Cameron University professor earns national honor

photo of Kurtis KollCameron University professor Dr. Kurtis Koll has been named one of five 2010 National 2010 National Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educators by Project Learning Tree® (PLT), the environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation. PLT's Outstanding Educators are selected for their commitment to environmental education, their exemplary use of PLT, and their exceptional teaching skills. Koll will be honored at PLT's 24th International Coordinators' Conference in May.

"Dr. Koll has an innate ability to connect with students," says Dr. Danny McGuire, Chair, Department of Physical Sciences. "He has met the educational needs of many of our students for more than 30 years. His level of dedication and thoughtfulness is inspirational to our future scientists and science educators. I know Dr. Koll to be an outstanding educator, and he is certainly deserving of this honor."

Koll was nominated for the honor by Christina Stallings Roberson, Oklahoma PLT coordinator. "Kurtis has a deep understanding of the importance of teaching and experiencing nature," she says, "He uses PLT's hands-on, inquiry based lessons as a springboard to engage adults and children alike in the outdoors, develop their critical thinking, and get them excited about science."

"Everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a student. You never know the impact you can have," says Koll about the many ways and the many different groups to whom he teaches environmental education.

Koll, who joined the CU faculty in 1978, teaches a myriad of science courses at CU, including chemistry, physical geology, astronomy and general physical sciences. He created a series of environmental education short courses for pre-service science teachers that he opens to students from other majors as well. Word has spread about his enthusiasm and creativity as a teacher, and the courses, which he teaches along with his regular course load of semester-long science classes, are popular across the campus. He takes students to state and national parks and wildlife management areas to investigate local environmental issues and blends this experience with discussions about local, national, and global current events.

He also trains teachers from local school districts to use PLT with their students. He uses PLT's hands-on activities with scout groups, home-schoolers, and adults at public outreach events and conducts "natural experience" programs with youth in the Comanche Nation Youth Program and the Wichita-Caddo Tribal Youth Program. In addition, Koll directs two science camps each year for K-9th grade students to conduct science investigations as they explore their community.

The other 2010 recipients of the honor are Joy Cowart, a teacher at Lowndes County middle and high schools in Valdosta, GA; Susan Cox, Conservation Education Coordinator with the US Forest Service, based in Durham, NH; Reeda Hart, outreach specialist for the Center for Integrative Natural Science and Mathematics at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, KY; and Debra Wagner, fourth-grade teacher at St. Paul Lutheran School in Lakeland, FL.

Project Learning Tree (PLT) is an award winning, multi-disciplinary environmental education program for educators and students in Pre K-grade 12. PLT, a program of the American Forest Foundation, is one of the most widely used environmental education programs in the United States and abroad. PLT continues to set the standard for environmental education excellence.



March 4, 2010