EDGEFIELD, SC -- Third-grade teacher Janine Kopera was merely looking for some lesson ideas to tie in with Thanksgiving when she stumbled upon the NWTF's website.
Eight years later, the Melvindale, Mich., teacher is renowned for successfully teaching her suburban students about conservation through an educational unit she built around the NWTF's Wild About Turkey Education Box.
In recognition of her efforts, the NWTF selected Kopera as the NWTF's 2011 Educator of the Year. Kopera also won the NWTF's Educator of the Year Award for Michigan. She is a former Wayne County Elementary Teacher of the Year.
"This whole unit has really opened the children's eyes," Kopera said. "They learn how people can have a positive effect on nature."
Kopera will receive a $1,000 grant from the NWTF and will be honored at the NWTF's annual convention in February in Nashville, Tenn. With the grant money she plans to spend to fund a conservation field trip and purchase conservation field investigation equipment to meet curriculum requirements.
"Receiving this great award is just icing on the cake," said Kopera, who teaches at Allendale Elementary School in a school district just outside the city limits of Detroit. "I already had a reward by using the unit."
Utilizing fun elements such as turkey feather bookmarks and rulers in the Wild About Turkey Education Box - a replica of an actual wild turkey transport box - Kopera has sparked enthusiasm and awareness among many children who had never been exposed to conservation and the outdoors. Most of the 32,000 NWTF education boxes distributed nationwide are donated by local NWTF chapters. Kopera's box was donated by the Huron Valley Chapter, the NWTF's first in Michigan.
Kopera also has coordinated visits by NWTF Huron Valley Chapter members, who dressed in turkey hunting clothes and gave the students the opportunity to use turkey calls and other gear.
After discovering the Wild About Turkey Education Box on the NWTF website, Kopera found another important resource in Melvindale-Northern Allen Park Superintendent of Schools Cora Kelly, an NWTF member.
"The kids really enjoy the education box, and they come home with great stories," Kelly said. "Janine has been a fantastic teacher. She took the ball and ran with it."
The Wild About Turkey Education Box, full of activities and educational tools correlated to national education standards for kindergarten through 12th grade, includes: -- colorful bulletin board display -- DVD of wild turkey history, communication and habitat videos -- wild turkey habitat and anatomy posters -- 30 pencils, rulers and turkey feather bookmarks for students -- multimedia CD-CD-Rom with turkey sounds and printable resources -- K-12 curriculum and activity guide -- Scaled-down trap and transfer box
More than 32,000 education boxes have been distributed nationwide, most donated by local NWTF chapters to schools, parks, visitor centers and museums as well as through educator training workshops.
Education boxes are available for $50 online, plus shipping. Refill kits cost $50, plus shipping. Boxes also can be purchased by calling (800) THE-NWTF or (803) 637-3106 and asking for the sales department.
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