Delaware Association for Environmental Education

Awards for Excellence

Congratulations to the individuals and groups who won the 2023 Awards! They represent some of the very best of environmental education in Delaware.

Four Awards for Excellence are presented each year at the DAEE Annual Conference.

The Awards for Excellence in Environmental Education are presented annually to recognize and celebrate individuals or groups in Delaware who represent the very best of what environmental education can be and do, ensuring Delaware citizens develop an understanding of the natural world that inspires them to act responsibly moving us toward a more sustainable future. The Awards for Excellence were established in 2017 by the Delaware Children in Nature Coalition (DCIN – now DAEE’s Communities in Nature Initiative) in partnership with DAEE. 

Awards for Excellence categories and descriptions.

  • Exemplary Partnership Award: This award is presented to a group working in Delaware that demonstrate an outstanding partnership in the environmental field that serves as a model and inspiration to others. Delaware Communities in Nature partners, DAEE members and other community groups working together to connect families with meaningful experiences outdoors and healthy lifestyles can amplify their positive effects.
  • Meaningful Impact Award: This award recognizes accomplishments toward facilitating positive community impacts on conservation, sustainability, and / or career advancement in the environmental field in Delaware.
  • Healthy Innovation Award: This award recognizes new approaches to connecting children, individuals, and/or families with the outdoors and healthy lifestyles in Delaware.
  • Outstanding Field Educator: This award is presented to an individual and/or organization working in Delaware who demonstrates outstanding environmental education efforts at the local, regional level and/or global level.
  • Occasionally, DAEE also includes special Exemplary Achievement in Environmental Education awards. 

Nomination process

Every year, DAEE accepts nominations for its Awards for Excellence. The nominations for next year should be for projects and work done in 2024. The deadline for nominations/submissions will be announced later this year. Nominations/submissions are reviewed by a Committee comprised of members of DAEE’s Board of Directors and representatives from DCIN. The Committee reviews applications and selects Award Winners for each of the four categories. If an individual or organization is nominated for multiple award categories they will be considered for each category but will only be eligible to receive one award.

Please contact Ashley Melvin or for more information.

2023 Award Winners

Congratulations to these great individuals and organizations that are advancing Environmental Education and Communities In Nature in Delaware! These awards were given at the Annual Conference on February 24. 


Exemplary Partnership – University of Delaware Lab School

The UD Lab School is leading the way in innovative, progressive nature-based education. The work they do is rooted in the research that supports the intense need for children to engage with the natural environment. They approach children with the utmost respect, as they do nature. They are cultivating a literal garden of learners, life-long explorers, who are grounded physically, socially, emotionally and academically. They invite families to be active participants in their children’s education and experiences. In addition, they educate the community through their work with Head Start, high school visits, college students who complete their observations and course work. 

Exemplary Partnership UD Lab School


Meaningful Impact Award – Major George S. Welch Elementary School Eco-Team

Located on the Dover Air Force Base, Welch’s diverse military-community has been a consistent model as a sustainable “Green” school and for achieving community environmental literacy. Welch Elementary’s Eco-Team continues to be a model as a Green School for Kent County, and throughout the state as they have established meaningful outdoor classrooms and learning spaces, such as native habitats, community gardens, and a composting center.  Welch Elementary has been acknowledged as a Delaware Litter Free School Zone. Their stewardship events are accessible to all Welch students, staff, and parents who wish to become part of the District-wide EcoTeam Volunteer Corps. 

Eco Team


Meaningful Impact – Jessica Sweeney-Jones, Little Saplings Home School Co-Op

Jessica leads both a local Forest Friends group and is director of a local homeschool co-op, Little Saplings. With her Forest Friends group she leads a free weekly hike in the local parks to parents and their children while instilling a love of nature, environment and its inhabitants in the children.  With her homeschool group she has provided families nature-based learning centers ensuring the children develop a relationship with their environment. 

She coordinates outings for Little Saplings that connect the children to develop a love of nature and also to meet with community members whose job revolves around nature or provide a service to the community. This helps to instill in children a love and respect of nature and their community.

