2017 Advancing Environmental Literacy Award

Colorado EE Founders:

Carol Bylsma, CDOW

Jeff Rucks, CDOW

Don Hollums, CDOW/CO Dept of Education


This combined award recognizes the crucial roles played by three key people who profoundly shaped Colorado’s environmental education (EE) landscape: Carol Bylsma, Don Hollums, and Jeff Rucks. Their individual stories were distinct and independent from one another, but their individual efforts together established a high-quality and vibrant EE community. In so doing, they were each instrumental in paving the gateway to environmental literacy in Colorado and in the establishment of the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education (CAEE).

Carol Bylsma

Carol Bylsma was a pathfinder and a pioneer. Before joining the then Colorado Division of Wildlife as its first Environmental Education Program Director, Carol was a classroom teacher. Combined with her personable and caring nature, her experience and rapport with teachers helped her build a strong statewide network of facilitators to popularize the Project WILD program – and build it into an undeniably successful model program. The statewide network of Project WILD teacher facilitators that grew out her program became the foundation that later was built upon and expanded by sister programs such as Project Learning Tree; Project Food, Land & People; Project WET; Aquatic WILD; and a myriad of other curriculum supplement-based EE programs that eventually followed through the years. Through Carol's enthusiasm and support, she not only launched this pivital program but also helped Colorado environmental educators develop a sense of community and “family."

Jeff Rucks

Jeff Rucks began his career as a game warden on the traditional field law enforcement side of the then Colorado Division of Wildlife. Taking over as statewide Project WILD Coordinator after Carol Blysma, Jeff embraced the network and passion that she began and moved the momentum she started forward. At that time, many of the Project WILD facilitators were interested in and beginning to take on other EE programs such as Project Learning Tree, Project WET, and Project Food, Land & People. With the increase in workshops, events and organizations beginning to compete for time and attention, Jeff supported knitting these programs together instead of leaving them to compete. His support was a powerful statement of collaboration and helped to promote a true sense of cooperation within the environmental education community. Jeff's leadership was instrumental in establishing a model (unique in the nation) to pool resources for these state programs so that all could thrive together. It was a wonderful way of showcasing, marketing, valuing, complementing and creating synergy among similar EE programs and put them on “equal footing” with a combined newsletter, one-stop training, one-stop shopping – what would be called the “four-legged stool” of EE. These statewide programs and facilitators created an early and crucial statement which reinforced the power of collaboration and cooperation among the EE community, and the concept of “family” that CAEE had been promoting from the outset. Jeff recognized all this, and embraced the CAEE concept as soon as he took the job, assimilating himself into the organization at several levels (on behalf of Project WILD and DOW) from the outset.  He attended the first ever Colorado EE Advisory Council retreat to develop the 1995 Colorado EE Master Plan (a very important CAEE-led project), and was steady participant with CAEE until he retired.   

Don Hollums

Don Hollums took on a challenge when he succeeded the (arguably) "father of EE in Colorado" George Ek, as the State EE Coordinator (a joint position between Division of Wildlife and Dept. of Education).  Powerful in knowledge but quiet in demeanor, Don was a steady leader and champion of EE at a key time in its rise in existence and legitimacy in Colorado. In his tenure he was able to build several important bridges into the Colorado Department of Education and advocate for EE as a credible learning methodology. He very quickly bought into the overall value of CAEE, as a systemic leadership strategy in the state, and became an integral part of the organization. He was quickly elected to the CAEE Board of Directors, and stayed on the board during the entire time he held the position as State EE Coordinator until he retired. He holds the record for the longest running tenure as a member of the board, and his long term leadership was invaluable over that time in terms of guiding the development of CAEE as an organization and in CAEE as a state affiliate organization within the North American Association for Environmental Education. Note: We are sad to report that Don Hollums died in 2016.

CAEE works to ensure everyone in Colorado has an opportunity to learn about the environment where they live. We value inclusiveness and welcome everyone to the field of environmental education.

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