Skip To Main Content
Akron Public Schools
The logo of the Akron Public School District.

2023 Excellence in Education Awards

Image of 2023 Excellence in Education Award
The Excellence in Education Awards recognize outstanding contributions to education that model excellence through thoughtful engagement of education principles, innovation and adaptation.
2023 Regional Recipients
Junior Rangers: Ecosystem Explorers! Heather Berenson Region 3, 4, 5 (Midwest) | Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The Junior Ranger Ecosystem Explorers program provides field trips where local students learn to think like a scientist and become more comfortable in the outdoors. Many students in Akron Public Schools have never been to Cuyahoga Valley National Park and are uncomfortable. Akron Public Schools initiated the project with a request to Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center for assistance with providing place-based programming to all second-graders in the district. The schools received funding through an annual field trip program funded by the GAR Foundation, which awards nonprofit organizations that serve the Akron community. The program team worked with field instructors and classroom teachers to develop an activity-based program with a theme of “think like a scientist,” based on a request from teachers to focus on career opportunities. The program also focuses on helping students and teachers increase their comfort in nature. Education center staff provided resources to help the teachers and students logistically, socially, emotionally and academically. This preparation laid the foundation for successful field trip experiences within the park. All second-graders in Akron Public Schools participated in a field trip to the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center to practice observational skills in pond and forest ecosystems. Through pond dipping and sifting through forest leaf litter, students learn to make observations, think things through, and use scientific equipment like hand lenses and nature journals. Participating teachers rated the program the highest of their annual field trip experiences. 
Additional National Park Service Team Members: Kerry Muhl, Penny Uhlenbrock, and Carrie Cooper
External Team Members: Trisha Kelly, Akron Public Schools; Bronlynn Thurman, GAR Foundation; Katie Wright, Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park; and January Miller, Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park