Kurtis Koll of Cameron University, Lawton Named 2010 National PLT Outstanding Educator

Washington, D.C. – Project Learning Tree® (PLT), the environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation, has announced that Kurtis Koll, professor of physical sciences at Cameron University and a resident of Lawton, was named one of five 2010 National PLT Outstanding Educators.

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 Lake Tahoe, Nevada, May 17–­20.

Growing up on a farm in Iowa led Koll to develop a deep appreciation for nature and the importance of connecting with nature. While teaching a full schedule of semester-long science courses at Cameron University, Koll created a series of environmental education short courses for pre-service science teachers that he opens to other students as well. 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. Now the courses are always full because word has spread about his enthusiasm and creativity as a teacher.

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

“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.

“Kurtis has a deep understanding of the importance of teaching and experiencing nature, and 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” said Christina Stallings Roberson, Oklahoma PLT coordinator, in nominating Koll for the honor.

"Project Learning Tree is proud to honor Kurtis Koll, whose passion for hands-on environmental education is helping students learn about the world around them, and their responsibility for it," said Kathy McGlauflin, Director of Project Learning Tree and Senior Vice President of Education for the American Forest Foundation. “PLT is known for quality environmental education because dedicated educators like Kurtis use PLT to engage students in hands-on learning about the environment, both inside the classroom and outdoors.”

In addition to attending the PLT International Coordinators Conference, Koll is invited to attend the World Forestry Center’s International Educators’ Institute, July 11–16, in Portland, Oregon.

Project Learning TreeÒ (PLT) is a program of the American Forest Foundation, a nonprofit conservation organization that works to ensure decision makers and educators, both today and tomorrow, understand and value the role that forests and the environment play in our lives. Through quality environmental education and outdoor learning for children and adults across the country, and in conjunction with our 50-state network of partners and volunteers, our programs are engaging youth and communities in conservation efforts, growing healthy forests, and conserving habitat. For more information, visit www.forestfoundation.org.

PLT provides environmental education training and PLT curriculum materials to 30,000 PreK-12 educators every year through 1,500 professional development workshops held in communities across the country. PLT teaches students “how to think, not what to think” about complex environmental issues, and helps students learn the skills they need to make sound choices about the environment. PLT’s GreenSchools! and GreenWorks! service-learning programs engage students with their community to apply their learning in a real-life context. Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry: Forestry Services sponsors PLT in Oklahoma. For more information, visit www.plt.org.

Oklahoma PLT: Christina Stallings Roberson, 405-522-6158, Christina.Stallings@oda.state.ok.us

National PLT: Vanessa Bullwinkle, 202-463-2472, vbullwinkle@forestfoundation.org