Environment Matters Podcast
Topic: SEDP- Building the Next Generation of Environmental Leaders
Date: August 1, 2008
Host: Hi. I’m Lena Kim of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mid-Atlantic region, and welcome to Environment Matters - our new series of podcasts.
School’s out for the summer, but the learning continues for a group of inner-city students. They’ve been selected for a special EPA program that’s helping to build the next generation of environmental leaders.
(Sounds of the teacher’s instructions, quickly lowered to background) In Philadelphia and Washington, DC, EPA’s Student Environmental Development Program is giving middle-school kids a close up look at all things green. Combining hands-on classroom instruction with weekly field trips and activities, the program is in its 15th year and has never been more popular.
(Classroom sounds end)Students like Annie and Sahlil are spending their summer with EPA, learning about issues ranging from recycling to air quality. They do get a small stipend and free transportation to the office. But the knowledge and leadership skills they’ll develop will provide lasting benefits.
Annie: I’m going to live in this world, so if I don’t start cleaning it and telling people about it, I’m going to live in a really bad world.
Sahlil: I didn’t really recycle. I’m starting to recycle more and more because I learned that it’s helping the environment out.
Host: As part of the experience, students work in small groups to prepare skits on important environmental issues. When the summer program comes to a close, the skits are performed in front of federal employees and family members. Last year, the audience included the head of EPA, Administrator Steve Johnson, who was so impressed that EPA made it a priority to expand the program this summer.
(Sounds from the classroom instruction, quickly lowered to background)EPA staff, a science teacher and instructors from the community teach the environmental lessons in each city. (Classroom sounds end) The person who puts it all together each year is Larry Brown, who heads EPA’s regional environmental education office. Larry says one goal of the program is for the students to use their new environmental know-how to teach others.
Larry: We want the students to learn about the environment and to take that knowledge back to their communities, families and friends and share that knowledge with them and also to their schools. One of the most important goals is for them to actually apply what they’ve learned in a productive manner in order to help the environment. The program has been a success because we’ve always tried to make it a holistic program. We also want to teach them life skills, job skills, critical thinking, self esteem, communications and leadership so that they can go back to their communities and help others be a proactive member in their community.
Host: The program has produced more than 850 graduates over the years. When they’ve reached college age, nearly 90 percent of them have pursued degrees, most in the fields of science and the environment.
Takia of the Fishtown section of Philadelphia is a graduate of the program, and she came back to mentor this year’s class. For her, the program has special meaning.
Takia: Being able to learn about the environment in a fun and creative way and just being able to spend my summer doing something educational is awesome.
Host: Funding for the program comes from EPA, and most is from the office of the Regional Administrator, Don Welsh.
Don: This really is an exceptional program. The kids leave here with a greater appreciation of the environment, the kind of things they and their friends and families can do to make the world a better place. It’s very impressive to witness what they learn in just a seven-week period. I fully expect we’ll see many of them as future EPA employees or working in some job involving the environment.
Host: EPA expects this summer program to grow to a third location next year, Wheeling, West Virginia. And there’s interest from other EPA regional offices. For more information on the EPA Student Environmental Development Program, check out our Web site at www.epa.gov/region3/ee and click on SEDP.
And thanks for joining us on Environment Matters, our new series of podcasts.