Washington, D.C. – Project Learning Tree® (PLT), the environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation, honored Renee Strnad, North Carolina Project Learning Tree Coordinator with NC State University - Extension Forestry, with a PLT Gold Star Award. The PLT Gold Star Award is the highest honor bestowed by PLT to a PLT program coordinator or partner in recognition of their years of exemplary service to Project Learning Tree.
Kathy McGlauflin, Director of Project Learning Tree and Senior Vice President of Education with the American Forest Foundation, presented the award to Strnad on May 17 during PLT’s 26th International Coordinators’ Conference in Deadwood, South Dakota.
“Renee’s passion for environmental education and for inspiring students and teachers is contagious,” said McGlauflin. “Her unflagging support of PLT since early in 2000 has provided thousands of educators in North Carolina with professional development and curriculum support to help engage their students in learning about the natural world, forests, and the importance of stewardship. She finds creative ways to engage people of all ages in learning about the environment and is a true believer that you should ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’”
Strnad came to North Carolina after graduating from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas in 1997 with a dual Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Biology and Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. She was drawn initially to the Outer Banks by an environmental education position and within the year she relocated to Raleigh and NC State University where she is the Environmental Educator for Extension Forestry in the College of Natural Resources and North Carolina PLT coordinator.
PLT provides educators with the tools they need to bring the environment into the classroom and their students into the environment. PLT’s curriculum materials cover topics ranging from forests, wildlife, and water, to community planning, waste management and energy. The curriculum meets national and state education standards, including the North Carolina Standard Course of Study for grades K-8 in language arts, math, science, and social studies.
Strnad has been a certified environmental educator in North Carolina since 2003. She coordinates teacher professional development, as well as classroom programs and field activities for K-12 students. She supports 4-H natural resource programs statewide and serves as a liaison between the College of Natural Resources at NC State University and environmental educators. She also coordinates forestry institutes each summer for educators -- one on the coast and one in the mountains.
“I play in the woods, teach about the woods, and increase the knowledge of teachers and students like,” says Strand of herself. “A personal passion is ensuring that people understand the ecology and importance of forest fires in maintaining forest health in our state,” says Strnad.
Strnad also helps citizens better understand issues surrounding solid waste. She developed a workshop series on municipal solid waste in cooperation with North Carolina’s office of Environmental Assistance and Outreach. She serves her community as a member of the Board of Directors for the Scrap Exchange, a non-profit creative reuse center, based in Durham, whose mission is to promote creativity, environmental awareness, and community through reuse.
Since 2008, Strnad has been a key player in efforts to align North Carolina’s state standards with national environmental literacy guidelines. She was instrumental in acquiring the first funding to support implementation of the N.C. Environmental Literacy Plan through a baseline study of environmental literacy in North Carolina students.
In 2009 Strnad was the winner of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina award for Outstanding Service, and she currently serves as President for the group. In 2011, she received the North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s Environmental Educator of the Year award.
Strnad also supports national environmental education efforts through her work with the North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE), and last year she chaired NAAEE’s Volunteer Committee for their annual conference that was held in Raleigh in October. She is currently serving as President of Environmental Educators of North Carolina, which is the NAAEE Affiliate in North Carolina.