French honored with science education award

Kathy French, education coordinator for the University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History, was awarded the 2012 Catalyst Award from the Nebraska Association of Teachers of Science at the organization’s fall conference Sept. 28. This is the highest honor given by NATS. The award recognizes French’s outstanding contributions to informal science education in Nebraska.

French joined the museum in 1993 and became education coordinator in 2003. She directs and conducts science education programming for students of all ages, as well as the general public, at Morrill Hall. French ensures that museum gallery programs for Nebraska’s schoolchildren feature standards-based inquiry learning, and that the museum offers science experiences that children cannot find anywhere else. French is also engaged in professional development for teachers and works with pre-service teachers to help them enhance their effectiveness in the classroom.

In 2005, Kathy launched the museum’s annual “Dinosaurs and Disasters” event in partnership with Mary Anne Holmes in the UNL Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. French revived the popular Sunday with a Scientist event series, which gives visitors the opportunity to interact with scientists and learn about their research firsthand. She also initiated “NaturePalooza Nebraska” by recruiting presenters from the UNL School of Natural Resources to share their knowledge of water, wildlife, and weather with museum audiences.

“Kathy is the museum’s ambassador to Nebraska’s school teachers, and I am thrilled that NATS has recognized her with this marvelous award,” said Priscilla Grew, director of the museum. “Kathy has previously been honored with a Kudos award from the NU Board of Regents and the Anderson award from the Friends of the State Museum. Kathy also leads field trips for educators and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute short courses for retirees in the museum. She works tirelessly to find new ways to enhance science education outreach to audiences of all ages.”

French has almost 30 years of experience in science education. Previously, she served as education coordinator for the Lincoln Children’s Zoo and established its education department. She has also taught for Lincoln Public Schools and worked as a naturalist at Pioneers Park Nature Center.

To learn more about the museum’s education programming, go to