SaskOutdoors 2017 Melanson Award Winner
Photo (left to right): Christine Thompson, General Manager, SaskOutdoors and Lori Johnson, Award Winner
SaskOutdoors was thrilled to present the 2017 Melanson Award to Lori Johnson, the Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre’s Owl Coordinator in recognition of her tremendous educational efforts that supports unique and diverse wildlife on the Canadian Prairies. The award was presented at the Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre’s annual fundraising dinner on November 4, 2017 in Moose Jaw.
Lori was nominated by Lorne Scott, who won the award himself in 1987. It was clear to Lorne that Lori embodies the spirit of the award. Joining the Centre in 2010, Lori quickly found her footing in educating the public about prairie wildlife and endangered owls. Today, the Centre’s Owls on Tour program travels to about 20 schools around the province, reaching about 2500 students each year. In-house tours reach about 10 more schools and 350 students each year. With Lori’s leadership, the Owls on Tour program has grown beyond just schools and now travels to senior’s homes, summer camps, museums, libraries, and provincial parks. Further, the Centre sees an incredible 2000 in-house visitors during the Summer.Lori is someone who looks to the future. Through her dedication and hard work, the Centre is realizing a self-sustaining wild population of Burrowing Owls returned to their historical range in Canada. Through a partnership with the Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program, 9 young burrowing owls hatched in Moose Jaw travel to Manitoba to play a vital role in their breed and release program.Lori herself has hand raised and imprinted 4 owls which have gone on to be ambassador owls in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Lori describes the amazing experience of raising small, helpless owlets into mature, independent owls. Lori shared this:
“Seeing the effect that these owls have on the people who meet them is a tremendously powerful thing. It gives me hope that the future of these owls will be a brighter one than their past.”
About the Melanson Award
The Melanson Award was set up in memory of Professor Bernie Melanson, a university educator and an energetic, early member of SaskOutdoors.
Bernie was born in Halifax in 1935. She attended high school in New Brunswick and university studies later took her to Dalhousie, Calgary and Stanford. She worked as research officer for the Department of National Defence and taught high school and college in Alberta before joining the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina in 1965. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 1970. It was during this time that she became involved with the organization known today as SaskOutdoors.
Bernie’s career sparkled with teaching expertise, innovative approaches, research skills, and an awareness of the human being matched by few educators. Her interests spanned many areas: Science, Science Education, Outdoor Education, Teacher Education and In-Service Education methods. She was concerned with the skills, knowledge and attitudes of teachers and she was dedicated to the proposition that the best education possible should be provided by the child.
Bernie passed away in 1975, at the age of 40. Her passing greatly saddened those with whom she worked and they rallied to create an award in her honour to recognize other individuals who make outstanding contributions to outdoor and environmental education in Saskatchewan.
In the book Lonely Trail: The Diary of a Freethinker, author Pat Duffy Hutcheon writes about Bernie:
“I always knew the exact moment every morning when she arrived and began to make her way down the hall. Invariably, there were merry greetings mixed with expletives echoing throughout the building. And there was a rapidly gathering group of fascinated students who would congregate in her wake, with excited questions about something they were studying.”