Deirdre Bingaman, a teacher at Donnelly Elementary, didn’t merely see tragedy when she heard in 2008 that a nearby stream’s water quality had declined. She saw an opportunity for her fifth grade students to help—and to learn about their local ecosystem in the process.

The unique, hands-on program that resulted earned her the President’s Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. One of 18 educators selected nationally for the award, Bingaman was selected for “her demonstrated excellence in focusing her class on environmental education projects that reflected real-life community challenges and creating a powerful connection between her students and the natural world.”

The White House Council on Environmental Quality partners with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to grant the prestigious President’s Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. The award recognizes teachers who engage with the community and the natural environment to help students to become good stewards of their ecosystems.

Each year, Bingaman’s students choose a question they’d like to answer about the creek and use the scientific method to find answers, reporting their findings to the community and the local city council. They use hands-on techniques to investigate aspects of stream ecology such as stream chemistry and fish populations. They propose solutions, too, and one year participated in a restoration project that helped improve habitat in the creek.

Bingaman’s students also have worked to improve their school recycling program, and have started an online statewide system to track school recycling efforts.

The IEA would like to thank member Dierdre Bingaman for her creativity in combining learning with environmental stewardship. Congratulations, Dierdre, for winning this prestigious and much-deserved award!