At the recent annual meeting of the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education (KAEE), Cheryl Messenger was named Environmental Education Individual of 2010.  Messenger is the director of environmental education at Mammoth Cave National Park.

“There is no more honest measure than being evaluated by your peers, and this award is a testimony to the quality of Mammoth Cave’s environmental education program,” Patrick Reed, superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park, said.  “Cheryl Messenger’s fellow environmental educators from across Kentucky have recognized her as the best in 2010, and here at the park we wholeheartedly agree.”

Messenger and her staff work with more than 30,000 K-12 students each year both in the classroom and in the park.  Lessons are coordinated in advance with teachers and accomplish far beyond the realm of a traditional field trip.

“We want Mammoth Cave lessons to be meaningful to students and worthwhile to their teachers,” said Messenger.  “Everything we do relates back to state standards, so our lessons and curricula are focused and easy to use.”

Some initiatives Messenger has introduced or improved as part of the Mammoth Cave environmental education program include:

  • working with Barren County Middle School to develop three weeklong summer day camps at the park
  • developing Mammoth Cave National Park’s Fire, Making Connections and Paleontology curricula. All three are correlated to Kentucky’s current Core Content and are available as free downloads from the park’s website. The Fire curriculum is being used as a model for the National Park Service’s entire Southeast Region.
  • facilitating national curricula, including Project Learning Tree, Project WET, and Project Wild.  Each year she trains and certifies many pre-service teachers in the use of these curricula.
  • providing professional development opportunities for teachers through  Mammoth Cave’s Geoscience-Teacher-in-the-Park internship.   Each year this internship provides two to four teachers the opportunity to spend the summer working alongside park scientists.