President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) Winners
Each year, EPA recognizes national winners of the President's Environmental Youth Award.
2016 National Winners selected by each EPA Region
EPA Region 1:
Synthesis of Low Cost, Biodegradable Masks/Bags Using Novel Material Combinations: A Sustainability Project
After reflecting on pollution problems in their own community and around the world, a group of 9th graders, calling themselves “PKN”, decided to take matters into their own hands. The students were particularly concerned about air pollution and the large amount of petroleum-based plastics filling landfills, in their home community in Connecticut and abroad. PKN students especially noted people’s use of inexpensive masks to filter out particulate matter in the air and the waste created by the disposal of these masks. In response, the students developed a low-cost biodegradable plastic using a local agricultural waste product—pumpkin. The team continues to explore options to commercially distribute masks made from this cost-efficient bioplastic. The group is also working to develop biodegradable plastic bags made from their innovative material.
In the process of developing their bioplastic products, PKN engaged with members of their local community and global community. PKN partnered with a local farm to repurpose pumpkins that would otherwise be thrown away as waste at the end of the fall season. The group met with a local environmental technology company to further develop a business model for PKN’s products. Along the way, the student group developed a mobile application to raise awareness among children of plastic pollution. Finally, on a global scale, the PKN team is exploring opportunities to donate future profits to an organization working to prevent suicide among Indian farmers.
EPA Region 2:
Creating a Mosquito Trap Using By-Products of Compost & Solar Power
Team: The Traposquitoes
When considering how harmful mosquitoes can be to human populations, the “Traposquitoes,” a group of three 8th graders from New Jersey, decided to take steps to make their own community safer. The students were concerned about the transmission of disease by mosquitoes, which can cause minor irritation and can spread major illnesses such as Zika and Malaria. The Traposquitoes aimed to educate people about the potential harm that the presence of mosquitoes can bring and to design a trap to help reduce mosquito populations in their community. Instead of the traditional electric mosquito traps, which are powered by electric currents from a house or by batteries, are limited in the areas they can be placed, and tend to be expensive, the Traposquitoes designed an efficient, new, environmentally-friendly trap. Their traps use the heat and CO2 from composting organic material to attract mosquitoes, along with a solar powered light and suction fan to trap them.
The group installed one of their traps at a local reservoir, and hosted educators and news media to see their project. The Traposquitoes also started a composting initiative at the Riverview Park Farmers Market to collect compost for use in their traps. The Traposquitoes were interviewed by the Honeywell Institute of Ecosystems Education and the Jersey Journal, and have continued to expand their outreach within the state. For their efforts, the Traposquitoes received the 2016 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award.
The Traposquitoes have already begun impacting the world beyond their community. They started a “Global Traposquito” initiative with the purpose of connecting with other students to reduce the global mosquito population. The Traposquitoes sent materials to construct a mosquito trap at the Julius E. Sprauve School in the Virgin Islands and will collaborate with students at this school via Skype. The Traposquitoes also produced an online video tutorial and instruction manual to assist others who wish to build their own versions, and educate local and global community members through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and an online newsletter called “Traposquito Weekly.” In the future, the Traposquitoes hope to expand their project even farther, with plans to develop a public park composting initiative.
EPA Region 3:
Save the Frogs and Toads
Team: Devin and Roldan K.
Brothers Devin and Roldan from Pennsylvania, have one goal in mind: to save frogs and toads. The brothers’ interest was sparked by discussions about the number of mosquitoes in their area, and the decline of predators like bats, frogs and toads, which feed on mosquitoes.
The brothers learned that each April, the swimming pool at their local park drains the water and ends up killing tadpoles living in the pool before they can mature. To increase the population of native frogs and toads, Devin and Roldan took approximately 2,000 tadpoles from the pool in April and raised them to the frog and toad stage. They monitored an aquarium with a filtration system and collected fruit flies from a compost bin to feed the growing frogs and toads. The brothers then released them into their native habitats in July and August. Over the course of their project, the brothers observed their aquarium closely, protected the tadpoles from predators, and transferred the tadpoles to a larger aquarium as they grew legs.
To raise awareness about their project, Devin and Roldan distributed informational cards to a troop of Cub Scouts about designing effective pools for tadpole growth. They also engaged the troop members in educational games about frogs and toads. At their church’s national reunion at Deer Park, the brothers presented their project to children from around the country, inviting them to watch the release of the mature frogs and toads. As a result of their project, Devin and Roldan have observed not only an increase in frog and toad populations, but improvement in the overall ecosystem, with a decrease in the number of mosquitoes and a growing number of native animals, such as snakes, fish, and birds.
Healthy and Sustainable Farming Practices
Team: George Mason High School Environmental Group
The George Mason High School (GMHS) Environmental Group, a group of 11 students in Northern Virginia, have worked for the past two years to implement two projects, with a focus on providing healthy, sustainable food sources that can be produced in an urban area. Through a hydroponics project and an aquaculture project, the students are contributing fresh lettuce and in the future, fresh fish to their high school cafeteria.
Interest in urban sustainability began after the students received a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to work with soil scientists from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District on ways to reduce water runoff in urban areas. From this project, the GMHS Environmental Group became interested in other urban sustainable practices and received a “Super Grant” from the Falls Church Education Foundation to design and implement a hydroponics and aquaculture project at their high school and a local middle school. Hydroponics, which is the process of growing plants in a soilless media, and aquaculture, the process of raising fish in a closed environment, promote the growth of crops and fish with lower need for pesticides, insecticides, or herbicides. In order to encourage healthy eating, the GMHS Environmental Group decided to plant lettuce and raise tilapia for their school cafeteria.
From their hydroponics and aquaculture project, the GMHS Environmental Group has produced over 60 pounds of lettuce served in their school cafeteria, and expect the first harvest of tilapia in Fall 2017, with plans to supply a consistent tilapia harvest in the future. For their efforts, the students were awarded the Project Green Schools award for Outstanding Commitment to Green-o-vation. The team has presented their work to the Falls Church City 4H Club, the Falls Church Garden Club, and science teachers in Northern Virginia, as well as at the 2015 and 2016 Student Environmental Action Showcase at George Mason University.
EPA Region 4:
#Share a Book #Save a Forest #Change a Life
Team: Chase H. and Vance T.
When 5th grade friends Chase and Vance came across a bin of a thousand books heading to the landfill, while knowing that some community members had no books, these two students set out to solve both problems at once. Calling their partnership “read.repeat”, Chase and Vance successfully collected, sorted and repurposed over 25,000 books in six months, taught thousands of community members about recycling and repurposing, and kept thousands of pounds of waste from entering the landfill.
Chase and Vance researched the lifecycle of books, learning about the amount of wood needed to create a book, the challenges to recycling them (due to glue in the bindings), and the estimated 300 million books discarded into landfills each year. They began collection of gently used books, getting word out into their community through their website readrepeat.org, complete with a program logo to enhance community recognition of the project. They made presentations to their school, their Cub Scout Pack, a martial arts studio, their local National Elementary Honor Society chapter, and other community groups. Chase and Vance even approached the source of the original bin of books that inspired their effort and convinced the company to donate leftover inventory rather than dispose of it. When donations came pouring in, they enlisted friends and family to sort, pack, and deliver thousands of books to community members in need, at places like a homeless shelter, a local VA Hospital, local libraries and schools, and foster and group homes.
Chase and Vance surpassed their initial goal, donated books to 32 organizations across three states, and brought the joy of reading to more than 5,000 individuals. With more than 80 volunteers and involvement from local businesses and media, they made a meaningful impact in their community and environment by keeping waste out of landfills and teaching others to #Share a Book #Save a Forest #Change a Life. In the future, they hope to expand their reach nationally to repurpose 50,000 books annually.
Citizen Science in High Schools Aimed at Water Quality Testing
Team: Rachel and Adam E.
In South Carolina, two high school students Rachel and Adam implemented a Georgia citizen science initiative into their respective Greenville high schools, calling on fellow students to take charge in their watershed in order to prevent potential environmental health catastrophes. The program, Georgia’s Adopt-A-Stream, is an initiative that trains individuals and groups in standardized water testing protocols. Once trained, citizens take monthly trips to their stream site(s) and sample for Dissolved Oxygen (DO), pH, conductivity, turbidity, and E. coli bacteria levels. Data is posted to a public database for analysis and baseline data storage.
Rachel and Adam’s interest in environmental protection and citizen science began as young children, participating in programs like Frog Watch USA and 4H. When their interest in water quality was peaked, they sought to bring a Georgia citizen science initiative to South Carolina. They coordinated a cross-border training session for certification in chemical and macroinvertebrate water monitoring. They initially picked up three sites from across the county and started reporting monthly data to Georgia’s public database. Rachel and Adam expanded their interest to their high school years, starting initiatives to monitor the stream running through the heart of their city, with the involvement of science teachers and other students. Over time, Rachel and Adam expanded their work, involving students from their area in routine monitoring. They conceptualized a plan to execute a county-wide survey of streams for possible E. coli bacteria hotspots. Eighteen sites were selected due to their proximity to industry, roads, known sources of pollution, and animal waste. Several students from area high schools collected, plated, and assessed samples from each of the eighteen sites. Along the way, involved students have benefitted from open conversations with local environmental professors and officials, and gained exposure to potential career paths. Through their monitoring initiatives over the years, two broken sewer lines have been discovered and repaired which further demonstrates the real world value of citizen science.
Rachel and Adam continue to share their knowledge and encourage their peers and teachers to participate in these environmental stewardship efforts, through promoting inclusion of water monitoring curriculum in Greenville County schools, doing public appearances on local television, and sharing awareness of resources, funds, and supplies. South Carolina has now developed its own Adopt-A-Stream program.
