Perpetuating the Planet

Donor’s conservation ethic passes to the next generation

Marian E. OatesMarian E. Oates’ (’59, ’63) love for nature began at the age of 10, when the UT alumna was inspired by an aunt to start a leaf collection. Her passion and dedication to stewardship and conservation of natural resources only grew stronger with age.

In 2007, two years before her death, Oates established the Marian E. Oates Teacher Enrichment Award for the College of Arts and Sciences, to be given to an outstanding East Tennessee middle-school science teacher. Oates believed that by enabling teachers to achieve their own scientific discoveries, their excitement would translate to the classroom and thus make environmental science more engaging for students.

April Meyers, an 8th-grade science teacher at Norris Middle School in Anderson County, is this year’s recipient of the award, which provides a scholarship for professional development.

Now, Meyers is collaborating with Michael McKinney, a professor in the university’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and director of the environmental studies program, who is designing a pilot program on composting for the university. Meyers is studying how to promote composting at UT Knoxville and Norris Middle School, where she will pass along her new knowledge to her students this fall.

April Meyers“It seems like an easy enough task to gather food scraps and other organic materials to make compost, but there are many facets to composting that include logistics, funding, labor, and scientific data collection,” Meyers says. “I can’t wait to introduce my students to all that can be learned from composting waste.”

Meyers plans to appoint students to work with the kitchen staff and sort waste materials into compost buckets. She says the scholarship will allow students to conduct real-world research that will teach them more about the world they live in. They can then apply their research results to caring for their world, which is exactly what Oates wanted.

For more than 20 years, Oates lived on Bluff Mountain in Sevier County and aggressively campaigned to restore the area’s ecosystem. In her will, she donated her 510-acre backyard as a permanent easement to the Foothills Land Conservatory, ensuring the east end of the Chilhowee Mountains would remain untouched.

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the university, Oates served on the Dean’s Advisory Board for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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