Thursday, October 12, 2023

DNR Staff, Associates Earn Honors in Outdoor Education

At its annual conference Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Alpena, the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education handed out honors to several DNR employees and associates:

  • Jon Spieles, chief of the DNR Marketing and Outreach Division (shown here).
  • Cindy Fitzwilliams-Heck, faculty member at Ferris State University.
  • Aja Edwards, an educator at the Detroit Zoo.
  • Andrea Stay, DNR Forest Resources Division engagement specialist.

Spieles received the Julian Smith Award, Michigan’s highest honor in outdoor education, named for the national pioneer in outdoor education and Michigan State University faculty member. Spieles began his career as a park interpreter at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in 1994 and had been DNR’s field manager for interpretation from 2002 until his recent elevation to marketing and outreach chief.

Under his direction, DNR education efforts in state parks and fish hatcheries have reached more than a million students and campers, and his emphasis on outdoor education has enabled the department to connect more than 25,000 people a year with archery and fishing programs.

Ferris State University’s Fitzwilliams-Heck took home MAEOE’s Bill Stapp Award, the state’s highest honor for environmental education. She has been on the DNR’s Academy of Natural Resources planning team since 2013 and co-facilitated more than 15 ANR programs. Bill Stapp was a University of Michigan faculty member and a renowned leader in environmental education, his work revered across the planet.

The Detroit Zoo’s Edwards won MAEOE’s Rising Star Award for a young professional entering the field of environmental and outdoor education. Her work as a DNR intern in the Education Services Section was highlighted in the award presentation. From fall 2022 through July 2023, she assisted ESS staff with Salmon in the Classroom, conference exhibits and more.

Stay’s efforts and impact are sure to reach beyond the DNR Forest Resources Division. She earned her state Environmental Educator Certification from MAEOE, and Michigan is only one of five states whose certification process has been approved by the North American Association of Environmental Education.