ESCONDIDO — The education director at Escondido Creek Conservancy was awarded Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s 2021 Educator of the Year, according to a recent release.
Simon Breen, who has served as a staff member at Escondido Creek Conservancy for seven-and-a-half years, was recognized for his efforts at the nonprofit organization, including developing virtual field trips for students to experience Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve during the pandemic.
“I’m so honored to receive the Olivenhain Municipal Water District award for Educator of the Year,” said Breen.
In November, Olivenhain Municipal Water District officially recognized seven individuals and businesses making a positive impact over the last year in the San Diego region and at local recreation facilities.
Breen was also recognized for his leadership in forging a strong, cooperative and respectful relationship between the water district and the conservancy.
“I wholeheartedly believe that all the problems in the world can be solved through education, and with the serious environmental threats we’re facing, environmental education is essential,” said Breen. “Not to mention, there’s a large body of research demonstrating a wide variety of benefits people receive from outdoor learning — from physical, emotional, and mental health benefits, and even improved academic performance. It’s so rewarding to connect people to nature and help them access those benefits, knowing that fostering an appreciation for nature will pay dividends for our planet for generations to come.”
Last school year, the conservancy’s education team adapted to the pandemic by creating virtual programming. This school year, they have resumed in-person field trips to the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve.
“I’m very proud of the incredible team we have and the number of people — not just children but adults as well — we’ve been able to provide with outdoor opportunities over the years,” Breen said. “When I first started, we were serving a few hundred students annually, but now it’s in the thousands, including every single third-grader from all 18 elementary schools in the Escondido Union School District.
“Many of the kids we bring on field trips have never been to a nature preserve before. We’re also teaching kids to be curious and think like scientists. The more people understand the value of nature and the issues that confront it, the easier it’ll be to protect the habitats locally and everywhere.”
Breen attained his undergraduate degree in anthropology from San Diego State University and has a master’s degree from Cornell University in natural resource management.
The Escondido Creek Conservancy currently has a Seed the Future fundraising campaign to sustain its education work. As part of the campaign, the conservancy was recently challenged by the Parker Foundation to receive a matching grant of $75,000.
The Conservancy exceeded its goals to connect with new donors! Details on donating to the Conservancy’s Education Fund can be found at their website www.escondidocreek.org/education-fund. For more information contact Megan Williams, Development Associate directly at: [email protected]