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Two organizations recognize JCPRD's Ernie Miller Nature Center with awards
POSTED: 07/14/2011
These include an ORACLE Award from the National Storytelling Network (NSN) and the Gold Award of Excellence from the Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri. The nature center has never received awards from either organization before.

"We're sincerely honored to receive them both," Outdoor Education Manager Bill McGowan said.

Oracle Award
Since 1995, ORACLE Awards have been presented annually at the NSN’s Conference to those who have excelled in their art, or made significant contributions to storytelling, NSN, or its members.

The nature center is specifically receiving the South Central Award for Regional Excellence, which recognizes "the creativity, professional integrity, and artistic contributions of storytellers who have not become known on the national circuit, but who have greatly enriched the storytelling culture of their region." The South Central Region includes Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana. The award was formally presented during the 2011 Texas Storytelling Conference on July 9 in San Antonio.

Senior Park Naturalist Molly Postlewait applied for the award with letters of support from Former Park Naturalist Elaine Geissel, Seasonal Naturalist Shiela Fowks, and Professional Storyteller Jo Ho.

"For 25 years the Ernie Miller Nature Center programming has revolved around the art of telling a story," Postlewait wrote. "The center continues to create new story programs, to inspire and encourage the young and young at heart to listen and tell. Ernie Miller Nature Center was the site of more than 1,000 story programs presented in 2010. Stories for all reasons and stories for all seasons is truly the mantra for the nature park."

In talking about the myriad of story-related programs, the letters put special emphasis on: Heritage History Lab, Animal Tales Storytime, Outdoor Discovery Camp, the annual Tellebration storytelling event, and the Grandmother Spider series for senior adults. Also mentioned are the many storytelling books and CDs on sale at the nature center gift shop.

In her letter of support, Geissel talked about the impact her effort to be a better storyteller has had on her outdoor education efforts.

"One of my greatest personal rewards, now that I am semiretired, is to have people recognize me and remember the characters and stories I told, sometimes years ago," she wrote. "As a trained scientist, I would never have accomplished this without EMNC, which provided me with both the training and the opportunity to share the art of storytelling. In the process, I have discovered my own talents and learned that storytelling can be a highly effective way to interpret natural and cultural history for audiences of all ages. Storytelling is such a powerful vehicle for transferring information and sharing experiences!"

McGowan added that nature centers are not typical recipients of NSN awards.

"I think a lot of the people who receive the awards are professional storytellers, so a nature center is a little bit outside the traditional scope," he said. "Storytelling in nature centers is not uncommon, but to the degree that we do it is."

Gold Award of Excellence
This award recognizes a group in the community which has partnered with Girl Scouts and whose services have benefitted girls throughout the council. The nature center was nominated for the award by Troop Leaders Lisa Flaucher and Sara Stegner, as well as by Scout Official Cindy Beals.

"Ernie Miller Nature Center has always supported Girl Scouts," Flaucher wrote. "Their staff's attitude has enabled the girls to succeed in expanding their skills as well as developing an understanding and appreciation for nature. (Girl Scout Founder) Juliett (Gordon) Low began nature and wildlife programs with girls 100 years ago and the Ernie Miller Nature Center is continuing this tradition. I feel strongly that Ernie Miller Nature Center has gone above and beyond in its endeavor to assist Girl Scouting in Olathe and the surrounding community."

"We've done a lot of things for the girl scouts over the years and they have for us - they've been a very important partner for us," McGowan said.

The award was initially presented on April 9 as part of the Adult Volunteer Recognition Luncheon at the Holiday Inn CoCo Key in Kansas City, Mo. It was later re-presented by girl scout representatives during the JCPRD Board of Park and Recreation Commission's May 18 meeting in Shawnee Mission Park.

These two awards are in addition to the three Region VI National Association of Interpreters awards center staff received earlier this year. "We've had a very good year," McGowan said. "I don't ever remember receiving this amount of awards. We've been very blessed."

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