PJ is the newest member of the Deep Roots team, joining us as the land manager for the Shawnee Mission Environmental Science Lab (SMESL), a 22-acre natural area located just to the east of Shawnee Mission South High School. He grew up in Overland Park, and graduated from Shawnee Mission South, where he had the good fortune of taking an Environmental Science class that sparked his formal education about native plants and animals. This set him on a lifelong course to continue learning about nature and ecology, all the way up to the present.
He went on to graduate from Baker University and began a 32-year long career in teaching, dedicating the last 27 of those to his alma mater, Shawnee Mission South, as the Environmental Education teacher. PJ says he was lucky to teach the very same class that inspired his nature education journey, sharing his passion for ecology year after year with the next generations. In that role, he also oversaw the SMESL, stewarding the woodlands, prairies, pond, and streamway that encompass that outdoor classroom.
The Born Family includes PJ’s wife, Amy, and their four grown children – Abby, Katie, Molly, and Henry. For the last 12 years they’ve all enjoyed a summer vacation together, backpacking in the high prairies and Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
PJ is excited to be the land manager for the SMESL, helping the Shawnee Mission School District keep invasive plant species out of the environmental lab and encouraging native plants to thrive. This work will provide both high school students and grade schoolers who visit the site an opportunity to interact, observe, and learn about native plants and animals. We at Deep Roots are glad to have him joining our team and are excited for the great work to come!