By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Tom Jameson, who has volunteered more than 2,200 times for the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ Environmental Education Program, was recently honored with a Recognition Award by the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) at its annual conference.
Since 1992, he has served as a naturalist for EE programs, including life cycles study, habitat walks, pond dipping, gravel pit rocks and minerals study, and winter survival skills programs.
Jameson has demonstrated an incredible dedication to environmental interpretation and conservation in southeast Michigan, volunteering extensively with the Huron River Watershed Council and the Waterloo Natural History Association in addition to his role as a volunteer naturalist with AAPS, wrote Coert Ambrosino and Dave Szczgiel, who nominated Jameson for the honor.
“Jameson has a passion for teaching about the natural world for people of all ages, and his breadth of knowledge and enthusiasm for interpretation allow him to connect with diverse audiences and create lasting impacts,” they wrote.
Jameson grew up in Ironton, Ohio, a city on the Ohio River at the southern tip of the state. His father worked in the payroll office of a steel mill in Ashland, Kentucky, and his mother was a teacher in the local schools. He has one younger sister who lives in East Lansing.
Following graduation from Ironton High School, Jameson received a bachelor of arts degree from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana; a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Purdue University, and master’s degrees in both chemical and nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan.
Jameson worked for several firms in the Ann Arbor area, completing his career after several years with the Data Systems Center of the University of Michigan.
He and his wife, Sandra, have been married for 60 years and have two children: Keith, a dentist in Hillsdale, and a daughter, Kathy Sanders, who is a retired AAPS teacher now living in Indian River.
Jameson’s hobbies and interests include music (he’s been a bassoonist with the Dexter Community Band for 27 years), church positions, Masonic functions, and travel.
What prompted you to become a volunteer with Ann Arbor Public Schools?
I became aware of the AAPS Environmental Education department in the 1980s when my daughter would ask me to take time from work to accompany her class on its field trip, usually led by Bill Browning. After I retired from the university in 1991, I began to volunteer with the program.
My interest in nature was originally fueled by my high school biology teacher, who required collections of leaves, fruits and spring wildflowers with accompanying identification.
Why is it important to get kids out into nature?
There are many reasons to get kids out into nature. Didn’t someone already write a book about that? Although it can be a struggle at times—usually related to weather conditions—the fifth graders seem to like and remember winter survival.
What are your favorite field trips?
My favorite field trips are those that are a little unpredictable, as in not knowing what might show up this time, such as pond trips and gravel pit visits. I also enjoy the Waterloo bog trips, with the changes that occur in the different seasons.
What are some of your favorite memories of these field trips?
I have many fond memories of field trips, some great—as in seeing the joy on a first grader’s face when they feed a bird from their hand for the first time. And maybe some not so great—such as getting a bad case of poison sumac after a visit in a bog. We don’t do that anymore!
What’s the best compliment you could receive?
The best compliments I receive are the kid’s comments, either in person or in writing following a trip, that “this was the best field trip I have ever had!” It also makes me feel good when I hear young adults reminisce about their field trip experiences—usually about winter survival.
In my 27 years with AAPS EE, I have reached an appreciation of the diversity of the students I have led—the differences in backgrounds, experience with the natural world and interest in learning about the world we live in.
How do you keep students engaged? I try to keep the students engaged by showing my own interest in the subject at
hand and by asking them questions to facilitate conversation about it. It’s rewarding for me to have possibly been the spark that ignites an interest in nature and the environment within a student.