EPA Region 5:
Greenversal Environmental News Reports
Megan, an 11th-grader in Michigan, was disappointed in the general lack of exciting video content she could find featuring environmental news. Megan determined that a lack of public interest in environmental issues was reflected in how little environmental news was covered in the media. In an effort to counter public apathy, Megan began a weekly environmental news YouTube channel called Greenversal, where she creates, edits, and publishes short videos each week highlighting environmental news topics in an engaging and viewer-friendly way. Drawing inspiration from her favorite news anchors, Greenversal features Megan’s news reports on environmental issues she’s researched, including relevant photos and video clips. She also takes the time to read and engage with viewers’ comments on her videos.
Since launching her channel and accompanying website, Megan has reached viewers from over 100 countries around the world with more than 70,000 views. Viewers are utilizing the channel in creative ways, including a teacher of environmental literacy at a California jail, who uses Megan’s weekly news reports as a resource for his students. Closer to home, Megan has broadcast the Greenversal channel to teachers at her own school and raised environmental awareness within her community. In the long term, Megan aspires to motivate others take action on environmental issues themselves.
EPA Region 6:
Caring for the Planet and Its Children in Need
Team: We Care Act
In the spring of 2008, when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan, China, the idea for the “We Care Act” project was formed. Eric, now a high schooler, saw the images of devastation and committed to try to support children impacted by the earthquake through creating the project. Over time, students involved in We Care Act learned that disasters not only affect victims’ immediate, everyday life but also alter their chances in the future due to a lack of access to items such as clothes, books, and electronics. We Care Act was formed to collect gently used items to help disaster victims, while protecting the environment.
Over time, We Care Act developed a focus on electronics recycling, as participants learned that a lack of technology can be one of the major educational setbacks for disadvantaged groups. The team aimed to increase awareness about electronics recycling and organize others to recycle and reuse in order to increase access to technology for children in need. The We Care Act team learned how to check and assemble computers and wipe hard drives. They conducted recycling drives and refurbishing workshops, and expanded their scope beyond disaster relief. Within a few months, they refurbished 15 laptops for an inner-city school in Houston and set desktops to a children’s home. They created an electronic educational survey, to educate students and adults, as well as visited community centers, reaching over 5000 people, collecting over 1100 responses from 50+ cities. We Care Act has now recycled over 7400 lbs. of electronics, delivering 163 refurbished/new computers, tablets, smart phones and other electronics to organizations and individuals in Nicaragua, China, Nepal and in the U.S., while supporting victims of 15 natural disasters.
EPA Region 7:
REVIVE Go Green—Reuse and Recycling of Pencils
Team: Aryan M. and Om M.
When 6th grader Aryan and Kindergartener Om realized how many of their partially used pencils were left over each year, it got them thinking about how many usable pencils end up in the trash and the number of trees cut down to make those pencils. After researching how certain types of waste can be transformed into compost, the brothers decided to implement a project in the Millard Public School District to promote environmental awareness and a habit of reusing and recycling school supplies, like pencils. The students named their project “REVIVE Go Green” to reflect the completion of the life cycle of a pencil, when composted pencils can be used to grow or revive new trees.
After learning that all parts of a wooden pencil can be recycled as compost (Ex. the “lead” in pencils is graphite, a rich source of potassium), the brothers worked with a local nursery, and the Aldrich Elementary School staff to set up a pencil recycling and composting program. All classes collected pencil shavings and pencil stubs, and the nursery recycled them into compost. In addition, Aryan and Om spent time after school each day sharpening hundreds of dull pencils for classes to reuse.
Inspired by the brothers’ actions, students in other grades became involved as part of a REVIVE CLUB volunteer team; eventually, volunteer teams of older and younger students alike became involved in the collection process and the promotion of environmental awareness. On the last day of school, Aryan and Om collected pencils and were able to provide approximately 4,000 useable pencils for the next year’s school supplies. For their efforts, they were awarded a special recognition letter from the Millard District Superintendent and Aldrich Principal. The brothers recently moved to New Jersey, where they plan on expanding the REVIVE Go Green project to their new school district, as well as supporting the continuation of their project at Aldrich Elementary.
EPA Region 8:
Food Waste Awareness at Douglass Elementary
Team: The Food Waste Club
A group of 1st through 5th graders at Douglass Elementary, called the “Food Waste Club,” took action to educate their fellow students about food waste and help reduce waste at their school in Colorado.
To begin, the Food Waste Club sent out a survey to other students at Douglass Elementary to gauge which foods students did or did not like, as well as their thoughts on portion size, hot versus cold lunches, how hungry they were at lunchtime, and noise level in the cafeteria. The team then conducted a waste audit, weighing food from the cafeteria to see how much food their school was wasting and discovered that many students were throwing away untouched fruits and vegetables. In response, the Food Waste Club created an “untouched food bin,” where students place fruits and vegetables they haven’t eaten to be washed and used in future lunches. To promote food waste awareness, members of the Food Waste Club prepared a video about food waste and being proactive in the lunch room, which was shared with other classes and put on the Douglass Elementary website.
Most recently, the Food Waste Club has been involved in the larger community, participating in a food reclamation campaign called Feeding the 5,000 Front Range. The group also presented their project the director of food services in the Boulder Valley School District, who asked the club to design food waste posters to be put up in all elementary schools in the district.
A Small & Portable Air Dancer for Scaring Birds Away from Airports
Team: The Bionic Porcupines 2.0
When 6th graders in Utah learned that hundreds of birds are killed by striking airplanes at the Salt Lake City International (SLC) Airport, they were determined to help decrease the number of birds flying near airports. Together they formed a team called the “Bionic Porcupines 2.0,” to reduce bird strikes at SLC, which is located near a wetlands and a migratory bird route.
The group met with the airport wildlife staff, including the USDA airport biologist, to examine current methods to keep birds off the airport where birds tend to gather, including predator calls, robotic bait, and remote trap setting. They learned that one method of scaring birds away is to set up an air dancer— a large, brightly-colored tube that flaps when filled with air. However, large commercial air dancers tend to be expensive and require generators that contribute to pollution in the area.
In response, the Bionic Porcupines 2.0 created a small, portable, and battery-operated air dancer that is easily placed where birds nest and can run all day on a car battery. Through experimentation the team determined that it needed at least a 36” sock to get strong random motion. They tested various fans and air sock materials, as they sought to create a dancer that could be placed under bridges and floated out on ponds. They tested their design at the airport and found that the only day that geese did not gather was the day their air dancer was used. The Bionic Porcupines 2.0 now have a provisional patent for their design. The air dancer is small so it can be used at any airport in multiple locations, protecting birds from striking airplanes.
EPA Region 9:
Shore Wars- The Shore Awakens
Team: The Mount Madonna School
This student driven, integrated curriculum, project focused on environmental threats faced by the Western Snowy Plover, a threatened shorebird found along the California coastline. The students selected this topic as the focus of their work after researching a variety of local environmental topics. They were specifically concerned with habitat encroachment and pollution from plastic, both of which contribute to declining numbers of the bird.
Over the course of the year, student teams worked with a local biologist to write reports, create displays and present to one another information on habitat, threats and conservation efforts. Students connected with community members by learning from and working with organizations such as Save our Shores, Point Blue Conservation Science, and the Elkhorn Slough Foundation. Students planned their project including elements of civic action, civic service, education, experimentation, fundraising, innovation and presentation. They formed a mock company to implement their plan, ultimately wrote and filmed a 30-minute educational film, which was sold to raise funds for the organizations supporting their project. The class presented to their school, to members of the community, to media, and to a local Assembly member. The class was chosen to participate in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Plastic Pollution summit to present their research to other students. From the summit, out of more than 150 schools, they were selected to present at World Ocean Day at the aquarium.
As the civic service piece of their project, the students worked to reestablish habitat at a local state beach by planting native plants, held fall and spring cleanups of habitat on another state beach, and created nesting indentations and camouflage in old salt flats near Elkhorn Slough. Additionally, they worked with the state park system to create educational signs to alert the public of wintering flocks of snowy plovers. With partners in the 9th grade, students created an experiment where a small-scale sand dune was designed and tested to assess its ability to hold a plover nest exposed to the elements. Aspects of engineering and upcycling were integrated into post cleanup classroom exercises.
The Grey Water Project
Having seen firsthand the effects of drought in California and in India, high-schooler Shreya formed the Grey Water Project to encourage people conserve and reuse water. Over three years of research into water conservation, Shreya has particularly focused on the possibility of reusing grey water, which is lightly used water, especially from laundry.
In her research, Shreya found that many commercial laundry detergents have harmful chemicals that can be detrimental to soil, plants, and aquatic life. So instead, she tested to see if grey water from soap nuts—a natural laundry detergent derived from the Indian soap berry—could be used as irrigation water without harming the environment. She tested the effects of soap nut grey water on aquatic life, soil and plants, using multiple tests and comparing grass exposed to regular water, soap-nut grey water, organic and non-organic detergent grey water. She found that soap nut grey water was beneficial to plant growth and cost less than an organic detergent.
Through the grey water project, including her website and Facebook page, Shreya reaches out to her community to educate people about water conservation. She has presented at her school and local elementary schools, as well as at a local water board. She has approached parent teacher organizations and local libraries in the hopes to present there as well. For her efforts, she has been recognized in the media and numerous awards at science fairs and competitions. Shreya is continuing to research grey water and to promote water conservation, and hopes to do so throughout her high school career.
EPA Region 10:
Bee Happy We Happy
As part of the 5th grade science curriculum, Elizabeth learned about pollination and the importance of bees. The topic struck her curiosity and after encouragement from her teacher, Elizabeth embarked on an independent project to educate herself and her community about bee health and beekeeping.
