Dr. Schultz at the KACEE award ceremony in Manhattan, Kansas, April 1, 2022. (Photo by Helen Alexander)
University of Kansas scientist and educator Peggy Schultz won the John K. Strickler Memorial Award from the Kansas Association for Environmental Education (KACEE) on April 1. This lifetime achievement award recognizes Dr. Schultz for her exceptional efforts in developing and sustaining educational programs over the course of her career.
“Dr. Schultz’s dedication to environmental education and outreach is fueled by her love of nature, her love of children, and her desire to share knowledge that she knows kids deserve to have access to,” said KU Professor Helen Alexander, who submitted the nomination for Dr. Schultz with KU postdoctoral researcher Terra Lubin.
For the past five years, Dr. Schultz has initiated several educational programs for children and teachers in Kansas with funding from Kansas NSF EPSCoR, a National Science Foundation initiative.
For example, she created the Kansas Ecosystems for Elementary Students (KEES) initiative. This program brings ecology lessons to 3rd graders in Title 1 schools in Lawrence and Topeka. KU students and staff help Dr. Schultz teach these interactive lessons in both English and Spanish. The team initially taught in-person before going remote because of COVID-19 restrictions. Now, they use a hybrid model, shipping materials to classrooms while KU instructors join by video.
To further enhance remote learning, Dr. Schultz and her colleagues made bilingual YouTube videos about Kansas ecosystems. From beavers to frogs to microbiomes, these videos aim to spark scientific inquiry in youth.
Dr. Schultz also spearheads the Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute to educate high school teachers about ecology and research. Roughly 30 teachers have participated in the institute over the course of three summers. A fourth cohort is expected in June 2022. Several participants have used the institute as a springboard to create engaging activities for their students, such as a water quality field study, an herbicide pollution project, and a population study based on local bison data.
Before joining KU in 2015, Dr. Schultz established herself as a leader in ecology education as the Director of Biology Outreach at Indiana University. She is currently an associate specialist with the Kansas Biological Survey and the KU Environmental Studies Program where she conducts research on plants and fungi.
Congratulations Dr. Schultz!