The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) is proud to sponsor Dr. Rona Zollinger, a teacher at Vicente Martinez High School in Martinez, CA, and a C&NN Natural Teacher, as one of 14 educators selected to explore the Arctic as a professional development opportunity. Dr. Zollinger will spend part of her summer aboard the Lindblad expedition ship National Geographic Explorer.
In her work, Dr. Zollinger integrates inquiry, problem-solving and play into an exploration of the places students live and learn about. She teaches in a transdisciplinary curriculum at Vicente Martinez High School in Martinez, CA, in an environmental and health careers academy called New Leaf: A Sustainable Living Collaborative. As co-founder of New Leaf, she seeks to build community partnerships that link learning to hands-on experience.
She is an active member of C&NN’s Natural Teachers Network and was a finalist for C&NN’s 2010 Natural Teachers Award. In 2012, one of Dr. Zollinger’s students, Cheyanna Washburn, was selected as one of four teens in the nation to represent C&NN at the Disney Kids and Nature Celebration in Orlando, Florida, based on her commitment to environmental stewardship.
“You throw a whole bunch of wildflower seeds out and you don't know which ones will get enough sun, water and support around them," said Dr. Zollinger. "Cheyanna really found the right place that allowed her to flower."
The Grosvenor Fellowship, operated jointly by National Geographic Education Programs and Lindblad Expeditions, will allow Dr. Zollinger to continue her impassioned work with students. “Our hope is that she will return to her community as an even more influential leader, reaching students, teachers, administrators and local community members with a message about the importance of geographic education and getting kids connected to nature and the natural systems that sustain us,” said Amy Berquist, Director of Conservation & Strategic Initiatives for Lindblad Expeditions.
The Fellow program recognizes K-12 formal and informal educators who best demonstrate excellence in geographic education. It provides a professional development opportunity where they experience geography through hands-on field experiences and gain new knowledge and insight to bring back to their classrooms, colleagues, and communities.
“Our goal is to honor the many great teachers – we call them ‘natural teachers’ – like Dr. Zollinger,” said C&NN Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Richard Louv. His books have highlighted the issue of “nature-deficit disorder” — the disconnect of both children and adults from the natural world, and its impact on mental and physical health and cognitive abilities. “We hope that added attention to these teachers will encourage other educators to join them on this path.”
This is the seventh year of the Fellows program, established to honor former National Geographic Society Chairman Gilbert M. Grosvenor’s lifetime commitment to geographic education. Cabin space aboard the National Geographic Explorer was donated in perpetuity to the National Geographic Society by Sven-Olof Lindblad and Lindblad Expeditions to mark Grosvenor’s 75th birthday in 2006 and to honor his service in enhancing and improving geographic education across the United States. Additional support for the 2013 program is provided by Google and the Children & Nature Network, as well as private funders.
The mission of the Children & Nature Network is to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership. For more information, see www.childrenandnature.org. C&NN is a 501c3 non-profit organization.