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Polson teacher recognized with first Lakers Education Award

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YELLOW BAY — Polson third grade teacher Gail Burghardt said that the Flathead Lakers’ “Becoming Watershed Stewards” student education program inspired her to adopt a more handson, inquiry-based teaching strategy, as she accepted the organization’s first Education Award.

Flathead Lakers Executive Director Robin Steinkraus said that when she approached the Polson School District about piloting a new watershed education program in their third grade classes, Burghardt immediately saw its value and helped gain the support of the administration and teachers.

“Gail deserves special recognition,” she said, “for championing the program since its inception.”

Steinkraus said Burghardt has mentored new third grade teachers and written grants to provide a watershed education trunk of educational materials for each Polson third grade classroom, instead of having six teachers share one trunk. Her guidance has greatly improved the program.

Burghardt said she helped develop the lesson plans in 1995. The program includes interdisciplinary, hands-on classroom lessons and activities and culminates in a field trip to the Flathead Lake Biological Station each spring.

“It’s been my privilege and pleasure, the greatest part of what I teach,” Burghardt said after the meeting. Her students learn that what they do matters, and they have power to keep the watershed clean.

Polson classes have participated in the program for 19 years. Five schools around the watershed now participate in the program, reaching more than 400 elementary students.

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