Council volunteer Kate Morse recently received a Conservation Achievement Award from Alaska Conservation Foundation. These prestigious awards recognize individuals and organizations committed to protecting Alaska. The Council was proud to support Kate’s nomination for the Jerry S. Dixon Award for Excellence in Education, which rewards educators who integrate stewardship of Alaska’s natural environment.
Kate has been developing and implementing field-based exploration opportunities for K-12 youth in the Copper River watershed and Prince William Sound region for over 18 years, working initially for the Prince William Sound Science Center and, since 2008, for the Copper River Watershed Project (CRWP) where she is currently the Program Director.
Kate has volunteered with the Council’s Information and Education Committee for over 10 years. She has steered the Council towards increased and improved environmental education efforts, including the annual Youth Involvement project. Kate’s guidance continually helps improve our programs, clarifying best practices for working with education partners and calling for appropriate and effective evaluation metrics.
Directly leaning on Kate’s expertise and mentorship, the Council supports a paid youth internship in Cordova for a high school student to do citizen science monitoring of invasive species. Since 2014, Kate’s work to help recruit, train, and support local youth has been a key component for the success of this internship. The Council is now expanding this opportunity to other communities in our region, with our model being to first identify a local mentor who can be “like Kate.” We could not do this work without her volunteer efforts.
Kate also leads education projects with CRWP that the Council proudly supports. These projects help further our mission to engage citizens in promoting the environmentally safe operation of the Alyeska terminal and associated tankers by engaging our region’s younger citizens.
One such project, the Copper River Stewardship Program, has engaged our region’s youth in a field course that explores the upper and lower Copper River watershed, including learning about the robust oil spill prevention and response system and impacts of oil in the marine ecosystem, and fosters a direct personal connection with the ecosystem for the teen participants.
In addition, Kate and CRWP are working with the Council to develop a series of interactive lessons that teach students the value, challenges, and impact of citizen engagement on conservation issues. She piloted this program with students in Cordova and the Copper Valley in 2019.
Recently, Kate adapted lessons from the Alaska Oil Spill Lesson Bank to teach to local sixth graders via Zoom, which included putting materials kits together to send home to each student and recruiting parents and partner educators to deliver the most effective science education possible for students learning from home.
Kate’s innovative approach to engaging youth in hands-on, locally-relevant, experiential learning exemplifies the best of environmental education.
The award was named for Jerry Dixon, a McAuliffe Fellow and former teacher of the gifted in Seward, Alaska. Congratulations Kate!