Alums and Students Make Litzsinger Road Ecology Center into AUNE West

Deanna English

Deanna English, MS ’08, starting a prairie burn at the Litzsinger Road Ecology Center. Regular burning helps maintain the health of reconstructed prairie areas.

Alumni and students from Antioch University New England (AUNE) are becoming the backbone of the Litzsinger Road Ecology Center (LREC) in St. Louis, Missouri. Thanks to Bob Coulter, MEd ’87, director of the center and himself an alumnus, four of the ten ecology center employees are now AUNE alumni or students.

Coulter has just hired Susan Baron, MS ’12, as project coordinator for a $1.4 million Community Science Investigators grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant will investigate new ways to engage pre-teen kids with science through their local zoo or botanical garden. Baron will design and lead programs locally and work with project partners at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, the Red Butte Botanical Garden in Salt Lake City, and the San Diego Zoo.

Maisie Rinne, a student in the ES Environmental Education concentration, is also at LREC doing her master’s internship, investigating erosion along Deer Creek, a suburban/urban creek that runs through the center and a good chunk of suburban St. Louis. Her work will contribute to a research and restoration project later.

Deanna (Lawlor) English, MS ‘08, the school partnership coordinator, started working for the ecology center in 2009 through an NSF grant, introducing some new technologies to middle school teachers and students. Two years later, she began working in education and restoration at the site, helping teachers integrate place-based outdoor learning into their curriculum and build native habitat in their schoolyards. She also helps manage the ecology center, including removing invasive species, collecting seeds, and monitoring water quality.

In 2012, Coulter, director of the center, was Alumni-Scholar-in-Residence at AUNE, where he had earned a master’s in elementary and early childhood education. He started working at LREC, which is part of the Missouri Botanical Garden, in 2004. He is chair-elect of the North American Association for Environmental Education Research Special Interest Group  and a member of the leadership team for the Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative. He collaborates with MIT to design innovative, game-based learning environments.

“We need world changers, not widget fillers. Antioch is a great place to find them.”

I asked Bob what’s so great about AUNE grads. They think differently, he said.  “They are more thoughtful, reflective, and creative than most,” he said. “For the position Susan Baron is in, I had many candidates with more experience, but none caught her insight into the possibilities or showed her sense of engagement with the adventure of creating something new.

‘We need world changers, not widget fillers. Antioch is a great place to find them.”