Titling her project “Bee Happy We Happy,” Elizabeth did extensive research including reviewing articles, Washington State University Extension videos on pollination and pollinator protection, a TED talk, visiting a local nursery to understand cultivation, and reaching out to organizations and scientists as direct sources. Her research included sources such as the community Horticulture wing of the Department of Pest Management of Washington State University Extension, a chemical engineer in Oregon, and a biotechnologist in pharmaceuticals, which helped her to understand chemicals being used in modern agriculture and managing balanced biodiversity.
Following her research, to engage her community, Elizabeth created an awareness flier, and set out to distribute it across her school and community. Elizabeth shared actions that her community members could take to promote bee health, such as planting bee-friendly flowers, keeping “weeds,” becoming a beekeeper, reducing pesticide use, and including water sources in a garden. She presented to her classmates and principal, and provided fliers to homeroom teachers to discuss with their science classes. At her local grocery, she engaged customers at the door by giving out her flier and discussing her concerns about bee health and how individuals could make a difference in protecting pollinators. Elizabeth plans to continue to get the message out to her family, friends and community to develop more “bee helpers” in her community.
Schools Under 2C
Team: Tesla STEM High School’s Schools Under 2C
The student Leadership Team of Tesla STEM High School launched “Schools Under 2C,” an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the environment amongst the younger generation. Consisting of over 100 students, Schools Under 2C have lead their school to reduce their carbon footprint by over a ton and a half each month. They have proved that reducing emissions is not only beneficial to the environment, but saves their school district money as well.
Through simple educational programs, the students have been igniting behavioral changes throughout their school. They began monitoring and reducing lighting usage within each classroom, and teachers have pledged to turn off their lights during their planning period and lunch. They have worked with their county’s Green School Program to implement a composting program. The students have also started working on an educational campaign to encourage students to take “greener” or alternatives modes of transportation to and from school. They are partnering with the City of Redmond to develop an app to encourage students to take the bus, carpool, bike, or walk to school. Using the app, students will be able to track how they travel to school every day. The app rewards students for taking cleaner modes of transportation, and once a user reaches enough points, the student is rewarded with a prize from a local business.
Now the Leadership Team has challenged other schools across the nation to do the same, and already over 10 schools have joined their program to take on the “Schools Under 2C” Challenge. By leading their school to reduce their carbon footprint, they have set a precedent for the rest of the community.
Besides challenging other schools to join their Schools Under 2C program, they have organized outreach events to raise awareness on environmental issues in the communities. They are still expanding and growing. In the future, through Schools Under 2C, the students will continue educating the next generation on solving environmental issues, one degree at a time.
EPA Region 1:
Nutrasafe: Creating an Eco-Friendly Plant Food for the Environment
Team: The Plant Phenoms
Motivated by the threatening side effects posed by traditional agricultural fertilizers, the Plant Phenoms team sought to understand and pursue environmentally friendly alternatives. Although plants require nutrients to grow, traditional fertilizer application methods and amounts threaten the environment. Waters from brooks, streams, creeks,lakes, and oceans can become polluted by nitrates and phosphates. The overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus can cause algae to multiply, particularly when waters are warm and calm. When the algae die, they are eaten by bacteria that deplete the oxygen and leave aquatic “dead zones,” where fish and other aquatic life cannot survive.
The Plant Phenoms developed and tested a new eco-friendly plant food called Nutrasafe. This plant food comes in soluble, vegetarian gel capsules that are filled with dried and ground banana and orange peels. By using gel capsules, the plant food can be easily distributed directly into the soil. The Plant Phenoms performed multiple trials with different fertilizers. Plants given Nutrasafe grew as well as plants given traditional fertilizers, and formed less algae in water. The Plant Phenoms have plans to present their work to middle school and elementary school students, and share Nutrasafe capsules with their community’s school gardens.
EPA Region 2:
Fighting Deforestation of the Pine Barrens with Vertical Greenhouses
Team: Greenhouse Gladiators
The Pine Barrens, a sandy, coastal forest that covers over 1.1 million acres of New Jersey, is home to over 850 species of plants, 39 species of mammals, 91 species of fish, and 59 species of reptiles; is responsible for recharging the 17 trillion-gallon Kirkwood- Cohansey aquifer; and is a recognized International Biosphere Reserve. In recent years, the commercial production of blueberries and cranberries has contributed to damage and deforestation of the Pine Barrens. The Greenhouse Gladiators team was formed to combat deforestation due to these agriculture activities in the Pine Barrens.
The Greenhouse Gladiators designed a vertical greenhouse to combat local deforestation. Vertical greenhouses conserve the amount of farmland needed by growing plants upward on a series of open shelves, compared to traditional growing methods that take up wider land areas. These structures typically allow farmers to grow more crops, but are not cost- effective because they rely on expensive, light-emitting diode (LED) lighting. The Greenhouse Gladiators built a scale model of a cost-effective vertical greenhouse that used metal to reflect natural sunlight to the crops. In tests, the Greenhouse Gladiators found that their reflective design outperformed typical LED lighting. Their research was published in the Journal of Agricultural Engineering and Biotechnology.
Now, the Greenhouse Gladiators are working to build vertical greenhouses for local farmers and have created an online petition to raise money. Local farmers can receive a small vertical greenhouse if they pledge to not expand into the Pine Barrens. The Greenhouse Gladiators hope to send a message that with innovation, humans can coexist with the environment.
EPA Region 3:
Zero Waste: Are You Sure?
Team: Park Forest Elementary Zero Waste Team
Inspired by neighboring Pennsylvania State University’s sustainability efforts and a challenge from their principal, Park Forest Elementary School Zero Waste Team members are leading the charge to make their school become waste free.
To begin, the students collaborated with Pennsylvania State University to conduct a waste audit. After analyzing the data and developing a waste reduction plan, the Zero Waste Team began the “Are You Sure?” educational campaign to challenge students and staff to reduce waste and properly dispose of items that could be repurposed, recycled, or composted. Students’ goals included recycling milk bottles, plastic bags, disposable coffee pods, and other hard-to-recycle items. Another part of the waste reduction plan included composting: classroom waste in worm bins (also called vermicomposting), garden and yard waste in outside containers, and lunch room organic waste collected by a commercial composter. The Zero Waste Team also encouraged students and staff to use only one paper towel each after washing to dry their hands, and to compost those paper towels. As a result of the Zero Waste effort, the Park Forest Elementary School recycled 470 pounds of metal cans, 1,695 pounds of plastic bottles, and 9,660 pounds of mixed paper in 2015. While the school still produces some waste, there are measurable improvements from the Are You Sure? challenge. First, the school no longer fills its dumpster as quickly. The refuse truck arrives just two times per week versus five. Accordingly, the school’s waste disposal bills decreased from $534 to $261 per month.
As current students prepare to transition to middle school, they mentor new student leaders in order to maintain and expand the success of the Zero Waste Team. Additionally, the Zero Waste Team is working with their county waste professionals to replicate the Are You Sure? challenge and bring proven practices to neighboring schools.
Impact of Energy Consumption Reduction on Household Carbon Footprints
Rohan completed this project after becoming interested in the impact of an individual household on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change mitigation. He investigated the impact of relatively hassle-free, energy-saving methods on a single household’s environmental footprint. Rohan conducted an experiment over the course of ten weeks, breaking down energy-conserving methods into three areas: electricity, natural gas, and water. During five control weeks, he measured the energy consumption in the household with no conservation actions taken. In five experimental weeks, Rohan lowered the thermostat by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, unplugged appliances at night, reduced light use, and shortened shower times to 10 minutes per shower.
Rohan calculated that the household experienced a 23% reduction in its total carbon dioxide emissions due to the energy-conservation actions. He found that while taking a shorter shower had a minimal effect on energy usage, reducing natural gas had significant effects on the household’s total carbon footprint, contributing to 75% of total reduction. Rohan extrapolated the results of his experiment to show that if 50% of households implemented his same methods, the United States could see a 200 million metric-ton reduction in total carbon dioxide emissions. This is the equivalent of reducing emissions from 4.1 million barrels of oil. Rohan’s results underscore that small actions taken by many individuals have the potential to yield measurable greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
Team: Kady M.
After discovering electronic waste is the fastest-growing segment of items in landfills, Kady came up with the idea of eTreasure to keep the environment free of electronic waste, use resources wisely, and protect the Earth. She began electronics collection drives to ensure the proper disposal of electronics. When possible, these electronics are refurbished and redistributed to help people in her community. Cell phones, tablets, and computers are first cleared and then donated to students, schools, soldiers, or other community members who otherwise would not have access to these technologies.
Kady has placed collection containers at schools throughout her county, and worked with city professionals to collect and ensure proper disposal, refurbishing, and redistribution of electronic waste. Since its inception in March 2015, eTreasure, Inc. has developed partnerships with local corporations, registered as a nonprofit corporation, collected over 500 pounds of eTrash, and become an official “Cell Phones for Soldiers” public drop-off location. Kady’s goal for e-Treasure is to eventually provide refurbished tablets to every student in the county.
Low-Cost Hetero-nanostructure Semiconductor Uses Visible Light Energy to Efficiently Degrade Toxins
Team: Joshua Zhou
Joshua successfully created a more efficient, low-cost, and environmentally friendly method of improving water quality and reducing pollution, particularly the pollutant 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). TCDD is a persistent, manmade human toxin unintentionally produced during manufacturing or incomplete combustion from fires, automobiles, coal-based power production, and other processes. TCDD contaminates rivers and other drinking water sources, impairs ecosystems, and has well-documented adverse impacts on human health. Joshua discovered existing TCDD remediation technologies were both inefficient and expensive, limiting their widespread use. He developed a unique material of semiconductor crystals that can affordably and efficiently degrade pollutants using visible light energy.
Not only does the new material successfully degrade TCDD, one of the most stable organic pollutants, but it will degrade most pollutants. The material, once placed in the environment, has no operational costs due to its passive use of visible light. Joshua hopes that the technology will serve as an affordable water pollution remediation option in developing nations. He has received international recognition and was honored with EPA’s prestigious Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award for his innovative approach to producing a safe, affordable, and simple method for degrading pollutants.
