Denise Thompson, Mountain Vista Governor’s School
This year’s Outstanding Conservation Educator Award is presented to Denise Thompson, Mountain Vista Governor’s School. She is recognized for her pioneering work to establish and facilitate our new conservation outreach program with the Mountain Vista Governor’s School program that aligns conservation with public policy and government involving research and direct advocacy.
She enabled District staff to teach, facilitate and evaluate two natural resources research classes over a three-month period involving 40 seniors and resulted in two formal panels.
Two classes researched and created awareness of local environmental issues ranging from riparian buffers and the impact of human population decline on community services to a multitude of water quality issues. Despite more than 20 different issues being identified by students within their communities as natural resource-related problems, each class was directed to select one topic by the third session, research its causes and possible solutions, and then present formal, research based solutions to a panel of professionals. It wasn’t enough for students to simply understand the science of the problems but to understand and consider the problems based on society and economics in their problem-solving approach and final solutions.
During the project’s research phase, key subject matter experts spoke to the students, offering in-depth knowledge and critical mentorship toward finding plausible non-conflict solutions. On the final day, both classes presented their projects to panelists comprised of professionals either in the field of study being researched or community leaders capable of directing change.
Based on the success of the pilot program, Mountain Vista Governor’s School now has a 2016-17 Virginia Envirothon team and seven independent riparian buffer research projects ongoing for the 2016-17 academic year with five at the Middletown campus in Frederick County and two at the Warrenton campus in Fauquier County.
It is my pleasure to present the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District 2016 Outstanding Conservation Educator Award to Denise Thompson, Mountain Vista Governor’s School, for her commitment to our soil and water conservation outreach and education initiatives.