The Conrad Toepfer Award for the Civic Engagement of Middle School Students

Dr. Conrad Toepfer, an advocate for developmentally appropriate and equitable educational practices, was a founder of the middle school movement. AMLE honors his legacy with the Conrad Toepfer Award. Toepfer advocated for educational opportunities, including using the arts, that link students’ concerns and questions about themselves and their changing world and that help them relate facts, skills, and concepts to their own interests and real-world problems. He encouraged experiences that channeled students’ altruism into programs about issues such as ecology, environmental conservation, civics, social justice, and equity. He was especially interested in engaging young adolescents in projects that focus on poverty, hunger, violence, and anti-racism.

This award recognizes initiatives that advance Toepfer’s vision and motivate others to adopt similarly engaging opportunities. It will be granted to projects or programs that engage middle level students in meaningful experiences that address the social-emotional, psychological, and/or moral/ethical developmental needs of young adolescents.

Awards may be given for on-going projects, those that have been successfully completed, or those that are in the planning process. Awards may be given for both school and community programs that meet the criteria.

2023 Toepfer Award

Learn about the inaugural recipients of The Conrad Toepfer Award and their Exhibition of Wonder project.

Criteria for the project/program:

  1. Opportunities should be presented to students that are not traditionally available to them.
  2. Exploratory, integrated problem solving, and meaningful reflection should be included in the project.
  3. Students should be included in the design, implementation, and evaluation of this project or program.
  4. This project/program should foster meaningful positive relationships and introduce students to new situations and to people with whom they would not normally interact.
  5. The program should reflect the middle grades best practice, as outlined in The Successful Middle School: This We Believe, and Dr. Toepfer’s vision of social justice, equity and students’ social-emotional and moral development should be addressed.


Any person, group of educators, or community members who work with 10-to-15-year-old students may apply or be nominated. Nominations require two letters of support. Both nominations and applications require completion of the application form.


Winners of the award will be provided:

  • Complimentary registration, transportation stipend, and lodging to the annual conference at which the award will be presented
  • The opportunity to present their project and be featured in an AMLE publication
  • If requested, a grant in the amount of $1,000 to support the continuation of the project or program

Those applicants seeking funding for this program/project, must submit a line-item budget telling how the money will be spent.

Applications are now being accepted. The deadline to apply is April 30, 2024.  Candidates will be notified of the outcome of their application by May 31, 2024, at which time the awardee will be invited to the AMLE24 Annual Conference November 6-9 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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