EPA Region 5:
CYC Sunshine Youth Garden
Team: Chicago Youth Centers-Nature Team
The Chicago Youth Center (CYC) Nature Team is a group of 18 energetic, enthusiastic, and outdoor-loving students aged 5–9 years who plan and care for the CYC Sunshine Youth Garden. The garden serves as an outdoor classroom for students to learn and teach others; a peaceful place for kids to work, play, and relax together; and a place for students to share fun activities with their families, friends, and neighbors. Garden mainstays include a community mural, sculptures, a memory garden, and vegetable and herb gardens.
The Sunshine Youth Garden engages students year-round. In the winter, the Nature Team brainstormed and planned the garden for the following summer. For the 2014–2015 season, the Nature Team planned sections of the garden, including a strawberry patch, a sunflower challenge, and “Worm City” – an area for composting, checking weather, and digging worms. In the spring, team members hosted a community garden party to kick off the gardening season. Over the summer and fall, team members donated fresh tomatoes, greens, carrots, peppers, and sunflowers to neighbors who visited the garden. The Nature Team members are eager to share what they have learned, and plan to work with other children to create another youth garden.
2015 Funded Projects of the Carmel Green Teen Micro-Grant Program
Team: Carmel Green Teen
The Carmel Green Teen Micro-Grant Program is a nonprofit, youth-led program that empowers young people to take action by funding youth- driven projects. The goal of its eight teenage board members, also called the Carmel Green Teen, is to challenge youth in Carmel, Indiana, to use their skills, creativity, and energy to help make their community greener and more sustainable. Since 2009, the Carmel Green Teen has funded and supervised 43 grant projects that engaged over 800 young people. Funded projects have reduced pollution, conserved natural resources, saved energy, and restored native habitats and species. The team oversees the execution of each project and gauges its environmental impact.
In 2015, the Carmel Green Teen administered six community environmental projects, including two projects to promote the recycling of water bottles and aluminum cans, two projects to encourage the use of reusable water bottles, a project to create beneficial habitat conditions for Monarch butterflies, and a project to support an Earth fair. The projects completed in 2015 and prior have positive benefits to the local environment. Some of the quantified benefits include: planting over 2,200 trees, bushes, and wildflowers, recycling tons of materials from school cafeterias each month, reducing 500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, eliminating the use of more than half a million plastic bags and thousands of plastic water bottles each year, and distributing compact fluorescent light bulbs, saving $2,100 in electricity bills each year.
Additionally, through the work of the Carmel Green Teen and its supported projects, youth learn about environmental stewardship and become environmental champions in the community.
EPA Region 6:
Beyond the Classroom Recycles at St Mary’s
Rhodes decided to take action when he learned that the school’s recycling program was coming to an end. Rhodes devised a new recyclables collection program that would be cost-free for the school. After seeking support from the school’s administrator, Rhodes placed recycling bins in each classroom and staff workroom. Every week, Rhodes and students from the Beyond the Classroom program collected plastic, aluminum, and paper recyclables. A local Girl Scout Troop then took these recyclables to the proper disposal location. By collecting and delivering the recyclables, the school did not need to pay for a separate recycling service, making the project cost- free and sustainable with ongoing support from student volunteers.
Inspired by Rhodes’ recycling initiative, students in the Beyond the Classroom program launched another campaign to save electricity. To begin, the students are turning off school computers each afternoon and taking responsibility to restart them each morning. In another classroom, students are encouraged to use reusable lunch boxes instead of plastic or paper bags. In fact, across the school there has been a shift in attitude with young students holding teachers and staff accountable for properly sorting recyclables. Rhodes hopes to establish a program for composting cafeteria leftovers in the near future.
Formation of Casis Forest Club
The Casis Elementary School adjoins a three- acre tract of forest land affectionately called the “Casis Forest.” Through a community volunteer, student Drew learned of some threats to the forest’s long-term health, including compacted soil, severe erosion, a lack of understory, and invasive species. Drew founded the Casis Forest Club and enlisted his peers to restore and protect the land. He arranged monthly meetings with students, a faculty sponsor, parents, community members, and outside experts to learn about the forest’s health and pick up trash. They also conducted forest maintenance activities such as mulching trails, building erosion control features, and planting native species.
Five years later, the Casis Forest Club has successfully improved the health of the forest by at least two measures. First, the number of desirable plant and animal species has increased. Second, the city’s Water Protection Department has attributed the students’ work to downstream water quality improvements. There has also been a positive impact on the school’s educational mission. Teachers conduct academic lessons in the forest. Physical education classes, including cross-country running on the trails, now take place in the forest. The club continues today with support from families, community members, environmental organizations, and parent-teacher association donations.
EPA Region 7:
Osage Earth Care
Team: Cameron G.
Concerned about the quantity of school waste headed to the local landfill, Cameron began the Osage Earth Care initiative to recycle paper. In fall 2013, Cameron began placing collection boxes for recyclable paper in every middle school classroom. Implementation spread to the high school in fall 2014 and the elementary school in October 2015. As the initiative spread, so have the types of recyclables collected. The initiative now also accepts plastic bottles, newspapers, and magazines at local schools. Each month the initiative collects approximately 1,440 gallon of recyclables, which Cameron personally helps collect from bins and deliver to appropriate facilities for recycling.
Outside the school system, Cameron coordinates with local businesses to collect and recycle cardboard. He uses a vertical cardboard baler to prepare the cardboard for recycling. Thus far, he has diverted over 4,000 pounds of cardboard from landfills. Through his actions, Cameron hopes to foster environmental awareness, and mainstream recycling practices among his peers and other community members.
RAGBRAI Recycling Program Assistance
Team: Laurel Stelter
Laurel has successfully participated in six Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) events since she was 13. RAGBRAI is a 7-day bicycling event that attracts 8,500 riders and 15,000 to 40,000 spectators to Iowa each year.During her third time participating, Laura became concerned by the lack of recycling along the route and contacted the event planners to begin and sustain a bottle and can recycling campaign. Prior to Laurel’s involvement, communities along the route were given minimal guidance on trash disposal and recycling. Yet, each of the riders produced an estimated 1.5 gallons of trash during a typical overnight stopover.
With support from RAGBRAI, Laurel’s campaign encouraged towns along the route to provide recycling opportunities for riders. In order to achieve this, Laurel researched recycling programs across the state; designed and gave a PowerPoint presentation to host communities; developed resources and tip sheets; helped event planners with key recycling messages, signage, and placement; and documented successes and areas for improvement. After the program began, Laurel documented recycling opportunities during RAGBRAI and their convenience for riders. In 2014, Laurel expanded on what she had learned, revising her presentation and trash disposal and recycling guidance in RAGBRAI handbooks. The community response to her message has been overwhelmingly positive. Laurel has become known as the “RAGBRAI recycling girl” and found that communities are eager to show her their improved recycling containers. She is currently sharing her experience to improve recycling at other community events.
EPA Region 8:
Ban Styrofoam in Lake County Schools!
Team: Styrofoam Stoppers
The Styrofoam Stoppers team was formed try to eliminate the use of polystyrene in their school cafeteria after learning about its negative environmental and health consequences. To begin, the Styrofoam Stoppers researched barriers to moving away from polystyrene and alternative options for the school. They presented their findings to other classrooms and reached out to a local conservation organization. They also made changes in their personal habits (e.g., using paper napkins instead of polystyrene plates during snack time and encouraging other students to do the same).
Next, the Styrofoam Stoppers teamed up with the Lake County High School Green Team and the Cloud City Conservation Center to conduct waste audits in their district. The student found that the school district was a major producer of waste, sending almost 120,000 pounds of it to a landfill each year, 16% of which was food packaging, including polystyrene. The students compiled this information for the school district. They showed it would be more economical to wash reusable dishes than to purchase and dispose of polystyrene. As a result, the Styrofoam Stoppers successfully convinced the school board to end the use of polystyrene in the entire district beginning in the 2015–2016 school year. By banning polystyrene and switching to reusable bowls, silverware, and trays, the Styrofoam Stoppers helped the district significantly reduce its waste and contribute to the community’s overall waste diversion goals.
Solar Panels: Short and Long Rays of Effect
Team: Mackintosh Academy 8th Grade Students
Believing solar power is a safe and cost-effective means for generating energy, Mackintosh Academy 8th graders researched, wrote, and successfully earned a grant to install solar panels at their school. In parallel with a solar panel installation two years later, the students spearheaded two campaigns to begin educating their peers on the benefits of solar power and to launch interest in the panels and their performance. First, at the Solar Celebration, the Mackintosh community celebrated the panel installation with informative presentations, and creative songs and dance. The celebration cultivated enthusiasm for the panels and the power they would generate. Second, during the Autumnal Equinox Inquiry, each classroom tracked data from the panels’ monitoring system and presented the findings about the system and how energy is harnessed from the sun. The students used videos, skits, songs, and artwork to distill this complex information.
Additionally, the students are using system monitoring data to inform building operations. For example, they determined that certain buildings were using air conditioning in excess. As a result of the solar panels and improved practices, Mackintosh Academy is saving thousands of dollars on its electricity bill. With these savings, the students have developed a “Solar Scholar” scholarship fund. The solar panels have successfully prevented nearly 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being generated and will continue to produce environmental, economic, and educational benefits for the school and community.
EPA Region 9:
Water Conservation at Meadows Elementary with Earth Library
Joshua, a fifth grade student at Meadows Elementary School, was inspired to action as he learned about the California drought. With approval from the school principal, Joshua began educating his peers with illustrative flyers, changing the way art brushes were cleaned to reduce water usage, and starting an Earth Library for fellow students to access books about environmental protection.
