KWEC’s Kern Recognized as a Leader in Environmental Education

Mandy Kern is left, Onlaee Nicklin (middle) is illustrator and publisher Tracy Million-Simmons with Meadowlark Press (right).

FHSU University Relations

A staff member at Fort Hays State University has been recognized by the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education for overcoming the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic on environmental education.

Mandy Kern, program specialist at FHSU’s Kansas Wetlands Education Center near Great Bend, received the new KACEE Pivot Award. This unique award category honors individuals, groups or organizations that have demonstrated exceptional adaptability to deliver environmental education programs despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Curtis Wolf, director of KWEC, said Kern has gone above and beyond in the past 19 months to ensure that his environmental education programs continue.

“I am happy to see Mandy being recognized for her hard work,” said Wolf. “As Mandy’s supervisor, I absolutely believe she deserved this award.”

Kern developed new programs and changed delivery methods to virtual options, including a virtual tour of Cheyenne Bottoms. Kern also wrote a children’s book with additional program material.

Her Cheyenne Bottoms Virtual Tour allows educators to use interviews, VR videos, and drone footage to teach Cheyenne Bottoms. It gives students in area schools a chance to visit virtually when they are not able to do so in person.

It also allows environmental educators outside of the local area to explore wetlands, providing residents of Kansas and beyond with greater opportunities to learn about the importance of Cheyenne Bottoms.

Kern was nominated for the award by Dr Matthew Clay, assistant professor of teacher education at FHSU.

“I am honored to have been nominated for this award by a colleague whom I respect and with whom I love to collaborate,” said Kern. “Dr. Clay does a great job with his students, preparing them for a future in science education, and has done a lot of pivoting himself last year.

The Kansas Wetlands Education Center, affiliated with FHSU’s Werth College of Science, Technology and Mathematics, is located 10 miles northeast of Great Bend in the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area. More information can be found at Wetlands Center.fhsu.edu.