In the world of environmental education, there are those who go above and beyond to inspire and empower individuals to connect with and protect the natural world. Vicky Allen, watershed educator and naturalist, is one such individual who has made an indelible mark on the field. In recognition of her outstanding contributions, Vicky has been honored with the 2023 Excellence in Environmental Education Award in the non-formal sector by the Alliance for NJ Environmental Education (ANJEE). Let’s delve into Vicky Allen’s remarkable journey and her tireless efforts to foster environmental awareness and action.
A Passionate Journey: Vicky joined The Watershed Institute as a part-time educator in 2014. Little did she know that this step would lead her to become a beacon of environmental education in New Jersey. In addition to teaching, Vicky serves as lead gardener in our Kate Gorrie Butterfly House, where she makes sure the caterpillars have plenty of host plants, the butterflies have nectar plants, the pond pump is running smoothly, and the place looks magnificent. She also mentors the young people who come as summer AWE Fellows and volunteers to work in the butterfly house. She recently started a new courtyard nursery where she starts seedlings and grows plants to constantly restock the butterfly house for the very hungry caterpillars.
“Vicky constantly envisions new ideas, concocts plans, and takes on projects that make our work easier and the world a better place for all.” said Pat Heaney, assistant director of education, “When NJ first passed the NGSS standards with a focus on engineering practices, Vicky jumped right in to help develop a new hands-on a stormwater runoff activity, building miniature lots and houses on which the students install green infrastructure.” Five years later, The Watershed Institute still uses the same little models, which are affectionately called Vicky Houses. She also developed a program where students built their own water powered wheels and set them up in a running stream.
Inspiring Outdoor Adventures: Before her tenure at The Watershed Institute, Vicky spent an impressive two decades with the Girl Scouts of Central & Southern NJ, where she played a pivotal role in creating and directing environmental outdoor programs at the council’s properties.
During her time with the Girl Scouts, Vicky’s commitment to environmental education shone brightly. She oversaw three summer day camps and served as the director of the resident summer camp program, providing young minds with immersive experiences in the great outdoors. Her ability to develop creative and innovative interpretive materials, activities, and programs set her apart as a trailblazer in the field. Vicky’s passion for the environment and her dedication to teaching about it were evident in everything she did.
A Commitment to the Community: Vicky’s environmental activities have always centered on the “awareness to action” process. She didn’t just educate; she inspired individuals to take concrete steps toward environmental stewardship. Whether it was through interactive nature programs, hands-on activities, or thought-provoking discussions, Vicky’s approach encouraged participants to connect with nature and translate that connection into meaningful action.
An Award Well-Deserved: ANJEE’s decision to award Vicky Allen the Excellence in Environmental Education Award in the non-formal sector for 2023 is a testament to her unwavering dedication to the cause. Her tireless efforts have not only enriched the lives of countless individuals but have also contributed significantly to the broader environmental education community.
Beyond the Classroom: Vicky’s passion for the environment extends beyond her professional life. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VPISU) and has maintained her membership in ANJEE throughout her career. Her love for nature is palpable in her hobbies, which include hiking, geocaching, and gardening. She even channels her creativity into crafting birdhouse gourds and fairy houses, demonstrating that her love for the environment knows no bounds.
Conclusion: Vicky Allen’s journey from a part-time educator to an award-winning environmental educator is a testament to her dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment to inspiring change. Her ability to create engaging and impactful programs, coupled with her focus on the “awareness to action” process, has left an indelible mark on those she has touched. As we celebrate her well-deserved recognition by ANJEE, we can only imagine the countless lives she will continue to inspire to connect with and protect our precious environment. Vicky Allen is indeed a true champion of environmental education.