NPCA is pleased to announce Dr. Milton Chen as the recipient of our 2014 Robin W. Winks Award for Enhancing Public Understanding of National Parks. A Chicagoan during his boyhood who now makes his home in San Francisco, Dr. Chen is a pioneer and strong advocate of placebased learning that gives young people more powerful and engaging educational experiences than those available in traditional classrooms.
Dr. Chen received this year’s Robin W. Winks Award at NPCA’s Salute to the Parks Gala in recognition of his commitment to fostering a conservation ethic in students through place-based learning. He believes that national parks offer some of the best places in the country to conduct integrated education on topics ranging from science to history, civics to problem-solving.
“We need to find ways for kids to learn and care about national parks,” Chen says, “and that can best happen through experience.” His interest in connecting children to the great outdoors spans a 25-year career in education. He has worked on PBS children’s television programs at Sesame Workshop in New York, served as Founding Director of the KQED Center for Education & Lifelong Learning (PBS) in San Francisco, and currently serves as Senior Fellow and Executive Director, Emeritus at The George Lucas Educational Foundation.
Dr. Chen is also a proud NPCA Trustee for the Parks — a distinction that makes him a valued partner in all of our efforts to protect America’s national parks.
Additionally, his vision and passion for national parks has been evident through leadership positions in The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the National Parks Second Century Commission, and the National Parks Advisory Board for the National Park Service.
Dr. Chen’s 2010 book, Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools, was named one of the top 10 best education books of the year by the American School Board Journal. In it, he discusses how learning can now truly be “24/7/365 rather than limited to what happens in a classroom six hours a day, five days a week, 31 weeks a year.”
Having grown up just a few blocks from Chicago’s Pullman District, Dr. Chen has a personal interest in seeing it become a national park and is eager for students to discover Pullman as “a fascinating center to learn about George Pullman, his factory and town, and issues of 19th Century economics, engineering, and civics that continue to influence us today.” We, in turn, are eager to see the additional contributions this placebased learning champion will make to the field of education.