We've made some changes to EPA.gov. If the information you are looking for is not here, you may be able to find it on the EPA Web Archive or the January 19, 2017 Web Snapshot.

News Releases from Region 01

Scituate R.I. High School Teacher Recognized by President Obama and EPA, Yarmouth, Maine teacher received honorable mention

Contact Information: 
David Deegan

BOSTON - A teacher at the Ponaganset High School in Scituate, R.I., was recognized by the federal government for his work that has energized environmental education for students, as well as the school system and community. Teacher Ross McCurdy received the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators given out by the US Environmental Protection Agency at a recent White House ceremony.

McCurdy has been helping students connect with the environment during his 17 years as an environmental educator, teaching science to students in grades 10 through 12. At Ponaganset High School he creates challenging hands-on learning opportunities, encouraging students to apply what they learn in class to solve real-world problems.

"Ross McCurdy makes lessons relevant and fun," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "He encourages his students to be active participants in the challenge of improving the environment."

The Presidential award was given to 15 teachers nationwide at a ceremony at the White House last month that also honored 60 students in nine states with President's Environmental Youth Awards.

"We are just as reliant upon our environment now as we were 10,000 years ago and recognizing our innate connection with the environment is essential to our quality of life," said McCurdy. "We are fortunate that today's students understand the importance of environmental awareness and are enthusiastic to learn what they can to protect our natural world. As teachers it is up to us to provide every opportunity for our students to take care of our environment both now and into the future."

Twelve teachers, including Morgan Cuthbert, teacher at the Frank Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth, Maine, were given honorable mentions.

The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators is administered by The White House Council on Environmental Quality in partnership with EPA administers to encourage educators who incorporate environmental education in their classrooms and teaching methods.

Teacher awardees receive a plaque and an award of up to $2,500 to further their professional development in environmental education. The teacher's local education agency also receives an award of up to $2,500 to fund environmental educational activities and programs. Honorable mention recipients receive certificates.

McCurdy's students have done extensive research on renewable energy technologies and applied this knowledge to several projects, including creating a hydrogen fuel cell-powered Ford Model T, preparing and driving coast to coast in a turbo diesel pickup truck fueled by biodiesel, and even forming a musical group that powers its musical equipment using a 1,000-watt hydrogen fuel cell with alternating current output.

McCurdy's students also built a 16-foot by 8-foot solar building on the school's grounds. The building, named the Solar Shed, included contributions from students in wood tech and alternative energy classes.

McCurdy was also pivotal in developing the environmental science curriculum at his school. Through his efforts, Ponaganset now offers science and alternative energy and sustainable systems classes. Sustainable concepts are now integrated into the broader school curriculum.

The installation of sustainable clean energy technology was installed, in part thanks to McCurdy, during renovation and expansion of the high school and construction of a new middle school. Both schools are now equipped with biomass heating systems that use waste wood chips from the local lumber industry.

In addition to the EPA award, McCurdy received a merit award from the Bartlett Award, established by the National Environmental Education Foundation in 2007 to distinguish teachers who best represent Richard C. Bartlett's passion for and leadership in environmental education. Bartlett, who died in 2011, believed the role of teachers in integrating environmental education is critical to preserving the natural world.

Bartlett Award winners are chosen by a national panel of judges for demonstrating creative, replicable approaches to environmental education; adopting an interdisciplinary approach to integrating environmental education across subject areas; engaging other adults in their schools and communities into their environmental education efforts, and increasing student achievement within and beyond the classroom.

McCurdy was given $750 as a Bartlett merit award winner in recognition of how he supercharges his science classes with more than just fuel cell technology, giving lessons a boost of intrigue that drives students' interest in renewable energy.

A long-time environmental advocate who died in 2011, Bartlett was chairman of the board of trustees for the National Environmental Education Foundation from 2003 to 2007 before becoming an honorary board members. Bartlett's expansive conservation work began in the 1980s at The Nature Conservancy, and he became chairman of The Nature Conservancy of Texas in July 1994. Bartlett also wrote The Sportsman's Guide to Texas (with his wife Joanne Krieger) and Saving the Best of Texas: A Partnership Approach to Conservation.

More information is available from http://www2.epa.gov/education/presidential-innovation-award-environmental-educators

# # #