After taking these initial steps, Joshua took note of his fellow students’ actions and further sought to improve awareness. He created additional posters with water conservation tips, provided “Meadows Water Hero” stickers to students that used reusable water bottles, and set up a booth at Science Night advocating for water conservation and encouraging students to sign a pledge to save water and the Earth. Joshua still hopes to implement several longer-term actions at the school, including replacing grass with turf, installing sensor-activated sinks, adding mulch to plant beds, and planting drought-tolerant plant varieties. Through his efforts, Joshua estimates that he has reached more than 600 students and their families. He has realized that one person can inspire people to make a difference and, at the same time, make a difference as an individual.
Solving Storm and Flash Floods in City Streets by Using Network of Flow Sensors
After getting caught in a flood-induced traffic jam with her family, student Sanjana Shah observed that street flooding causes major cascading disruptions in the lives of thousands of people. To better understand and address street flooding, she completed an independent project consisting of original research, development of a monitoring device, and a pilot project to test the device. In her research, she discovered that the major causes for street flooding are clogged drains, insufficient and non-uniform distribution of drain openings, inadequate drain pipe sizes, and changes in soil permeability over the years.
Sanjana developed the Smart Flood Sensor, using a magnetic, flow- sensor monitoring device, to collect water flow data at drain openings. Via a Bluetooth module, these data are uploaded to central Internet of Things servers and analyzed to predict floods and their severity at nearby drain openings. Sanjana tested these Smart Flood Sensors in her local neighborhood. She configured the sensors to send data to the servers and alert her neighbors when flood threshold levels exceeded 75% of drain pipe capacity. Sanjana believes her sensors have the potential to generate real- time alerts, proactively deploy crews that can fix damaged or clogged drain openings, and prevent flooding.
EPA Region 10:
Creating a Salmon Mascot for Kitsap County
Team: 4th Grade Big Redd Designers
Studying salmon and their habitats, Clear Creek Elementary fourth graders decided to raise awareness and knowledge about salmon populations with fellow community members. The students determined that a mascot could educate community members that salmon presence is an important indicator of local watershed health. The students designed the mascot with the help of an international mascot company and held a community vote to select its name, “Big Redd.” Big Redd has made appearances at local elementary, middle, and high schools; salmon releases with fingerlings raised by students; the annual Seafair’s Whaling Days parade; the Hood Canal Green Summit; and at salmon camps at the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group property.
Additional efforts by these students have helped raise awareness about watershed health. They created a video explaining why the watershed is important to salmon populations and painted a mural highlighting the importance of the community’s creek. The students feel they have achieved their goal of raising awareness among other students and community members.
Story has been passionate about wolves since she observed them in the wild as a young child. She enjoys studying the wolves’ history, behavior, ecology, and impacts on other species. To bolster this knowledge, she meets with wolf scientists, attends coexistence workshops, interviews nongovernmental organization leaders, volunteers at Wolf Haven International, and studies wolves in the wild.
Story created Kids4Wolves to share her knowledge with other young people about conserving and coexisting with wolves. Kids4Wolves has initiated numerous letter-writing campaigns, participated in policy proceedings, and created informational videos. Story hopes to positively change attitudes about wolves by communicating in-person and across Kids4Wolves’ various social media platforms. Her goal is to generate interest among young people about wildlife and the outdoors, educate students with well-founded science, and inspire people to get involved in wolf-related policy. Kids4Wolves has a presence in many classrooms; the news media; and local, federal, and state policy proceedings.
2014 National Winners selected by each EPA Region
EPA Region 1:
Operation Ban the Bottle
Savannah Snell, Michael Bader, Brianna Bisson, Grace Chin, and Clara Cousins
The Environmental Club at Lincoln-Sudbury High worked to promote the use of reusable water bottles and to bring awareness of climate change to the 1,600 students at their school. The club raised money to purchase two purified water fountain refilling stations for the school, with the goals of decreasing and eliminating the sale and use of one-use plastic water bottles and reducing plastic waste at the school. The students started their project with a water taste test that showed that despite common belief, water from the fountains can taste just as good as water from one-use bottles as long as the temperature of the water is held constant. The club then held several fundraising events to help purchase the refilling stations. For one fundraising event, the club partnered with Next Step Living to conduct home energy audits. The actions of the club to reduce their school’s plastic waste stream and help others in their area learn how they could save money on home energy bills have reduced the carbon footprint in their community.
EPA Region 2:
It’s a Pressing Matter
Pinelands Eco Scienteers
In many countries around the world, the only way to cook meals is to use wood from nearby forests to fuel the fire, which can contribute to deforestation. The Pinelands Eco Scienteers wanted to come up with a solution for this problem. The group decided to design and distribute low-cost, easy-to-ship briquette presses for rural villages where deforestation is a problem. The Scienteers designed and tested four possible mini-briquette presses. They determined which one was the most effective press, and then tested it with different bio-waste materials, such as banana peels and sugarcane waste. The group presented their Mini-Compound Double Lever Press at community events and science fairs, and was awarded grants from several organizations. With the grant support, the Scienteers field tested their press in Guatemala and completed construction for shipment to rural villages. They are looking to set-up a non-profit organization to continue their efforts and produce more presses to be distributed around the world.
EPA Region 3:
Conversion of Plant Waste Materials into Useful Fuel Blocks for Combustion
Renewable energy sources can offer cleaner and less polluting alternatives to fossil fuels. Eugene tested a method for making combustible fuel blocks from plant waste materials, including fallen leaves and pine needles, tree bark, sawdust, and hay. These sources can supply heat while producing little to no net emissions of greenhouse gases compared to coal, oil, or natural gas. Eugene produced fuel blocks by mixing each plant material with hot flour glue. The flour glue that was used solidified the plant materials and was also a renewable biomass material. Eugene used a mold to turn the mixture into a block, and then he dried the block. The fuel blocks can be used during cold weather to provide heat. The simple steps for making them from renewable sources can be implemented in urban and rural regions.
EPA Region 4:
A Green and Novel Technology for Recovering Copper and Wood from Treated Wood Waste—Part 1
Treating wood with preservatives containing copper extends its service life; however, when treated wood reaches the end of its life, it cannot be burned or used as compost or mulch. This can lead to millions of pounds of copper and wood being disposed of in a landfill annually. Sharon decided to develop a green technology for recovering copper from treated wood, so that both could be reused. She tested seven different aqueous solutions for copper removal from sawdust and chips. She discovered that citric acid and ammonium salts were the two most effective copper removal solutions. Citric acid had a copper recovery rate of 100%, while ammonium salts had a 90% recovery rate. The effectiveness, safety, and low cost of citric acid and ammonium salts compared to other methods of removal may make them attractive for consideration in commercial use, which could lead to the reuse of millions of tons of wood and copper. Additionally, the extraction of copper from treated wood chips provides significant energy savings compared to the production of sawdust. These chips also offer more opportunities than sawdust for reuse in landscaping, pulping, energy production, and other applications.
EPA Region 5:
Denim jeans can be recycled into housing insulation for communities in need. In 2009, Erek Hansen decided to become a part of that effort by hosting a collection drive for jeans, called “Denim Drive in the Driveway.” By 2014, Erek had created an organization called EcoErek that partnered with Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful to host three recycling drives each year and establish community drop box locations. Erek worked with churches, corporations, hospitals, youth groups, and others to collect jeans and shoes for recycling. Over the last six years, EcoErek’s recycling drives have collected more than 22,000 pairs of denim items and 12,000 pairs of shoes. These items can be reused or repurposed into housing and car insulation, carpet underlayment, and playground mulch. As a result of Erek’s efforts, less waste is going to the local landfill, and the community has an increased awareness about the benefits of recycling.
EPA Region 6:
Arsenic: It’s What’s for Dinner
Groundwater that is contaminated by arsenic is the main source of drinking water in Cochran County Texas. Arsenic is a naturally occurring metal and a known carcinogen. Eight middle school students, called the Arsenic Arresters, led a research project in their community of Whiteface, Texas, with the goal of decreasing the amount of arsenic contamination and limiting human exposure. The group conducted research, interviewed experts in the field, and tested drinking water, wetlands, native plants, and soil in their community. They discovered that sand dropseed grass is an effective tool in removing arsenic from the soil, and that water drawn from the hot side of the tap had lower levels of arsenic than water from the cold side. Based on these results, the Arsenic Arresters instituted an educational campaign, including creating outreach materials and hosting public awareness days. As a result of this project, the level of arsenic in their county is being reduced.
EPA Region 7: No Winner
EPA Region 8:
South Boulder Creek Flood Restoration
During the devastating flood of September 2013, several stretches of South Boulder Creek in Colorado were damaged by roaring waters and heavy debris. A number of these areas are of critical ecological and social importance, including a 25,000 ft2 zone of City of Boulder Open Space (OSMP) near a popular hiking and biking trail. Seth Blum approached Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV) and OSMP to see how he could help restore the area. Seth was a previous volunteer with WRV and had learned how to apply ecological restoration techniques to the local landscape. He met with senior ecologists from OSMP to plan the technical logistics of restoration, recruited volunteers, and put together the plan to restore the site. On April 26, 2014, Seth worked with professionals to lead over thirty volunteers in planting 1,000 native plants and installing over 400 ft2 of erosion matting. At an evaluation six months later, Seth found the creek banks intact and native vegetation filling the area that had been full of debris.
EPA Region 9:
Don't Be a Nurdle, Help the Sea Turtle: Poaching, Bycatch and Plastic Pollution, Tell the Whole World About Our Solution
Mount Madonna School: Sara B., Amitabh B., Savannah C., Claire C., Samuel C., Sophia C., Violet F., Aria H., Kira K., Ronan L., Corey M., Oliver M., Riley M., James P., Ryan R., Kahlan T., Riley W., Jenna W.
