Press Release

ANNAPOLIS, MD (May 16, 2005) – An Eastern Shore elementary school ecology class and an alternative learning educator from Baltimore County shared top honors at the 29th annual Tawes Awards for a Clean Environment, presented today in the Blue Heron Center at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis. Nineteen students from the Kennard Elementary School Advanced Ecology Class and Gene Flanagan of the Rosedale Alternative Center won in the youth and adult categories respectively.

The Tawes Award is an environmental recognition program sponsored by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Maryland Petroleum Council (MPC) in the name of late Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes, who was also the state's first secretary of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The award is open to any individual, civic, community, or non-profit entity that has demonstrated outstanding efforts to enhance Maryland's environment over a period of time or with a single project.

“The people here today are role models for environmental stewardship and have made great strides in protecting our State’s precious plant and animal resources and the Chesapeake Bay,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “Their contributions have directly impacted their communities and our environment through learning, teaching, and hard work and their efforts can make all Marylanders proud.”

The 4th and 5th grade students of the Kennard Elementary School Advanced Ecology Class (Queen Anne’s County) chose to be involved in “extra-curricular” projects and assumed these added responsibilities with enthusiasm and energy, often working on weekends. Their projects included: the Reef Ball Ecology Project where students studied the animals and plants that live on reef balls in the Chesapeake Bay; the Raptor Research Project where the students collected baseline data on resident raptors at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center; the Recycling Program which was expanded to collect white paper and plastic containers, in addition to aluminum cans, and created a new “Recycling Hall of Fame” to recognize two classroom winners each week for
recycling. Students also studied diamondback terrapins and prepared them to live in the Chesapeake Bay on their own; studied rainforests and created a three-volume book on the Chesapeake Bay; and conducted a debate on mute swan population control. Students include: Lillian Rousseau, Samantha Rossi, Kiley Pignatero, Amanda D’Ambrosio, Amanda Delayo, Alana Spears, Jodie Blunt, Paul Jones, Jesse Durbin, Colleen Carter, Kyle Dean, Nicholas Panor, Jack Draper, Seamus O’Brien, Kyle Wood, Daniel Thiesse, Alex Werle, Emily Vooris, and Johnny Gygax.

Gene Flanagan, of the Rosedale Alternative Center in Baltimore City, has contributed thousands of hours of valuable environmental service and is a role model for students, his colleagues, and the community. He assists approximately 600 secondary students each year who need an alternative learning program due to drug and alcohol use, possession of illegal weapons, serious classroom disruptions and violence, and suspensions or expelling and who would otherwise likely spend time in the juvenile justice system. Flanagan works with students to conduct complicated waterway cleanups, plant trees and shrubs throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, restore habitats, reduce waste and encourage recycling, construct flood and erosion control devices, and maintain trails and waterways on state and county parkland. Flanagan and his students assisted local communities hit by Hurricane Isabel in 2003 by removing truckloads of tires, trash, and other debris from Baltimore County waterways. He also assisted the Chesapeake Bay Foundation with planting and growing bay grasses and oyster seedings. Other partners for these projects included: the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Baltimore Forestry Board, Baltimore County Recreation and Parks, the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy, and the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The Runners-up in the youth category were the students of Mrs. Fatima’s Special Education Class at William S. Baer School in Baltimore City. The students have severe physical and cognitive limitations. Yet every Tuesday, they take a break from their normal daily schedule of developmental activities to recycle. They use shopping carts, a wagon, and many bags provided by the Baltimore City Office of Recycling to collect recyclable paper from all floors of the school. This activity helps some students practice walking, improve their strength, and learn voice communication, all while helping the environment. Students include: Darius Campbell, Kiera Brown, Raymond Johnson, Dontrel Carroll, and Tiffany Raynor.

The Runner-up in the adult category was John W. Foerster, Ph.D., of the Maryland Cooperative Extension, University of Maryland Urban Agriculture Program in Baltimore City and a Master Gardener in Anne Arundel County. Dr. Foerster is an environmental scientist and educator who spent nearly 40 years studying water quality issues in the Chesapeake Bay and is currently working to encourage residents of Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City to reduce their use of fertilizers and pesticides, to use organic farming methods, and to incorporate native plants into their landscaping activities.

A panel of judges chooses the Tawes Award winners and runners-up. Last year’s winners included the Boy Scouts of America Venturing Crew 202 from Carroll County and Stephen Barry, Outdoor Educator for the Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center in Anne Arundel County.

For more information on the Tawes Award for a Clean Environment, please call (410) 269-1850.