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Mountain Home teacher named Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation Educator of the Year


DALLAS – Freddy Penka of Pinkston Middle School in Mountain Home has been named the 2024 Educator of the Year by Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation. He was presented with this award at OTF’s annual benefit concert April 25.
Penka, previously featured in the Arkansas Wildlife Newsletter, is one of the many Arkansas educators enrolled in the Outdoor Adventures program developed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation to deliver a semester-long course of curriculum that satisfies all state requirements for a co-ed physical education course, a local elective or an agricultural science course.
Founded in 2010 in Dallas, OTF’s K-12 outdoor education curriculum now serves more than 1,400 schools with more than 140,000 students enrolled each year, nationwide and internationally.
With the help of teachers like Penka, Outdoor Adventures is able to provide a niche for students not involved in other extracurricular activities where they can learn practical outdoor skills and an understanding of wildlife conservation.
“I am honored to be named the Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation’s 2024 Outdoor Adventure Educator of the Year,” Penka said. “The legacy that I hope to leave with kids is that they value nature through outdoor activities and are able to find happiness and joy through them. I want to thank Arkansas Game and Fish, the Pinkston Middle School Administration and Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation for this award. Without their support this wouldn't be possible.
Penka has been an educator for 27 years. He first implemented Outdoor Adventures in the classroom in 2021, and has partnered with the AGFC’s Fred Berry Crooked Creek Nature Center in Yellville to help students connect with nature and the outdoors.
Heather Pitman, facility manager at the nature center, said, “The staff at Crooked Creek Nature Center has enjoyed working with Freddy, both at our center and in the classroom. Being a part of this program has been a privilege and we are excited to continue working with him in the future.”
Scot McClure, OTF’s director of education, said Penka’s example of how the program can inspire students is the sort of leadership needed to continue the mission of conservation.
“We are so grateful for Freddy’s commitment to the program and are honored to award him as the 2024 Educator of the Year. Freddy’s Outdoor Adventures students are extremely fortunate to have a passionate and exceptional educator to bring the outdoors to life through our program,” McClure said.
Outdoor Adventures is a fun, interactive course where students are taught lifelong skills using an integrated, 40-unit curriculum comprising math, science, writing and critical thinking skills. The 400-plus lessons cover lifelong skills including angler education, archery, hunter education, boater education, orienteering, survival skills, camping, outdoor cooking, challenge courses, backpacking, mountain bike camping, paddle sports, rock climbing, shooting sports, CPR/first aid and fauna, flora and wilderness medicine. OA teachers can pick units specific to their region and local ecosystems.
The program requires a small commitment from the school at startup, with the curriculum costing $1,000, but the school then receives a matching grant from OTF in that same amount to cover supplies needed for classes. The AGFC can even help offset that initial startup expense through one of its conservation education grants, funded by fine money accrued from wildlife citations in every county.
Visit https://www.agfc.com/en/education/classroom/outdoor-adventures/ to learn more about Outdoor Adventures and how to introduce it to your school.