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Middle School Teacher Earns Presidential Innovation Award

On July 17, Virginia middle school teacher Anne Moore was one of 15 educators named by President Barack Obama as recipients of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. The PIAEE awards are given to environmental educators who use innovative, hands-on, experiential approaches.

Formerly a seventh-grade science teacher at Robious Middle in Chesterfield County, Moore is now a career and technical education teacher at Goochland Middle in Goochland County.  

Moore’s award was based in part on her work with the VCU Team Warbler project and she fully credits the relationship with VCU’s Center for Environmental Studies and the VCU Rice Rivers Center for contributing to her success and recognition. The VCU team credits Moore’s enthusiasm and boundless energy with making their partnership such a rewarding experience for everyone involved, especially Moore’s students.

As part of VCU’s Team Warbler since its inception, Moore has inspired her students through collaboration with VCU faculty and students studying the Prothonotary Warbler, a migratory bird that breeds along rivers flowing to the Chesapeake Bay and spends winters in the tropics. Team Warbler is comprised of VCU faculty and students, as well as community partners including Audubon’s International Alliances Program, the Richmond Audubon Society, Panama Audubon, the W&M - VCU Center for Conservation Biology and, of course, Moore’s middle school students.  

In 2010, Team Warbler received a VCU Community Engagement grant for a project entitled “From Chesapeake Bay to Panama Bay and Back." The project, now in its fifth year, is based on the concept that preservation of habitats critical to migratory birds is often important to the environmental, economic, and cultural well-being of nearby communities, and long-term conservation of these habitats requires cross-cultural cooperation and understanding.

Each winter, students enrolled in VCU’s Panama Avian Ecology course travel to Panama for two weeks to study the warblers wintering in tropical mangrove forests fringing Panama Bay. While there, they work closely with Panama Audubon and host local Panamanian school children for a day in the field to observe the research. When they return to Virginia, faculty and university students work with Moore and her students throughout the spring semester; Moore’s students learn about wetlands and warblers and conservation challenges shared by communities living on both the Chesapeake and Panama Bays.  Her students have participated in hands-on learning activities, from measuring the light reflected in a bird’s feather to collecting data on nest predation rates along a rural-urban gradient. They also design and build nest boxes to be used at VCU ‘s long-term study sites on the James River. The work culminates at the end of the semester with the middle school class joining the VCU team for a day of hands-on learning about warblers and wetlands on the James River. 

“To solve our future environmental challenges, young people need to understand the science behind the natural world - and create a personal connection to the outdoors,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “These teachers and students are demonstrating the important role of environmental education, and showing how individual actions can help address climate change, protect the air we breathe, and safeguard the water we drink.”

Moore's award was featured in the Aug. 9 Richmond Times-Dispatch article, "Goochland Middle School teacher gets two national awards."