Environmental Studies School Instructors

The focus of the April Course is “Water and Related Issues .“  The exciting line-up of speakers and a brief bio is listed below.

Naturalist Dee DeJong, CIG, CNPM

Dee DeJongDee is a Certified Interpretive Guide and Certified Native Plant Master who loves to share her passion for nature. In 2003, DeJong founded her own business, Guides-To-Go, which develops and delivers nature programs for all ages with plenty of opportunities for learning and fun. Guides-To-Go helps people understand and appreciate nature and the environment, learn ways to conserve natural resources, and enjoy experiencing their surroundings.

DeJong is a well-known resource in the naturalist community and has 30 years of experience. In 2001 she earned the Certified Interpretive Guide title from the National Association of Interpretation and in 2003 earned the Certification of Native Plant Master from Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service.

Some of her custom programs include Nature Peek-A-Boo (3 year olds and their parents explore nature together), Spring’s Heavenly Bodies (Astronomy Class), Duck Butts Tell Tales (Exploring Winter Waterfowl) and Let’s Make a Deal-The Wildlife Edition (for Seniors).  She also has created a data collection system to obtain information about wildlife, including Nest Box Projects, Wildlife Sightings, and other reports used for local wildlife managers.

She has won numerous awards for her programs and services, including Volunteer of the Year Award (2001) from South Suburban Parks & Recreation, a Service Award (1999, 2000) from South Platte Park, a Certificate of Achievement for Outstanding Volunteer Service (1997) from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, and a Certificate of Appreciation (1996) and Certificate of Achievement (1997) from the National Eagle & Wildlife Property Repository for her work in the organization and tracking inventory of confiscated wildlife items from around the country.  DeJong holds a degree from Colorado State University, has earned an Ornithology Certificate from Cornell University and holds Adult/Child/Infant CPR & AED Certification for Health Care Providers (BLS) + First Aid.

Beth Austin

Beth AustinBeth has lived in Colorado for the past 20 years with her husband and two children!  She is originally from New York where she earned her bachelor degree.  For the past 10 years she has focused her professional life on elementary science programs.  She was a manager for Science Matters in America, an after-school hands-on science enrichment program, before coming to the Catamount Institute.  At the Catamount Institute, she has worked with the school base Elevate Environmental Education Program in the Woodland Park School District.  She really enjoys introducing students to the wonders of our natural community.
Her passions include her family, which includes two golden retrievers, being outside, reading and cooking!  She tries to be a gardener but she has a hard time balancing keeping plants alive with all the native creatures that visit her yard.  She volunteers with School District 11, is a facilitator with NAMI (National Association for Mental Illness) and Starsmore Discovery Center.

Jeanie Becker Taylor

Jeanie TaylorAfter teaching middle school for 32 years, Jeanie retired to the peace of a Colorado forest. A life-long gardener and environmentalist, she is passionate about growing and foraging her own food and medicine. Former president of the Manitou Springs Garden Club, she coordinates the Mansions Community Gardens in Manitou and teaches herbal classes. A major force behind the yearly plant sale, she also serves on several committees including scholarship and grants. She has a Permaculture Design Certificate and completed Herbal Foundations Program, Levels 1 and 2, in 2015.

Mary Jo Lewis

Mary Jo LewisMary Jo joined El Paso County Parks in 2016 as the Bear Creek Nature Center Supervisor. Prior to working for El Paso County, she filled the roles of Volunteer Coordinator, Assistant Director of Environmental Education and Director of Environmental Education for Peace Valley Nature Center in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology from Pennsylvania State University and a Graduate-level Teaching Certification from Rider University. A recent transplant to Colorado, Mary Jo is enjoying hiking and exploring caves with her husband.