Tara Laidlaw has worked at the intersection of formal and informal education for nearly 15 years, serving as a program manager, instructional designer, and teacher trainer in a wide range of settings. After seven years as the director of an educational farm in Massachusetts, she returned home to the west coast, where she now specializes in helping place-based, project-based, and informal education programs support the Next Generation Science Standards.
Tara holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropological Sciences from Stanford University and a master’s degree in Natural Science and Environmental Education from Hamline University. In addition to her work in Oregon, she facilitates NGSS-focused workshops at regional and national conferences, and she writes articles about farm-
and garden-based learning for national publications.
Michele Madison has been an educator specialized in working with at-risk youth and Title I schools for 7 years.
Since 2017 Michele has been a staff scientist for HSW Engineering, a Florida based environmental engineering firm. Through her passion for education and outreach, she developed partnerships with the major educational institutions in Tallahassee including Florida State University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and Tallahassee Community College. In 2019 she joined Tallahassee Community College’s new Environmental Institute as an Agricultural Innovation Specialist. Helping lead the way in developing TCC’s agricultural department.
Early on in her career, Michele identified STEM access and food access as critical aspects of strong community development. Her previous awards in professional education, social entrepreneurship, and poverty alleviation demonstrate her active role in her professional community. The recipient of the Rueben Askew Progressive Leadership award, the NAAEE 30 under 30 Environmental Educator, Startup of the Year for Consumer Services for Women in Business, Girl Scouts recognized Woman of Distinction, a John E. Hughes entrepreneurial advocacy finalist, Energy Innovator Finalist, NSF Developmental Education Intern, the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award, BLAST Service to Science Education Award, and TCC’s Presidential Talon Award.
Emily Gaines spent a number of years teaching in the California public school system before leaving to pursue farming. As a credentialed teacher working in Title one schools she had become increasingly disillusioned with the traditional public school systems ability to reach the students who need the most help. Raising a son with severe learning disabilities she was personally aware of how significantly the school system can fail students who are not traditionally successful.
Emily earned her bachelor’s degree at California State University, Sacramento. As a farmer Emily has continued to find joy in teaching; working on the board of her local beekeepers association to encourage volunteers in the classroom, mentoring new growers as they embark on their own farming journey, writing guides and articles to help others grow. She is deeply committed to helping the next generation of agricultural enthusiasts to find their calling and their confidence.
Meera Jagroop is a museum educator specializing in science interpretation and exhibit design. During her ten years as a science educator, she has developed programs, interpretation, and exhibitions for all ages at Cleveland Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, The American Museum of Natural History, and Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Meera has represented institutions at conferences around the country, presenting on topics ranging from engaging caregivers of young learners to gardening programs for children with disabilities. She also participated in the design and oversees the new Discovery Garden, a one-acre, accessible, hands-on garden in Brooklyn, NY.
Meera has an M.S.Ed in Museum Education from Bank Street College of Education and B.S. in Natural History and Interpretation from SUNY-Environmental Science and Forestry. She currently lives in Brooklyn and is passionate about teaching about nature, botany, and gardening in urban environments.