Little Saplings


Healthy Innovation Award – Peter Kelly, Brandywine Springs Elementary School

Peter Kelly is the Student Green Team Advisor at Brandywine Springs School in Wilmington, DE. Peter demonstrates exceptional dedication and innovation in fostering sustainability within the school community. He engages students in hands-on environmental learning and his multi-faceted approach reflects a holistic commitment to environmental education. A condensed list of initiatives include:

  • Winning the Clean Stream Champion informational campaign for the school two years in a row,
  • Implementing hydroponic gardening with online data collection feature,
  • Developing a solar powered Mayfly data logger, 
  • Monitoring and promoting the use of refillable water bottles filling stations,
  • Auditing the school’s energy use and promoting energy conservation practices to the teachers at Brandywine Springs School.
Peter Kelly


‏Outstanding Field Educator – Amanda Austin, Brandywine Zoo

Amanda is the Early Childhood Educator for the Brandywine Zoo. She has worked extremely hard to develop and deliver educational programs for Warner Elementary, Early Years Program (EYP) with grant funds provided through the Laffey McHugh Foundation. Amanda turned a virtual program series into 15 weeks of in-person, twice a week, programming that helped provide routine building and literacy development among students.

The majority of the EYP student population have autism or other learning needs, and her dedication to this project has sparked a new partnership with the EYP and opened doors to accessible environmental education through song, play, dance, and storytelling. Amanda has gone above and beyond to develop and deliver accessible programs for audiences of all ability and background that reflect and celebrate our diverse communities, both through her work at Warner EYP and through her work on zoo grounds creating a sensory garden, leading our Little Nature Explorers programs, and more! 

Amanda Austin


Exemplary Achievement in Environmental Education – Rick Mickowski, New Castle County Conservation District

Rick is the Outreach Educator for the New Castle County Conservation District and is retiring after a long career of supporting Environmental Education throughout the state of Delaware. 

Rick has been involved with the Delaware Envirothon since before they had the first competition in 1996. Since then, he has chaired the Planning Committee including this year’s event at Abbott’s Mill. Rick also serves on the board of the Delaware Invasive Species Council, the Delaware Native Plant Society and the First State RC&D Council. Rick is also a founding member of DAEE and served as its first Chair. Rick was a monumental force in DAEE’s early days and helped the organization reach its 501c3 status in 2016. Rick remained on the Board, holding several officer positions until 2019 and remains a strong supporter to this day.

Rick Mickowski Award

Previous award winners:

2022 Awards for Excellence Winners

♣ Outstanding Field Educator: Sonia Saunders, Brandywine Springs School
♣ Meaningful Impact: Delaware Forest Service, Urban & Community Forestry Program
♣ Exemplary Partnership: Delaware State Parks & Nemours Estate
♣ Healthy Innovation: SNAC Garden Foundation

2021 Awards for Excellence Winners

♣ Outstanding Field Educator: Gulnihal Ozbay, Delaware State University
♣ Meaningful Impact: Dee Durham, New Castle County Council & Plastic Free Delaware
♣ Exemplary Partnership: David Pragoff, Delaware Nature Society
♣ Healthy Innovation: Del-Mar-VA Council, Boy Scouts of America

2020 Awards for Excellence Winners

♣ Outstanding Field Educator: Nicole Sturgill, Las Americas Aspira Academy
♣ Meaningful Impact: Delaware Sea Grant / University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean and Environment
♣ Exemplary Partnership: The Arden’s Community-Based Spotted Lanternfly Control Project – Integrated Pest Management
♣ Healthy Innovation: Aquatic Resource Education Center (AREC) Eco-Explorer Team

 2019 Awards for Excellence Winners

♣ Outstanding Field Educator: Katie Pollock, University of Delaware
♣ Meaningful Impact: Caroline Fazzini, Mt. Cuba Center
♣ Exemplary Partnership: Delaware Futures
♣ Healthy Innovation: The Urban Garden Initiative

2018 Awards for Excellence Winners

Outstanding Field Educator: Leona Williams, Forwood Elementary School
♣ Meaningful Impact Award: Melissa Tracy, Odyssey Charter School
Exemplary Partnership: Shue-Medill Middle School, Brian Marsh/ US Fish & Wildlife Service
Healthy Innovation: The Jefferson School (now Sussex Academy Elementary)

2017 Awards for Excellence Winners

Outstanding Field Educator: Gary Kreamer, DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife
Impact Award: Delaware State Parks Youth Conservation Corps
Exemplary Partnership: Delaware Envirothon
Healthy Innovation: City of Wilmington Green Jobs Program