Awards for Excellence
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 Children 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.
Consider nominating a person or group for the 2023 Awards for Excellence. The nomination period will start in approximately November and winners will be announced at our 2024 Conference!
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.
Award Winners will be invited to attend the Award presentation at the DAEE Annual Conference in late winter or spring 2024.
2022 Award Winners
Congratulations to these great individuals and organizations that are advancing Environmental Education and Communities In Nature in Delaware! These awards were handed out during our Annual Conference May 13th 2023.
Exemplary Partnership – Delaware State Parks and the Nemours Estate
This joint project consisted of multiple aspects, including an educational video series, lessons on plein-air art techniques, and an ongoing art exhibit installed in the hospital’s three-story exhibit space which highlighted patient artwork from the program alongside images of the beautiful natural and cultural landscapes which inspired them.
Meaningful Impact Award – Delaware Forest Service – Urban & Community Forestry Program
Kesha Braunskill, Program Administrator, and Taryn Davidson, Urban Forester, work directly with communities to increase awareness and appreciation for trees and the positive effects an expansive tree canopy can have on any community. By coordinating Community Volunteer planting events, they putt the participants in a much better position to appreciate the natural benefits that trees provide to their community.
Healthy Innovation Award – SNAC Garden Foundation
The SNAC Garden Foundation partners with k-8 schools in Sussex County to provide school garden classrooms along with a dedicated educator and curriculum that is implemented with all students in the school during school hours.
All students in a partner schools go to the SNAC Garden for a curriculum lesson 14-16 times per year where they learn about environmental STEM topics and healthy eating for the SNAC Garden Educator to ensure equitable access to the educational opportunity.
Not only do SNAC Gardens teach students how to grow food and the importance of eating healthy, but also gives students the experience of caretaking for a plant that they get to eat from throughout the semester.
Outstanding Field Educator – Sonia Saunders
Sonia is an award-winning, 20-year veteran elementary school teacher at Brandywine Springs School. For the past 12 years, she has taught 5th-grade ecosystems and is passionate about getting her students outside to discover and explore.
Sonia invites community partners such as artists, authors, educators, and scientists into the classroom to share their expertise and perspectives, all the while deepening her students’ appreciation for their surrounding environment.
Sonia is also the Co-Lead, K-5 Green School Teacher at Brandywine Springs. Since 2017, they have helped to develop a climate of environmental awareness and practices. This year, they are re-establishing their program after the COVID shutdown and are focusing on Energy, Healthy Lifestyles, and Schoolyard Habitat Pathways.
Exemplary Achievement in Environmental Education – Jennifer Holmes
Jennifer was instrumental in the formation of DAEE. In 2008, she facilitated the first meeting of representatives from environmental organizations across the state and assisted in drafting our first mission statement.
Jennifer has been a faithful DAEE Board member over the years and has held several Executive Officer positions.
She has also coordinated the development of our Strategic Plans and most recently established the charter of our three new Working Committees during the 2022 Virtual Conference.
Previous award winners:
2021 Awards for Excellence Winners
♣ Outstanding Field Educator: Gulnihal Ozbay, Delaware State University
♣ Meaningful Impact: Dee Durham, New Castle County Council
♣ 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:
♣ 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