community to enhance the success of the FSP. He inspires his students to be informed environmental advocates by encouraging them to understand how the environment affects their lives and how their actions affect the environment. As the FSP continues to grow, Robert has enlisted teachers and parents to lead groups and activities. He plans to expand the program to include high school science teachers and students.
Robert’s success and dedication to environmental education have earned him several honors, including the Richmond Hill Middle School 2015 Teacher of the Year and the Georgia Science Teachers Association 2015 Middle School Teacher of the Year. Robert also serves on the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Committee and has helped develop science benchmark assessments for the district.