“Don’t Be a Nurdle, Help the Sea Turtle” is a student-driven, integrated curriculum project based on environmental threats faced by California’s sea turtles. Eighteen students at Mount Madonna School created an educational and humorous movie to help raise money for sea turtle conservation. The movie helped to educate the public, and the students used the funds they raised from it to help support a sea turtle camp for children in Indonesian villages where Leatherback sea turtles nest. The students also spoke with and wrote letters to local and state representatives, cleaned trash off local beaches, and started a local “Stow It, Don’t Throw It” campaign to collect monofilament fishing line. Additionally, the students created a curriculum and several games about poaching, marine debris, and "bycatch," which is the term for marine species that are unintentionally caught while fishing, that teachers at the camp use to educate the village children.
EPA Region 10:
Creating an Efficient and Novel Method for Remediation of Marine Oil Spills through Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Principles
After studying the environmental impact of the 2010 Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill and other oil spills, Sahil Veeramoney began to research different methods for remediation. He discovered that the current methods for oil spill remediation were inefficient, expensive, and toxic. Sahil wanted to develop a more efficient method that could be deployed in the United States and worldwide. He combined ferromagnetic nanoparticles with chlorella algae to magnetize and separate oil. In a laboratory setting, his results showed significant improvement in efficiency over current remediation methods. He presented his findings to other students, the public, and professionals, leading to an increased general awareness about the environmental impact of oil spills, the inefficiency of current methods of remediation, and the need to develop more efficient methods of environmental management after an oil spill.
2013 National Winners selected by each EPA Region
EPA Region 1:
Solving the Global Water Crisis through the Application of STEM
Deepika developed a green and sustainable method to purify water. She increased public and youth awareness of what an indispensable natural resource clean and safe water is to all.
After much research, Deepika created a novel light-weight photocatalytic composite that harnesses solar energy for water purification. Deepika has filed a patent for her invention and plans to deploy her invention in places around the world that are affected by water pollution.
Deepika has won several regional, state, and national competitions for her invention. She also has been recognized by national and international media.
EPA Region 2:
Using Apples as a Locally Sustainable Fuel Source in New York State
Luke surveyed New York State apple orchards, and determined that apples, one of the most abundant crops in the state, would represent an economically viable raw material for developing ethanol. He determined that production costs for apple based ethanol could be lower than the current cost of petroleum. According to his assessment, apple based ethanol would also be more environmentally friendly as it would rely on local, renewable, sustainable foodstuffs, and production thereof would be beneficial to the environment.
Luke then collected waste apples from a New York State apple orchard, fermented and distilled the apples into ethanol, and successfully used this ethanol as an alternative to traditional petroleum.
EPA Region 3:
Remediation of Bisphenol A Contaminants in Water by Reusing an Activated Charcoal Filter
May’s study tested the reuse of activated charcoal as a means of removing Bisphenol A (BPA) from water supplies. She conducted experiments using an activated charcoal solution and varying concentrations of BPA solutions in consecutive rounds of filter use and continuous use.
Efforts have been made to eliminate BPA from the water supply by using new filtration methods in sewage treatment plants. Activated charcoal is a filtration technique used in other fields on a small scale and is promising for water filtration. From her experiments, May concluded that activated charcoal as a filter is effective for removal and is active for a number of times after the initial use, in both methods of filtration. The percent removal for both consecutive rounds of filtration and continuous use was consistently significant. The results are promising for the future of activated charcoal as an effective, economical method to filter BPA from wastewater. The use of activated charcoal as a filter would improve overall ecological health and significantly decrease risk of exposure to BPA. Most importantly, May would like to collaborate with treatment facilities to implement her research findings.
In addition to the PEYA program, May’s research paper was accepted for presentation at the American Water Resource Association 50th Annual Water Resource Conference, and the Association for Environmental Health and Science Foundation, 30th Annual International Conference on Soils, Sediments, Water, and Energy, this Autumn.
EPA Region 4:
Pollution Solution – Save the Catawba River
Team of 3 Students: Katie D., Mary R. & Grace W.
The Pollution Solution team found a major threat to the Catawba River in the form of polluted stormwater. The discovery was the catalyst for Team Pollution Solution, a grassroots effort by the teens to “Save the Catawba River: One yard at a Time”. Informational kits, built by the girls from household items they had on hand, are being used in classrooms to teach students about what causes stormwater pollution and how it can be stopped. The team tested the program with the Gaston Day School fourth-grade students. Kids loved watching how everyday living creates pollution and learning how simple steps, like picking up after your dog or bagging your yard waste, keep the stormwater drains clean and the river healthy.
EPA Region 5:
QR Code Trail Signs for New Nature Preserve
Julia was the co-head of the Lake Forest Country Day School’s environmental club called the WOLVES. She recruited volunteers to work on restoration of a seven acre piece of weedy, overgrown land on the south west portion of land on the school’s property. After restoration, the school was interested in establishing citizen science projects on the site as well as making an educational experience for visitors and future students. Julia created trail signs for the property as her community service project. She created 6 interactive signs with QR codes that could be constantly updated, as well as signs that could combine the school’s focus on technology and environmental science. The QR codes can be read by smart phones and link users to distinct information on the area of the trail that they are visiting. The coded signs enabled Julia to put more information into the technical sign than would fit on a traditional sign and gives visitors smart links to other information such as frog calls or photos. The codes also make updating the signs and their information easier as restoration progresses and site information changes. The property was dedicated in 2013 and the trail signs were introduced to the community at that time.
EPA Region 6:
Beyond the Classroom: Where Have All the Flowers and Birds Gone?
St. Mary Episcopal School
A group of 21 K-5 students at St. Mary Episcopal School in North Edmond, Oklahoma created an outdoor learning environment on their school grounds after witnessing the destruction of habitat at their school. The St. Mary’s school board brought in two thousand truckloads of dirt to create additional playing fields for students. The delivery of 200,000 yards of soil for the school development project resulted in the eradication of native flora, fauna and nesting habitats. The St. Mary’s student group spoke to their principal, wrote letters to the school board, and was able to create an area on their campus designated as a sanctuary, saving the few remaining trees and thickets.
Students collaboratively requested, collected, and planted native vegetation on the sanctuary land, and raised money in support of planting vegetable gardens and native vegetation for wildlife habitat. They used the rejuvenated space for outdoor learning and biology observations. Students shared their learning experiences and enthusiasm with other classrooms in the school and local communities through outreach materials in an effort to encourage other schools and groups to plant gardens. The students also worked with community groups on their growing gardening project and created wildlife habitat through a Bluebird trail and other native bird boxes. The students are also monitoring the health of the ponds adjacent to the property through water quality monitoring and runoff reduction actions.
EPA Region 7:
STEMS Zero Waste Project
Team of 12: Ethan T., Michael H., Lillianne B., Pranav K., Daniel B., Joey T., Andrew B., Eleanor M., Michael B., Max O., Linzee E., Shawn T.
A team of students collaboratively worked on the Exploring Zero Waste Project. Their project focused on environmental problems associated with school and restaurant food. Students worked on reducing the amount of organic waste going to the landfill by promoting food waste diversion projects in schools and restaurants, and changing attitudes and behaviors within the community to food waste diversion projects. They also looked at how schools and restaurants participate in the project, which included four schools, two chain restaurants, and one cafeteria food service program, along with three organizations. As food waste was collected and amounts were documented, a significant volume of food waste was diverted (one school had 4.25 tons diverted) from the landfill into a composting system. A chain restaurant received a DNR SWAP grant which provided funding to separate organic waste. Students worked with legislators to draft a bill addressing the food waste issue, which passed the Senate, but not the House. Additional steps are being discussed to understand how their work can be utilized and replicated in any community.
EPA Region 8: No Winner
EPA Region 9:
Donate, Don’t Dump
Team of 5: Gabrielle P. (Founder), Tess B., Grace M., Ethan P., Mia P.
Four years ago, Gabrielle created the “Donate Don’t Dump” campaign after learning that one in five people in the U.S. struggle to feed their families, yet billions of pounds of good food are sent to landfills. The aim of the campaign was to get surplus and short-dated food from grocers, growers and food companies in the San Diego-area donated to the hungry instead of being sent to landfills. The campaign grew into a non-profit that is now 100% volunteer and teen-run with 20 chapters and more than 4,000 members and partners in 4 states. The organization is set up to give kids the opportunity to get inspired to create change. The organization distributes more than 20,000 pounds of donated food each month to struggling families and seniors. They also work to promote issues tied to reducing hunger, promoting zero waste and environmental protection. The North County Food Bank in San Diego credits the group with an increase of more than 900,000 pounds (731,000 meals) in rescued food donations by raising awareness and coordinating donations.
EPA Region 10:
Students for Sustainability
Port Townsend High School
Team of 15: Ewan Shortess, Grayson Pennell, Lily Murock, Ian Hadden, Harry Doyle, Peter Temunovic, Rilke Rutenbeck, John Reid, Natalie Toews, Peri Muellner, Stein Pratt, Daniel Charlton, Micah Evalt, Eamonn Clarke, Sara Fullerton
Students for Sustainability is a student run organization from Port Townsend High School, Washington. Fifteen students have been taking action to mitigate climate change at their school, in their community, in their state, and at national levels. While learning about climate change in science classes, the group meets weekly to come up with sustainable changes in reducing the carbon footprint of the high school, all without adult assistance.
The Students for Sustainability conducted a waste and energy audit to reduce the amount of garbage at the high school. They analyzed the cost savings of switching to reusable dishes in the cafeteria. By reducing cafeteria waste, they estimate the school could save up to $10,000 a year. They also revived the school’s recycling program and worked with the local disposal company to obtain recycling bins. They convinced the school officials to switch to paperless bulletins, homework and assignments saving 30-100 reams of paper each year. Together the team has tackled sustainability issues that will result in both economic and environmental benefits. In the process, the students have learned everything from business principals like cost-benefit analysis and return on investment, to analyzing environmental trade-offs, identifying recycling barriers, and proposing solutions to focus on those barriers.
