GEHS instructor wins 2023 KACEE Award

Lynne Hermansen
Gardner News

Aaron Batterbee’s passion for protecting the planet, and sharing that love with his students, helped him win the prestigious 2023 Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education Award.

Nominated by his peers, Batterbee was judged on his ability to exhibit outstanding innovation, leadership and education achievement as well as collaborating and cooperating within and beyond the environmental education field, Dr. Ben Boothe, community relations director, said.

The award ceremony was March 31 at Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kansas.

Every year, educators from across Kansas demonstrate leadership and excellence in providing quality, hands-on, science-based conservation and environmental education that teaches children about the richness, diversity and importance of Kansas’ natural resources.

Batterbee, who is a biology and honors biology teacher and ecology club sponsor, has been employed by the school district for seven years.

His projects include, establishing a 1,000-square-foot pollinator garden in conjunction with Johnson County storm water and Miami and Johnson County’s soil conservation districts and writing and receiving a grant from the Grassland Heritage Foundation, which will be used for interpretative signs for the garden and a garden walkway. Students from the fire science program burned the pollinator garden.

Batterbee and his students have been ridding the retention pond of trash and noxious plants and added a bench and trash can next to the pond. They also established native plants around the cross-country course near the back of the tennis courts.

Students have collaborated with Johnson County Parks and Recreation on a grant to establish 80 acres of native prairie at Big Bull Creek Park and monitor the species diversity. They have also worked collaboratively with the Hillsdale Lake Watershed Coalition on water- quality testing in local streams and the state to re-establish a fish habitat that was wiped out by previous flooding. Students have also partnered with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and Evergy to restore a wetland near the high school. Batterbee uses the wetland regularly with his students to test water quality, inventory habitat, bird watch and grow water willow to improve the habitat and water quality.

The school’s ecology club engages students in supporting recycling and brings in partners whenever possible to support student learning and give students real-world experience in conservation.

Boothe said the students have benefited from $100,000 in grants.

“He really is too modest, but it is because of (Batterbee) writing them and pursuing them and receiving them for our students,” Boothe said. “Aaron is responsible for a lot and is very passionate about what he does, and he will not hesitate to share it with you.”