Nicole Palazzi is a shining example of what it means to be a steward of our earth, and she shares her knowledge and passion for protecting our environment in her classroom, in her school, and throughout the community. Although she has always enjoyed being in the outdoors, Nicole’s environmental advocacy was born from a workshop she attended while studying to become a teacher. As the Greater Essex County District School Board’s EcoSchools program was initiated, Nicole was one of the first to get involved and start up an ECO Club at Davis Public School. Her enthusiasm for the environment was infectious, and ECO Club meetings were always well attended by the students who shared her desire to make a difference in the world around them.
She brought together a team and secured the funding to plant over 100 large stock trees and transform a previously void space into outdoor classrooms that are nurtured by students and teachers alike allowing Davis students to regularly play, explore, and connect with nature right in their own schoolyard. Nicole also wanted parents to be aware of the benefits of outdoor play, and so she brought together staff to host community nights where families came to the playground and enjoyed the natural greening areas. Parents were informed about how playing on the rocks and logs helped their children’s gross motor skills to develop and how students could acquire empathy and appreciation for nature through their involvement in caring for the environment. Additionally, she has initiated a ‘Nature Buddies’ program whereby Grade 6 students mentor the Kindergarten students, spending time together exploring the outdoors.
Nicole also knew intuitively that the need for a healthy environment didn’t stop at the Davis doorstep. She recognized a need in the community for students to connect with nature at home, and that healthy communities and healthy environments are inextricably linked. She began networking with other schools in the area, the local library branch, and staff at the Windsor-Essex Community Housing Corporation. In 2011, a community tree planting was undertaken at Grandview Community Housing, in partnership with Davis Public School, Langlois Elementary, the Windsor-Essex Health Unit, the University of Windsor School of Social Work and their Community-University Partnership. This project was so successful that the team regrouped to implement a second planting in 2012 at Reginald Community Housing.
There’s no question that Nicole is an exemplary educator and environmentalist, and that her passion ignites a spark in others, and we are delighted to recognize her as a Conservation Champion.