2012 National Winners selected by each EPA region
EPA Region 1:
Wind Energy Powers Camden Hills Regional HS
Camden Hills Regional High School
Nine years ago, a group of students, called the Windplanners, initiated an effort to understand the energy usage of their school. Efficiency upgrades were made and soon the group began to explore the feasibility of installing a wind turbine on campus. For the last eight years, these students have analyzed wind resource data, built up public support, collaborated with town and state officials, raised funds through private donations and competitive grants, analyzed energy usage at their school, and taken action to improve energy efficiency. Efficiency and conservation measures in the 2012-2013 school year have saved over $2,000.
The turbine is the first magnetic drive wind turbine of its size in Maine. It was student-purchased and is a school-owned and operated machine, perhaps the first in the nation at this scale. The turbine is expected to produce 100,000 kWh for the first year, which is currently about 10% of the school's electricity usage. Over the next few years, through further efficiency upgrades and conservation measures, the students anticipate producing 20% of the school's electricity from wind.
In celebration of the first year of operation, and to promote whole school awareness about energy, the Windplanners spearheaded a green week from April 8-12, 2013. Each day, they focused on one sector of energy consumption (electricity, heating, transportation, and food/waste) and made a collective school-wide effort to reduce consumption. The event culminated with a full school assembly where the results and data were shared. The Windplanners hope to inspire students to be a part of the solution and to make a school-wide plan of action.
EPA Region 2:
Take the Challenge
"Take the Challenge" is an environmental documentary that calls people to action, encouraging them to reflect on their everyday actions and think about the consequences that actions have on our oceans and local waters. The video is also meant to be educational, developing awareness of ocean acidification and the huge negative impact of carbon dioxide.
This has been a four year project. It began as a short video for Christopher's community, to describe problems in their local water. After interviewing the director of a science museum, Christopher met scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Philippe Cousteau of Earth Echo International, Ban ki-Moon (United Nationals Secretary General), and others. From scientists to world leaders - everyone who is aware of these problems is working to get the word out: these are not "local" issues; they affect everyone.
The documentary aired on public television in Long Island and New York City, and again on Cablevision throughout Nassau County. The educational coordinator of "Inquiry-to-Insight," an international, interactive program between marine research stations and high schools and colleges, shared the video within their network. The video was shown in schools in several states; it was also used as a motivational tool for Earth Day. The documentary received national recognition by the Alliance for Community Media at their 2012 Hometown Video Awards (Youth: Empowerment category).
This has been a phenomenal journey for Christopher - he achieved his goal of creating something to give to others, encouraging them to make a difference in the environment. He met many supportive people and learned the technical and creative requirements for making a documentary. Christopher looks forward to working with others on related projects. In fact, Christopher recently agreed to help a local group of bay association leaders with a video for their program and to be a spokesperson for their cause.
EPA Region 3:
The Use of TI02 Implemented Nanoparticles with the Aid of Ultra Violet Light to Help Deterge and Detoxify Groundwater, to the Extent of Being Consumed
The goal of Murwarid's research was to figure out a cheap, effective and environmental friendly method for water purification. The idea, discovered through investigation, is the use of titanium dioxide, in the form of implemented organic nanoparticles, to purify water. The oxidizing and photocatalysis properties of TI02 nanoparticles instigated the proposal of this simple technique. With the help of ultraviolet light and Murwarid's high school biology lab, this experiment was completed and proven to be accurate with astonishing supporting data and analysis. Murwarid proved that as increasing amounts of TI02 implemented nanoparticles were added to the 10.0 ml of contaminated water, derived from the Potomac River, the more visually and statistically purified the water became.
EPA Region 4:
Karly and Jeffrey K.
Karly and Jeffrey are a brother and sister team who co-founded the non-profit organization “Balls-Go-Round, Inc.” It was in middle school when the pair realized that hundreds of thousands perfectly good tennis balls were being discarded not only by their tennis academies, but by country clubs and various tournaments annually. While living in New York at the time, they’d begun to collect and recycle thousands of balls by gathering them in boxes and garbage bags and networking them into inner city communities.
After the family moved to Vero Beach, Florida, Karly and Jeffrey up scaled their concept of REPLAY-REBOUNCE as Florida was clearly a mecca for tennis. They recreated new networks with high-end resorts, clubs, academies, and even high schools/colleges to simply pay it forward to needy youth organizations and children’s programs.
Recipients include Title-1 poverty schools (who have never experienced “Field Day”), tennis for the disabled, inner city programs, and missionary flights to Haiti/Dominican Republic to impoverished children. They also donate regularly to animal shelters for play and adoption goody bags. Once balls are truly dead, many other household uses include dry erasers, holiday ornaments, herb gardens, etc.
As a result of their project, Karly and Jeffrey have saved over 300,000,000 balls from being dumped in the landfills each year. Karly and Jeffrey have become true leaders and a catalyst in re-thinking “rebounce” and have recycled 250,000+ ball back into replay! Now in high school, the pair speaks at sustainability forums, educate Universities/Colleges about tennis-teams’ infinite waste, greening campus life, and helping hundreds of country clubs recycle/network. Since 2007, their small vision has produced an alarming amount of recognition and awareness of this epic waste, environmental impact and desperate need to help Balls-Go-Round!
EPA Region 5:
Zephyr Wind Project
Mahtomedi High School Eco Club
Students in the Eco Club worked with the community and a wind contractor to raise $100,000 in private donations and grants needed to build a 10 kilowatt wind turbine next to their high school football field. (See photo below.) The turbine provides power for the high school stadium’s lights, scoreboard, and concession stand and serves as an educational tool for the community. Excess power goes into the Xcel Energy grid and revenues from that energy go back to the school. Since installation in September 2011, the turbine’s carbon offsets equals 202 trees or 8 tons of C02 saved.
EPA Region 6:
Save the Blackland Prairie
Chandler planned, led, and carried out four very significant project in natural resource conservation and environmental improvements at the Connemara Conservancy. Chandler obtained four tons of rock to create and build a rock apron and dam around a storm sewer in order to slow erosion and to redirect water into the Blackland Prairie Meadow at the Connemara Conservancy. In the area of Invasive Species Control, Chandler removed Johnson grass and Bermuda grass from the Meadow and replaced them with native Texas grasses. Chandler also built and repaired birdhouses, built a rabbit hutch and released box turtles, currently on the Texas threatened list, into The Meadow. In addition, Chandler removed trash and flood debris from Rowlett Creek, which runs through the Conservancy. Chandler then monitored and publicized water quality monitoring and obtained a Proclamation from the Mayor of Allen which declared September 18, 2012 as “Water Monitoring Day” commending the Connemara Conservancy for it’s “commitment to promoting good stewardship of our water resources”. Chandler generated over 1,000 volunteer hours and involved 100s of Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and interested adult and youth volunteers. Chandler also applied for and won a $1,000 Disney grant to help complete his projects. Chandler has other grant applications pending at this time to assist with his initiatives in the Blackland Prairie.
EPA Region 7:
Action4Air: An Anti-Idling Campaign
Center for Creative Learning
Fourth grade students from the There’s No Zone Like the Ozone classes at Rockwood School District’s Center for Creative Learning (CCL) started a vehicle anti-idling campaign called Action4Air. The Action4Air project is an anti-idling campaign to reduce idling at the CCL. The students wanted to take on this project because vehicle idling is a source of ground-level ozone. This campaign started in 2011 when the students saw the Clean Air Partnership website; they wanted to know how they could become a partner to help improve air quality.
The students set two goals: reduce idling on campus and spread the message. The students completed a survey of idling cars in the county and in the parent pick up line so they could have a baseline to compare measurements. In the first year, all bus idling stopped at the CCL and parent idling decreased from 53 percent to 38 percent. The survey was completed again in the fall, showing that idling had decreased another 11 percent. Altogether idling in the parent pick up line has decreased by 26 percent.
The students have spread the message about their project through media coverage and the CCL website, and have created an Action4Air webpage. Most recently, the students wrote an anti-idling proposal that was presented to the school board in October 2012. This policy was voted upon and approved on February 7th by the school district’s Board of Education.
EPA Region 8:
Fairview Net Zero Club
The Fairview Net Zero Club decided in 2008 that it wanted to ban plastic bags in Boulder, CO. In April, 2011 it set out to make this goal reality. After researching the topic, the club expanded its goal to include putting a fee on paper bags. On November 15, 2012 Boulder passed an ordinance placing a 10-cent fee on paper and plastic bags. Boulder estimates this will eliminate 10,000,000 bags annually and generate $400,000 in annual revenue earmarked for recycling initiatives. It will impact an estimated 200,000 people in the Boulder area.
The club spent 19 months successfully lobbying Boulder City Council to pass an ordinance. The Fairview Net Zero students spoke at nearly every city council meeting during that time. They thoroughly researched the topic and convinced the city staff and council to take action. They are widely credited with getting the ordinance passed and were interviewed by channels 7, 8, and 9, CBS News Radio New York, the Boulder Camera and the Royal Banner. Their story was picked up on the wire and published in numerous newspapers, blogs, and websites. Fairview Net Zero Club grew to nearly 50 students, showing that students do want to contribute to their communities.
200,000 people will change their behaviors and hopefully think more about the impact on the environment they make in their daily lives. Eliminating untold millions of bags in future years and funneling millions of dollars into Boulder recycling in the next few years would make any group proud, but that this was a group of teenagers with no budget and no political connections, makes it that much more remarkable. The story was picked up because these teenagers showed the world that a group of dedicated kids with a well-thought-out plan can do anything.
EPA Region 9:
Green Kids Now
Pavan Raj G.
