IslandWood, an outdoor learning center on Bainbridge Island serving thousands of poverty-impacted children across the Puget Sound region each year, and its founders Paul and Debbi Brainerd are the 2015 winners of the University of Washington College of Education's Distinguished Service Award. 

The award honors an individual or organization whose extraordinary contributions have advanced the College of Education’s central mission: To make equitable and excellent education a daily reality for every child in every community. IslandWood and Debbi and Paul Brainerd will be presented with the College's highest honor during commencement ceremonies on June 13.

"IslandWood is advancing educational opportunity for our children throughout our region and beyond, building their knowledge of the natural world and inspiring them to live and see in new ways," said Deborah McCutchen, interim dean of the UW College of Education. "We are proud to recognize the vision of the Brainerds and the tremendous work being done at IslandWood to create new opportunities for young people to learn."

Since IslandWood's founding in 1999, more than 40,000 students from hundreds of schools have explored their connection to the natural world through visits to its Bainbridge Island campus, Homewaters programs in Seattle schools and neighborhoods, and at the Brightwater Center near Woodinville. More than half of the children participating in IslandWood programs come from poverty-impacted schools, and many experience the joy of learning in nature for the first time.

IslandWood and the College of Education are partners in the Graduate Residency in Education for Environment and Community. During their first-year residency at IslandWood, students take courses on a variety of topics while guiding outdoor experiences for a diverse population of elementary school students. Students complete their master's degree in education or teaching at UW following their residency and graduate prepared for careers connecting children, education and the environment. Approximately 25 residents graduate from UW every year and go on to careers advancing environmental stewardship while working with underserved populations.

IslandWood also is a long-time partner of the College's Danforth Educational Leadership Program, which prepares future principals and program administrators. Each Danforth cohort participates in a multi-day retreat at IslandWood to plan and begin their work in the program.

The UW College of Education has presented the Distinguished Service Award since 2012.


Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications