MSU Extension educator selected as Informal Science Educator of the Year for second consecutive year

The MSTA recognized 4-H science educator Tracy D’Augustino as their 2018 honoree because of her unique and extraordinary accomplishments, active leadership, scholarship contributions and direct improvement of nonschool-based science education.

MSU Extension educator selected as Informal Science Educator of the Year for second consecutive year

For the second year in a row, the Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) has selected a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator as its Informal Science Educator of the Year. During the awards ceremony at their annual conference on March 2, the MSTA recognized 4-H science educator Tracy D’Augustino as their 2018 honoree because of her unique and extraordinary accomplishments, active leadership, scholarship contributions and direct improvement of nonschool-based science education over a significant period.

The MSTA is a state chapter of the National Science Teachers Association. Its mission is to stimulate, support and provide leadership for the improvement of science education to enable Michigan residents to make informed decisions in a rapidly changing scientific and technological world. As a Michigan 4-H science educator in Alcona County, D’Augustino works to expand science literacy across the state for youth and adults through both in- and out-of-school time activities.

“My job is not to teach specific science content, but to get people recognizing and using the process of science as they excitedly explore their world,” said D’Augustino. “The results of this method are youth that are better equipped with the life skills necessary to apply knowledge to critical issues, needs and opportunities, supporting their future success.”

Through her role with MSU Extension and 4-H, D’Augustino has worked collaboratively with other 4-H educators to write curricula, including the “Teaching Science When You Don’t Know Diddly-Squat” series and “Inquiring Minds Want to Know” as well as curricula for many 4-H lessons and workshops, including 4-H Renewable Energy Camp, 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp, and the 4-H Robotics Youth Challenge. She also works directly with youth through programs such as the 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp, Family Engineering Nights, Wildlife Habitat Camp, 4-H2O Camp and 4-H Forestry Camp.

“I believe STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education must be hands-on and engaging and is more effective when applied in real-world contexts,” said D’Augustino. “STEM literacy and learning reflects a life-long learning process about more than just gaining content and process knowledge; it is about connecting learners with STEM careers and community leadership opportunities.”

D’Augustino’s science literacy efforts have also led her to serve as part of the administrative team for the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, where she provides place-based education trainings and summer institutes, facilitates professional development and develops scientific research about engaging youth through place-based learning. She also serves as Michigan Green Schools coordinator for Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency and Iosco counties, where she works with teachers and other adults to provide STEM trainings across 11 counties.

“Place-based education is so valuable, it helps to spark both youth and adult curiosity and a love of science,” said D’Augustino. “As a result of it, I have watched youth evolve into adults committed to educating and changing their world.”

Collectively throughout D’Augustino’s career, she has engaged more than 2,700 youth outside of school and 500 youth in the formal school setting. With each presentation and interaction, D’Augustino strives to increase youths’ understanding of science by engaging them in hands-on experiential research and allowing them to apply their knowledge of science through opportunities that connect science exploration with real-world experiences.

“Tracy is a very valuable member of our Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension staff,” said Lisa Bottomley, co-director of MSU Extension children and youth programs, including 4-H. “Not only is she an exceptional educator for the youth and adults with whom she interacts, but she also is a well-respected and constructive partner in the community she serves. We are thrilled to see the MSTA recognize her with this award.”

D’Augustino is the second MSU Extension educator to win the award in two years, following the recognition of Brandon Schroeder, a Northeast Michigan MSU senior Extension educator with the Michigan Sea Grant team, who received the prestigious award in 2017.

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