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Karen Johnson, Lead Teacher at Nature’s Classroom, named Outstanding Educator by Project Learning Tree

Nature’s Classroom educator named Outstanding Educator by Project Learning Tree

May 26, 2016

Karen Johnson Folsom, Lead Teacher at Nature’s Classroom, has been honored as one of five educators across the nation who were named 2016 National Outstanding Educators by Project Learning Tree® (PLT), the environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation.  The award identifies educators who use environmental education to improve student learning and foster environmental stewardship, and it also recognizes them for their exemplary use of Project Learning Tree’s award-winning educational materials, and exceptional teaching skills.  “These five outstanding educators show how environmental education can inspire students to succeed,” said Kathy McGlauflin, senior vice president for education at the American Forest Foundation, in announcing the awards. “They have created extraordinary results--and the best news is that their innovative teaching techniques can apply to classrooms across the country.”  Folsom, along with the four other educators, will be honored at PLT’s 30th International Coordinators’ Conference, May 23-26, in Salt Lake City. She will also attend the World Forestry Center’s International Educators’ Institute, July 10-16, in Portland, Oregon.

Folsom first taught at Nature’s Classroom in 1994-1996, then returned in 2000 through the present. She is the Lead Teacher of the site and held the interim Site Administrator position for 13 years.  Karen’s role as lead teacher at Nature’s Classroom encompasses teaching outdoor environmental education, staff support and supervision, community relations, programming coordination, and curator of the site’s animal collection. Though the primary focus of the site is programming for the sixth-graders, she had developed and extended environmental opportunities to reach students in other grades, colleges and the community in general. She has provided hundreds of hours of professional development to both formal and informal educators throughout Florida. As an active PLT volunteer, she has mentored facilitators, led workshops, and now serves on the Florida PLT Steering Committee.  Her passion is in reconnecting learners of all ages to the natural systems that we live in.  “I truly feel that the Tampa Bay area has the best trained teachers in the state in environmental education. This is due to the many years of effort of Karen Johnson Folsom,” said fellow educator William Munsey of Plant City.

Nature’s Classroom, part of Hillsborough County Public Schools, is located in Northeast Hillsborough County on 365 acres provided by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD). The Hillsborough River forms one boundary of the property and contains a variety of natural communities (i.e. riverine swamp, sandhills and pine flatwoods).  For more information about site features at Nature’s Classroom, visit Project Learning Tree

Project Learning Tree® (PLT) uses trees and forests as windows on the world to increase students’ understanding of the environment.  PLT provides educators with curriculum, professional development, and resources to integrate environmental education into lesson plans for all grades and subject areas, and to use the outdoors to engage students in learning about the world around them.  For more information, visit


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