The Ruth Engelbrecht Scholarship program awarded by Onondaga Audubon has in recent years sent local educators to National Audubon’s Hog Island Educators Week.

The Hog Island educator’s workshop includes citizen science, creating some inquiry-based lessons on birds and other topics, and demonstrating both low and high-tech methods of teaching. There will also be a boat trip to the restored Atlantic Puffin and tern colony on Eastern Egg Rock, intertidal explorations, and hiking through Hog Island’s

How to apply

If you would like to apply for the 2015 scholarship download the PDF to your desktop. It is a digitally fillable form. Make a Save As file of the completed application on your desktop. If there is time you can print out a hard copy and mail it to: Onondaga Audubon, PO Box 620, Syracuse, N.Y. 13201.The mail for the chapter takes a few weeks to get to a specific person.

The other option is to attach the Scholarship application file to an email and send it to:

Note the deadline for the application is March 1, 2015.

Scholarship Application

Anna Leiss of Skaneateles is the 2014 recipient of Onondaga Audubon’s annual scholarship to the Educator’s Week on Hog Island, Maine. Anna is an environmental educator at Baltimore Woods Nature Center, where her primary involvement is with a program called Nature in the City.

Anna Leiss

Anna Leiss

Anna has been an environmental educator for six years. She is looking forward to the Educator’s Week at Hog Island providing her with new and fresh ways to engage her students.

The recipient of the Ruth Engelbrecht Memorial Scholarship for 2013 is Michael Pierce. Michael is a biology teacher at Carthage Senior High School in Carthage, N.Y. He teaches 85 freshman and sophomore students two subjects, “Introduction to Biology” and “Living Environment.”

Michael became a science teacher because of his interest in nature. He continually seeks opportunities to bring nature into the classroom and to bring the classroom into nature. Michael’s goal as an educator is to provide students with basic knowledge that will allow them to be better informed for the hard choices that must be made concerning climate change and the environment. He is eager to learn new ways to incorporate nature education into his curriculum for the purpose of becoming a better educator and giving his students a more complete education. Michael said, “Nature is not something to learn from a textbook; it is something that must be experienced.”

The Ruth Engelbrecht Memorial Scholarship is managed by Onondaga Audubon, the National Audubon Society chapter serving Central New York and the eastern Lake Ontario basin. Ruth Engelbrecht was active in Onondaga Audubon in the 1970s and 1980s. She was known for her willingness to do whatever she could for an individual or group. Her family and friends established a fund in her memory to be used as a source of scholarships for teachers to attend Audubon camp during the summer. Now in its third decade, many Central (and now Northern) New York teachers have benefited from this program.

Two local educators, Tracey Burke Laszlo of Onondaga Central School System and Chris Lajewski of Montezuma Audubon Center were the recipients of scholarships in 2011.

The following are their reports.

Hog Island was an experience of a lifetime. The setting is historic and beautiful. The people are dynamic, exceptional in knowledge, sharing and kindness. The variety of learning opportunities included birding, sea life, geology, pond and bog life, authors, illustrators, photographer, insects, after dark exploration and of course puffins!
Different breakout sessions were offered each morning and afternoon. There were also evening presentations as well as pre- breakfast birding and hiking. It was exciting to be with a group of over 70 like- minded people yet at the same time there was such diversity. The opportunity to learn from each other and share strategies and best practices will have a positive impact on countless numbers of students of all ages. As we
share what we have learned, in classrooms, nature centers, with friends and family, and in everyday life we create connections and a better understanding of the world we live in. As Charles Jordan (The Conservation Fund) said, “What they do not know, they will not protect, and what they do not protect, they will lose.”
Attending Educators Week at Hog Island was a tremendous gift. Thank you to the Onondaga chapter of the Audubon Society and the Ruth Engelbrecht Scholarship program for a life changing experience.
Tracey Burke Laszlo

I can summarize my experience on Hog Island in one word; inspirational. From the natural beauty of the rugged Atlantic coast, to the majestic mountains climbing high in the sky, from the playful Atlantic puffins and tasty lobsters to the knowledge and creativeness of the educators and facilitators, everything was inspiring. I realize now that opportunities like this will not come around too often. A week on an island with colleagues from around the world, sharing ideas to connect people with nature, swimming in the 60 degree ocean, no access to phones or emails; how magical!
Out of all the hiking, swimming, sharing, eating, and boating, the experiences that will remain with me the closest are those that I shared with fellow naturalist and Audubon employee Ted Gilman from Greenwich, CT. From birds to bugs and owls to opossum, Ted is an amazing naturalist! I followed him around and joined his training sessions as often as I could. With many years of experience, Ted openly shared ideas for connecting young children to birds. He mucked around with us in the pond looking for macroinvertebrates and shared ideas for connecting people to these small creatures. Ted is an excellent owl caller and he delighted us while having a conversation with a Barred Owl on the other side of the bay. I learned many new tricks of the interpretive trade from Ted and I have already used some to spice up my programs. Jokingly, I said to other educators at Hog Island that I wanted to kidnap Ted and bring him back to Montezuma with me! Ted is inspirational and I hope our paths cross again. But until then, I am loaded with new tools for my interpretive tool belt and it’s time to inspire!
Chris Lajewski

Additional information on Hog Island can be found at

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