For Chanda Cooper, the key to preserving Richland County’s natural resources is getting people to dig into conservation efforts.
Whether she’s encouraging sustainable and organic farming, training educators on environmental issues or helping students see the wonders of worms, the County’s expert conservation educator is constantly on the go teaching others to be good stewards of the earth.
For her dedication and hard work in the field of conservation, Cooper was named the 2013 Outstanding Conservation District Employee by the SC Association of Conservation Districts (SCACD). Cooper, the education program coordinator for the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District and the County’s Conservation Department, was presented with the award Tuesday at the organization’s annual conference.
“We are very fortunate to have Chanda working with us,” said Dr. James Atkins, who heads the County’s Conservation Department.
In addition to Cooper’s recognition, Melinda Beach, a teacher at St. John Neumann Catholic School, won SCACD’s 2013 Outstanding Conservation Teacher – the second year in a row a Richland County teacher has won the award.
“This is a credit to Chanda’s hard work, mentoring and guidance with Richland teachers,” Atkins said.
Cooper has coordinated and participated in an array of educational efforts in Richland County and the Midlands, including the following:
· Conducted training at a University of South Carolina healthy eating event
· As a part of a contract with the USDA-Natural Resources and Conservation Service, organized workshops on integrated pest management, irrigation scheduling, pasture management and transition to organic farming
· Assists in a multi-county USDA Conservation Innovation Grant promoting cover crops to improve soil health and conserve fertilizer
· Guided various initiatives – schoolyard habitats, composting, recycling and water quality projects – at Richland County schools through the Green Steps Schools Program
· Recruited and helped train Richland County teams for the SC Envirothon competitions
· Presented outdoor classroom design and inquiry-based science instruction for teachers in cooperation with the USC Center for Science Education and the USC College of Education
· Taught soil health to educators at composting workshops sponsored by Sonoco Recycling
· Created a vermicomposting project to help teachers establish classroom worm bins for elementary school classes
Cooper said she enjoys her job, which she considers an extension of her lifelong interest in the environment.
“I grew up on a farm and I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors and learning about natural history and natural resources and conservation,” she said. “To be able to do that professionally now and help others learn about conservation really means a lot.”