The Lincoln resident received the National Audubon Society's prestigious Tamar Chotzen Audubon Educator of the Year award in ceremonies at a gathering of the organization's national and state leadership in Columbus, Ohio. Hauswald was honored for nine years of delivering innovative nature discovery experiences to children at the Spring Prairie Audubon Center in Denton, where she serves as Education Coordinator.
"Deb has managed to take nature discovery beyond the pages of text books and strict programming so that children are able to explore and learn at their own pace," said Audubon Vice President for Education Judy Braus. "The unstructured experiences she provides demand more time and work from educators, but the pay off is enormous. The children learn more and grow to have a better understanding of our environment and their role in protecting it—and they develop critical thinking skills that will last a lifetime."
In addition to directly reaching thousands of young people with the wonders of the prairie, Hauswald's efforts have made the Spring Creek Audubon Center a valued partner for community education activities and helped to train area teachers through sessions run by the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and the Nebraska State Historical Society. These efforts earned Hauswald recognition in 2006 as the Nebraska Wildlife Educator of the Year. And her reputation for educational excellence and example to others continue to grow.
"Deb has challenged herself, and all of us who have had the good fortune to work with her, to work harder on acting on the research that shows the importance of open-ended nature opportunities in building the values critical to future stewardship," said Spring Creek Prairie Center Director Marian Langan. "Deb's work will make a tremendous difference in shaping the concern and conservation ethic that will pay off in the community and beyond. Audubon and Nebraska are lucky to have her," added Braus.
Hauswald's work at the Spring Creek Audubon Center fits perfectly into the organization's goal of linking communities with nature and their power to protect it. Over the course of ten years, the center has engaged the local community in protecting more than 2,000 acres of prairie that provide vital habitat for birds and other wildlife, as well as economic and other benefits to local residents. Center programs regularly attract children from the local school district and from as far as sixty miles away to visit the prairie each year and discover new appreciation for its importance. Hauswald's innovative guidance gives the visits lasting importance.
For her part, Deb Hauswald told attendees at the Columbus award ceremony that she has "the best job in the world."
Audubon's Tamar Chotzen Educator of the Year Award has been bestowed annually since 2006 in recognition of exemplary commitment, professionalism and accomplishment in Audubon conservation education. The Award is named in honor of a pioneering leader of the organization's conservation education programs.