Mass Audubon West Director Recognized by Garden Club of America
LENOX, Mass. — Becky Cushing-Gop, director of Mass Audubon West, is one of the 2021 cohort of winners of the Elizabeth Abernathy Hull Award, a distinction that comes with a certificate of commendation and $1,000 honorarium from the Garden Club of America.
As director of Mass Audubon West's network of 18 wildlife sanctuaries, which includes Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox, Cushing-Gop is the driving force behind the successful Berkshire Environmental Literacy Program, a core component of environmental education for elementary students in western Massachusetts.
"Our work with teachers and schools throughout Berkshire County is critically important in providing early childhood experiences in nature and foundational science understanding," said Cushing-Gop."We have only been able to expand this work because of our incredibly talented education staff team, which continues to grow, and the amazing network of teachers and administrators who have witnessed the positive outcomes for students year after year."
The Berkshire Environmental Literacy Program is the longest running school-based science program in the region. When Cushing-Gop became the director of Berkshire Wildlife Sanctuaries in 2014, she prioritized its growth, including significant fundraising and expansion of the education staff team to meet the demand for more classes. During the past six years, the program has expanded to 1,500 students in 85 classrooms, reaching the milestone of serving half of all Grade 3 and Grade 5 students in 10 Berkshire County school districts last year.
The pandemic during the 2020-21 school year has shifted the focus from school field trips to exploring nature in students' own neighborhoods. Despite the unprecedented disruption in their education, area students have had the ability to connect deeply to the natural world around them, and their discoveries are sparking curiosity and concern for global environmental issues as well — all essential qualities in the development of a new generation of conservationists.
"I am humbled and touched by this huge honor and recognition for something that involves such a team effort," Cushing-Gop said. "Our community should be proud of what we are making possible for students in Berkshire County and make every effort to ensure it continues for decades to come."
Recipients of the Hull Award fulfill "Hull's commonsense approach to environmental awareness by inspiring children under 16 to appreciate the beauty and fragility of our planet." Awardees will be celebrated on the Garden Club of America's website
and in the summer issue of the GCA bulletin.
The Lenox Garden Club will honor Becky Cushing-Gop's achievements in a presentation ceremony at Mass Audubon's Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary on May 14, and at a future meeting of club members. The last nominee put forward by the club was Berkshire Botanical Garden's education director, Elisabeth Cary, who won a Hull Award in 2015.
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