The Hanover–Caroline Soil and Water Conservation District recently named Robin Didlake as District Environmental Education Teacher of the Year. The agency is thrilled to announce that she has also been selected as one of two Environmental Education Teachers of the Year for Virginia.
Didlake has been a teacher in Virginia for 32 years. For 26 years, she has taught at Caroline High School. In 2018, when Caroline County Schools added an environmental studies program for ninth graders, Didlake, an earth science teacher, stepped in to lead the program. Using environmental science guidelines from the Virginia Department of Education, she created the new curriculum from scratch, providing many resources from her own pocket.
The 2020-2021 school year has been particularly difficult for all educators due to the impact of the coronavirus. Caroline’s teachers and students adapted first to virtual teaching and then to hybrid teaching. Despite these challenges with limited resources, Didlake remained focused on her goal of nurturing young environmental stewards.
His plans included the study of plants and animals native to Virginia, the negative impact of human activities on the environment, and the importance of native tree species. In the summer of 2020, she organized a program that provided native tree saplings to students at all grade levels in Carolina. Additionally, students and staff at Caroline High School planted 25 native trees in a new tree-lined landscape that now serves as an outdoor classroom for fieldwork and citizen science while students monitor biodiversity, tree growth and bud break.
In addition to leveraging the educational resources provided by the Hanover–Carolina Soil and Water Conservation District, Didlake has worked with other organizations to multiply his impact. Through Friends of the Rappahannock, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Virginia Department of Forestry, and the Virginia Department of Resource Management, she has expanded her students’ meaningful educational experiences to include paddles on the Rappahannock. River, water quality testing, tree planting projects and interdisciplinary professional development for fellow teachers. Didlake also independently started an after-school environmental club, which competes as part of the Dominion Energy Envirothon team.
Didlake is an adaptable and compassionate educator. She spent many hours exploring the woods and streams surrounding the high school for outdoor learning opportunities. She creates practical lessons and experiences that are inclusive and engaging, expanding the reach of environmental literacy in Carolina and guiding historically underrepresented populations to fall in love and become stewards of their watershed.
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