FROSTBURG — Smokey Bear recently visited Frostburg State University to present Barbara Ornstein, professor of education, with a plaque awarded to the Educational Professions Department for its contributions to fire prevention and the Smokey Bear program.
For the past 25 years, more than 3,000 early childhood, elementary and elementary/middle school teacher candidates have received environmental education training through the Project Learning Tree program.
In 1992, one of Ornstein’s students, Lee Ann Zlomek, a future 2012 Allegany County Teacher of the Year, and her father, Bernie, Allegany County project manager with the Maryland Forest Service, approached Ornstein about providing an all-day workshop for education majors. Now, 75 workshops later, teacher candidates continue to receive ideas, activities and materials to use in their future classrooms.
One key aspect of the workshop is the awareness of the Smokey Bear program and the role that teachers can play in educating children about fire prevention. When state budget cuts eliminated Smokey Bear’s visits to elementary schools, Zlomek and Ornstein added it to the Project Learning Tree agenda. Through that addition, all participants learn the history of Smokey Bear and a song to teach children, receive Smokey Bear materials and ways in which to share Smokey’s message.