Harris Center founder, partners honored at 49th Annual Meeting

  • Harris Center naturalist Jaime Hutchinson, left,  presented Morgan Cooper, right, with the Harris Center’s “Educator of the Year” Award for 2019. Cooper teaches 4th and 5th grade at Jaffrey Grade School, and was honored with this award because of her exemplary commitment to getting her students outside. Photo by Molly Ferrill

Published: 10/29/2019 3:30:06 PM

The Harris Center celebrated its founder, Eleanor Briggs, and several extraordinary partners at their 49th Annual Meeting on Sunday, Oct. 20.

Founded in 1970, the Harris Center has grown out of Briggs’s dream of establishing a conservation education center in her grandmother’s old estate in the Hancock woods.

The organization also kicked off a yearlong 50th Anniversary celebration – which will include storytelling, art, profiles of people who hold a special place in the Harris Center’s history, and dozens of special events – at the meeting.

Morgan Cooper, a 4th and 5th grade teacher at Jaffrey Grade School, was named Educator of the Year.

A teacher for more than 30 years, Cooper works with Harris Center teacher-naturalist Jaime Hutchinson on outdoor learning opportunities for her students, including a study of the Contoocook River and its flood history. Cooper was chosen for this award because of her exemplary commitment to incorporating outdoor time into her everyday classes.

In addition to her work with Harris Center naturalists, Cooper has created monthly Outdoor Workshop and Learning (OWL) activities for her students at JGS. OWL activities may happen at the JGS outdoor classroom, on the playground, in snow piles in the parking lot, or even in a local cemetery.

“Living here with so many wonderful options within walking distance and fantastic resources has caused me to push more to be outside,” Cooper said. “I also am motivated by the research that says our children need more time outside with free play and investigation. Given the time and opportunity, they never cease to amaze me.”

The 2019 Laurie Bryan Partnership Award – honoring former Harris Center Executive Director Laurie Bryan’s achievements in working with community partners – was given to Elizabeth and Matthew Myer Boulton of the SALT Project for donating their time and talent to create a compelling short film about the Harris Center. Their Emmy-award-winning production company is dedicated to telling stories that matter, and they told the Harris Center’s origin story with grace, skill, generosity, and beauty. You can view it at harriscenter.org/50-years.

Hancock resident Lee Baker was presented with the 2019 Volunteer Extraordinaire Award. Baker co-led his first Harris Center outing – a “learn to ski” program – on Jan. 1, 1982 and has been volunteering to lead hikes, paddles, cross-country ski treks, and other outings nearly every month since. In addition to his contributions as a volunteer outing leader, Baker has helped build and maintain many miles of Harris Center trails, regularly helps with work on the Harris Center grounds, and has recently taken on the task of mowing the growing number of fields the Harris Center is trying to maintain on their lands.

The Harris Center also announced a new award, the Eleanor Briggs Medal, to be given to a person who in their work, whether professional or volunteer, embodies outstanding leadership in any or all of the following areas: land conservation or stewardship; environmental placed-based education for people of all ages; and/or conservation research. The first winner of this award will receive a medal and an honorarium at the Harris Center’s 50th annual meeting in 2020.

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