Outdoor U’s Gainey earns state environmental award

Campus & Community

December 1, 2020

Saint John’s Outdoor University is a program known for its dedication to outdoor and environmental education.

Sarah Gainey, the assistant director and education coordinator for Outdoor U, was recognized for her work as she was awarded the ‘Non-Formal Environmental Educator of the Year’ by the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education (MAEE). 

The virtual awards ceremony was held Nov. 8.

The Non-Formal Environmental Educator of the Year is awarded to someone for “exhibiting innovative and exemplary effort in providing environmental education opportunities for audiences outside the formal school system,” according to the MAEE’s website. Each year, the organization gives out four awards to honor Minnesota’s environmental education leaders.

“I am incredibly honored to receive the award from MAEE and thank all those who helped with my nomination,” said Gainey, who was nominated for the award by her colleagues. “I am especially grateful for all the CSB and SJU college students, both past and present, who work on our team at Outdoor U to give visiting students a memorable outdoor experience.”

Gainey was recognized for almost doubling the environmental education program at the Outdoor U, which at one time reached over 8,000 students from pre-kindergarten children to high school seniors on an annual basis. Outdoor U also has just over 550 member households.

“There is no shortage of classrooms in our area with students of all ages who are in need of outdoor experiences,” Gainey said “We are proud to be a part of that effort to get as many kids outside as possible.

“As this (COVID-19) global pandemic has helped people remember, time in the outdoors is beneficial for all and should be viewed as a human necessity, not a luxury,” she added.

The MAEE was founded in 1992 and is a voice for environmental education, advocates for environmental education and unites environmental educators with each other. Gainey has previously served on the board of the MAEE.

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Sarah and children

Sarah Gainey (center) with her children Norah (right) and Eden.

Sarah sledding with children

Sarah Gainey, holding the sled with her arm up, teaching the Science of Sledding class to 5th graders on the sledding hill in Saint John’s Arboretum.