C&NN Honors Natural Teachers

About the Author

Susan Sachs Lipman (Suz) has more than 25 years experience as a writer, editor, social media manager, community builder, and advocate for getting children into nature. She is the author of Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which was named a TIME magazine Top 10 Trend of 2012. She has written for the New York Times Motherlode blog, the Christian Science Monitor’s Modern Parenthood blog and others. Suz serves as the Director of Social Media Promotion and Partnerships for the Children & Nature Network.

Larry Volpe, a 5th grade teacher at Daniel Lairon Elementary School in Santa Clara County, California, was recently presented with C&NN’s first Annual Teachers Award. The award was presented aboard the Lindblad Expeditions Sea Bird, during a recent C&NN event at which participants discussed the children and nature movement and ways to take it to its next steps — even further toward creating deep cultural change.

In presenting the award, C&NN President and CEO Cheryl Charles noted:

We need to talk about children’s everyday lives — where they learn, play and live. The people who touch their everyday lives are teachers.

C&NN Chairman Richard Louv added:

When we contacted teachers, they invariably said that they were out there all alone — whether they were poetry, art or science teachers teaching in nature, they were heroes all alone.

Larry Volpe had received multiple nominations from teachers, students, parents, and colleagues who know him through his work at Dan Lairon High School and San Jose Inner City Outings, a volunteer organization that provides outdoor adventures for underserved youth. He is known to spend hundreds of hours of his own time each year, weekends and after school, hiking, camping, gardening and otherwise being an outdoor educator and mentor to youth.

Upon receiving his award, he said:

Seeing some of these kids happy for the first time is more than enough of a reward for me.

In addition to the honor, Larry Volpe will receive an educational voyage to the Galapagos Islands with Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic. Three finalists will receive five hundred dollars each.

Dennis Dowling (Wilcox High School, Santa Clara County), Halo Shapiro Smart (REAL Academy, Redwood High School, San Mateo County), and Rona Zollinger (Environmental Studies Academy, Briones School, Contra Costa County) were named as finalists from a field of 23 nominees.

The C&NN Natural Teachers Award was established to honor K-12 teachers in public schools who:

  • Demonstrate an effective and creative approach to taking students outdoors in nature for learning and inspiration
  • Provide opportunities for students to develop a sense of curiosity and understanding through direct experience in nature
  • Serve as role models in building a relationship with the natural world
  • Inspire other teachers to take their students outdoors in nature
  • Inspire support from administrators for nature-based learning

C&NN partnered with Lindblad Expeditions, the Stewardship Council, the Foundation for Youth Investment, the Morgan Family Foundation, and the Bay Area Children in Nature Collaborative on this pilot award.

This year marked the first for the Children & Nature Network Natural Teachers Award program. The pilot program was begun in the San Francisco Bay Area, with hopes that it will expand in future years.


You can read more about Larry Volpe and the Lindblad Expeditions event that honored him on C&NN Associate Rue Mapp’s blog, Outdoor Afro.

Still more observations about the Lindblad event and the children and nature movement are featured in a recent Earth Island Journal piece by Jason Mark.

You can read more about Larry and all the finalists, and download a press release, on the Children & Nature Network web site.

Photo: Larry Volpe with Richard Louv

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