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Red Lodge teacher honored for outstanding work in environmental education

Kate Belinda
Posted at 6:10 AM, Apr 18, 2024

HELENA — Students from throughout Montana presented environmentally focused projects that are part of the Smart Schools Initiative. As a part of the event, a Red Lodge teacher was awarded the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.

“Being in a classroom and only learning about things, rather than being a part of them, is a very different experience for students,” says Kate Belinda, a high school science teacher.

Belinda is a high school earth science, AP biology, honors chemistry, and environmental science teacher at Red Lodge High School. She received the award for her outstanding and innovative work in environmental education. Her background of work with the Wyoming Game and Fish Dept and now close proximity to Yellowstone, affords her the knowledge and setting to make education come to life.

“The ability to get out and actually smell the smells and hear the sounds of nature are extremely important. I don’t know if you caught my first quote and I don’t have it verbatim, but we will only protect what we love. We will only love what we understand. And we will only understand what we are taught,” says Belinda.

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The honor comes with an award of up to $2,500 to be used to further the teacher’s development in environmental education, as well as up to $2,500 to fund environmental education activities and programs for the teacher’s local education agency.

Keri Nauman, Community Air Monitoring Coordinator with Montana DEQ, is a former student of Belinda’s. She says that her class opened her eyes to the science field in general and helped spark her passion for her science-based career.

“Starting the seed young is super important, especially planting that seed that you can do environmental careers in Montana,” says Nauman.

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The award presentation occurred at the same time as the Smart Schools symposium, an event for students from throughout the state to show each other what environmental projects or areas of study they’ve been working on such as recycling, garden beds, renewable energy, and air quality.

“Environmentally forward for certain, but it’s really of looking at how we do the work we do every day, you know, be it, you know, building things, growing things, how we produce our energy, how we work our, you know, our energy systems, how our buildings function. So, it’s bringing that classroom knowledge and really applying it to the things that we do every day in Montana,” says Bonnie Rouse, Smart Schools Coordinator.