Missouri River Relief has honored the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) and its previous sustainability leader with the Inspiring the Next Generation award.
The honor is presented to educators that strive to connect students and teachers to the Missouri River and deepen their sense of river stewardship.
“It is an honor for the district to be recognized by Missouri River Relief with the ‘Inspiring the Next Generation,’ award,” Leigh Anne Neal, chief of early childhood education/sustainability shares. “This honor reflects the hard work and passion of retired sustainability coordinator, Joan Leavens and the partnership with Erin Smith and Kristen Zuck of the curriculum and instruction team.”
Kristen Schulte, Missouri River Relief education director described Leavens as, “the recipient that stands out for her ripple effect across Missouri River Relief and her school district.”
“Our education programs engage students’ innate sense of wonder to explore the Missouri River through place-based programs that are interdisciplinary in nature and experiential in character,” Schulte added.
During her tenure, Leavens planned a Missouri River Watershed Festival in Kansas City. She also secured funding for a workshop for SMSD teachers and administrators that focused on integrating water quality education into classrooms throughout the district.
“No one person has a greater impact on inspiring students’ curiosity of the Missouri River than the educator who creates the learning environment where a student’s relationship with the river can flourish and grow,” Schulte stated.
Neal highlighted that partnerships such as these contribute greatly to sustainability efforts in the Shawnee Mission School District.
“The City of Overland Park has also been a tremendous partner supporting learning opportunities for our students that offered hands-on experiences to inspire the next generation of scientists and conservationists,” she added.