The Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education has announced the recipients of the 2023 Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education Awards. Nominated by their peers, these awardees exhibit outstanding innovation, leadership and achievement, as well as collaboration and cooperation within and beyond the environmental education field.
Among the winners was Elsi Miller, The Nature Conservancy - Great Bend Sand Prairie, who earned the Connie Elpers Rising Star Award, named after one of the most influential environmental educators in Kansas.
The nomination reads:
“While Elsi Miller’s fulltime job is managing land for The Nature Conservancy in the Great Bend Sand Prairie, environmental education is important to her. Sharing her passion and expertise at numerous Kansas Wetlands Education Center events and coming up with creative ways to teach children and families about migratory birds, Kansas critters, and wetlands are just a couple examples of her education outreach. It’s estimated that in her career so far, Elsi has reached a few thousand people with her education efforts.
“Elsi finds ways to weave conservation work with education every chance she has. For example, Ms. Miller took the opportunity to bring students from Fort Hays State University out to Cheyenne Bottoms and assist them with their radio telemetry projects. If you’re not able to join her in person, Elsi has found a way for you to experience the Great Bend Sand Prairie remotely, as she shares many of the interesting things she does in the Sand Prairie through YouTube videos, accessible to all.
“Mandy Kern, Kansas Wetlands Education Center added “Simply put, many of the events and programs offered through the Kansas Wetlands Education Center this past year would not have been as successful without the assistance of Elsi Miller. Her contributions to the environmental education community will only increase as she continues the conservation work she has started at the Sandhills Ranch and Cheyenne Bottoms.
“Ms. Miller has also brought many innovative conservation strategies to her work, including installing range cameras at water tanks for the cattle who graze the land and help to create better habitat for the migratory birds who travel through the area each year. This innovation saves hours of travel, allowing Elsi and her colleagues to work more efficiently. The range cameras are just one of many projects that Elsi has put into place. These are practices that she shares with other conservation managers and are yet another way that Elsi’s passion for education shines through.
“It is hard to imagine that one person could do so much in such a short period of time. KACEE is honored to present Ms. Elsi Miller with the Connie Elpers Rising Star Award and we look forward to the many and important contributions that she will make to environmental education in the state.”
Other winners were:
• John K. Strickler Award – Mike Hayden, former governor of Kansas.
• Award for Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education – Ben Postlethwait, Evergy Green Team (business/corporate sector).
• Award for Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education – Kara King, Sedgwick County Zoo (community/non-profit).
• Award for Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education – Patty Rice, Sedgwick County Zoo (community/non-profit).
• Award for Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education – Bluebird Taylor-McKown, Baker University Wetlands Discovery Center (community/non-profit).
• Award for Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education – Jessica Ruiz, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Bureau of Waste Management (government).
• Award for Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education – Aaron Batterbee, Gardner Edgerton High School (pre K-16 education).
• Award for Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education –Tim Elsen, Wilbur Middle School (pre K-16 education).
• Kansas Green School of the Year Award – Wichita Collegiate School.
“KACEE is pleased to honor these deserving individuals and organizations, who contribute so much to environmental education in Kansas,” said KACEE President Delia Lister.
Awardees will be recognized at an Awards Celebration hosted by KACEE on Friday, March 31, 2023, at Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kansas. The event is sponsored by KACEE, Evergy Green Team, Sunset Zoo, DM Bruce Associates, Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks, Sedgwick County Zoo, The Nature Conservancy, and Boulevard Brewing Company at the time of this release. Ticket information is available at https://www.kacee.org/ee-awards or by calling 785-532-1902.