Pavan founded the non-profit organization “Green Kids Now, Inc” for kids to join together from all around the world to care for the environment, raise awareness, take action and share ideas & experiences. He has written two children story books. “Two Tales from a Kid” shows the importance of the whole community coming together to keep their environment clean and “Geckoboy-The Battle of Fracking” introduces the new method of innovation-Biomimicry to kids and also raises awareness of the side effects of fracking. He currently is the International Reporter for the Primary Perspective Radio Program in Australia, a show that is for kids and created by kids. His short interviews with experts on environmental topics are broadcast from Melbourne, Australia and New York’s Earthpreservers EPTV and about 150 schools in the Asia-Pacific region listen from their classrooms. He also founded the annual Green Kids Conference several years ago to educate kids and their families on environmental issues; focusing on children and promote, encourage, and reward new innovative ideas from them. He was able to initiate a partnership with Microsoft and through their sponsorship, continues to reach out to other organizations and groups for future participation. He’s had approximately 800 adults and youth attend each year. Pavan has been working with schools around the Bay Area to help obtain the Green Star Award, offered by many counties and cities. He has created a do-it-yourself step by step guidance document that was published in September of 2012 that help the youth move in the Path of Innovation: how they can apply their academic areas like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), introduces Biomimicry as the method of innovation, and show the fundamentals of industry standard project management.
EPA Region 10:
ROC the Kenai
Courtney developed an environmental awareness program called the ROC the Kenai which stands for "Respect Our Community". This is a youth driven environmental organization. ROC the Kenai focuses on resolving the problem of proper disposal of fish remains generated by thousands of dip net fishermen at the mouth of the Kenai River and the prevention of the bacteria, fecal coliform. This bacterium is thought to be created by the overwhelming amounts of fish and seagull waste left on the beach. In order to tackle this problem, the group focused on building public awareness, outreach, partnering with local organizations, working with the City of Kenai to keep litter and fish waste off the beach, and convincing the City Council to change the city codes and regulations to enforce proposer disposal of fish waste. After two years of work on the beaches, the City Council is now ready to impose a regulation that will take effect this upcoming dip net season.
During the month of July, Kenai is overwhelmed with fishermen from all over the state in search of the Kenai River red salmon. This fishery allows 25 fish per head of household and 10 fish for every other family member. The community benefits from the dip net fishery, but 900 tons of fish waste and tons of trash litter the beaches of the river.
Courtney secured printing costs from the City to create a public awareness brochure to hand out to the dip netters as an educational tool. She and others spent hours on the beach handing out the brochures, talking to the people about the project to increase public awareness, and cleaning up the beach.
Courtney presented her project to the Kenai City Council, and returned for updates numerous times. She attended city work sessions and Harbor Commission meetings as an advocate for ROC the Kenai and the environment. After spending many hours on the beach, she reported back to the City Council with suggestions to better the fishery from dip netters themselves. Courtney suggested signage in different languages be created, and strict enforcement of city codes and regulations be enforced because many users of this fishery show no regard for the community or the environment.
2011 National Winners selected by each EPA region
EPA Region 1:
Genetic Analysis of the Brown, Brook, and Tiger Trout Populations within the Lake Champlain Basin
The Lake Champlain Basin covers over 8,000 square miles in Vermont and New York and is a vital ecosystem to the region. When Markie Palermo, an 11th grader, learned about the declining brook trout population she asked if genetic analysis could be used to potentially solve this environmental problem. Brook trout are very important because they serve as an indicator for quality of coldwater habitats and as the fishing industry has grown the trout population has an economic impact as well. While brook trout are native to the area, non-native brown trout were being stocked in the basin’s tributaries. Regional and state agencies were concerned that the native brook trout populations within the basin were declining due to the health of the ecosystem and/or mating of native female brook trout with male brown trout (hybridization), producing a sterile tiger trout. It was unknown if this hybridization was occurring in the Lake Champlain Basin.
After Markie attended a presentation by Dr. Elwess on DNA analysis, she asked about using genetic analysis to investigate the potential hybridization in the basin. Dr. Elswess agreed to let Markie work with her during the 2011 summer. Markie was also able to obtain assistance from other state and federal experts to help conduct her research and investigate her hypothesis of hybridization. With protocols and techniques in place and help from the experts, Markie successfully obtained trout DNA samples through the capture and safe release of the trout. The samples were analyzed and Markie’s research served to show two things: first, a genetic survey was that can serve as a baseline for further genetic monitoring of brook trout, brown trout and possible tiger trout within the Lake Champlain Basin, and second, the genetic testing that supports that hybridization has occurred within the basin. Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Irene and other natural storms had a destructive impact on the trout population this past year, making Markie’s study even more important.
The results were disseminated on the local, regional, state and national level. Media covered her project and her research paper was accepted for publication by the Journal of Experimental Secondary Science (national journal) for their January/February 2012 issue. Markie also presented her findings at the National Association of Biology Teachers National Conference in the fall of 2011. Markie’s project may contribute to planning decisions concerning the stocking of fish with in the basin and protection of habitat that will contribute to a healthy economy and ecosystem.
EPA Region 2:
Young people have the power to change the world, and that's why Christopher believes in harnessing that power to combat environmental issues on our society today - and prevent them from growing into larger problems later on in our lifetime. Chris started Kids Change the World in middle school and then developed Plant Green to empower young people with start-up grants, websites, and other grassroots services and resources to start charitable, nonprofit programs to benefit the environment. Plant Green's website features educational facts about the environment and other resources for teachers to use in the classroom. Christopher believes that awareness is key in combating any issue because there is power in numbers.
Christopher’s unique approach to solving environmental problems has led him to use an indirect approach to pinpointing environmental problems that are detrimental to human's health. He funded lung cancer research at some of the world’s most acclaimed facilities and has invested in research that is trying to find the cause of lung cancer. Additionally, he has partnered with hospitals and other organizations around the world to perform 60 cleft-surgeries, a birth defect hypothesized to be caused by a myriad of environmental problems in developing countries. By investing in this unique approach of enabling others to "take action" in communities and funding research that will pinpoint environmental issues to raise awareness and concern, Christopher believes that this is one of the best ways to creating a better world.
EPA Region 3:
Hydroelectricity through Rainwater Collection: World Impact Starts in Your Own Backyard
Megan’s engineering goal for the second year of her project was to generate a greater amount of electricity in her rain barrel than the first year of her project by implementing the hydroelectric system to her home. Her purpose was to create more electricity by enhancing the components of her generator. The results of Megan’s project demonstrated that she generated three times the electricity than year one, which she found to be statistically significant. With Megan’s generator system, seven six-volt batteries could be filled within a year. These batteries could be deposited into the power grid or even sent to communities around the world in need of electricity. By implementing her rain barrel system she found that approximately 2.63 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions could be diminished from the atmosphere annually. For Megan, this is of vital importance because her home state of Pennsylvania is ranked third nationally in highest emissions and it is projected that within ten years, it could be ranked first. Also, almost $50 could be saved from her family’s home electric bill by the generation of approximately 4,552 watts of power annually.
The rain barrel also has enormous impacts to our environment. By working with a local watershed organization to implement additional rain barrels, Megan is helping to conserve water and helping to prevent flooding. She contacted Create Change Africa about their water crisis relief efforts and the impact of rain barrels on developing countries with a limited supply of drinking water. In these countries, individuals rely on rain and water collection to survive. By installing her rain barrel in developing countries, the lives of millions can be impacted. Not only can a fresh water supply be possible, but electricity could be made possible, too!
EPA Region 4:
C.L.E.A.N. (Choosing to Lead Environmental Action Now) Club, Storm Drain Tagging & Environmental Education
A Pulaski County 4-H'er, Andrew has a deep rooted passion for environmental education and wanted to be able to share it with others. Andrew noticed that Pulaski County needed help because of the rising levels of pollution in the Ocmulgee River from the city. In 2011, Andrew decided to confront the Hawkinsville City Manager to start the process concerning a storm drain tagging project in the city of Hawkinsville, and he convinced the manager to help with the project. To get peer support, Andrew started a club for 4-H students called the C.L.E.A.N. (Choosing to Lead Environmental Action Now) Club.
EPA Region 5:
Community Recycling Campaign, Inc.
Olentangy Liberty High School student Sachin Rudraraju launched the Community Recycling Campaign (CRC) in 2007. He noticed that unused computers and other electronic items were being sent to landfills instead of being sent for recycling. During his research he found out that although many companies recycle electronics, there is a fee involved. He decided to start a campaign to raise community awareness and provide alternative solutions for old or outdated computers and electronics in local subdivisions. The mission of CRC is based on the principal “help ever, hurt never; love all, serve all” to promote recycling awareness in the public, make a positive contribution to global conservation of energy, and to support “reduce, reuse and recycle”. Volunteers collect electronic items, refurbish them, and give them to local charities for reuse. Items that cannot be refurbished are sent to the proper e-waste centers for recycling and disposal. CRC is responsible for diverting thousands of pounds of electronic waste from landfills to recycling centers in the city of Powell, Ohio.
In addition to e-waste recycling, Sachin’s team participated in various service activities to help local charities, including: clothing recycling and fundraising for charities such as the hemophilia foundation, UNICEF and India Flood Relief Victims. The organization now offers a free pick up service from friends and families as well as different drop off locations, which they have set up. They organize computer refurbishing on the first Sunday of every month. They also started an initiative to promote recycling awareness and to run some small recycling projects in adopted schools. As part of the program they started a recycling knowledge center in each adopted school. In turn, each school encourages students to start small recycling projects and waste management programs.
EPA Region 6:
Bringing Bats to Beavers Bend
After taking an AP environmental science class, Ainsley became concerned about the long-term harmful effects of pesticides as well as the huge numbers of disease-carrying insects in local parks. When it came time to apply for her Girl Scout Gold Award during her junior year of high school, she decided to design and implement a project that would address those concerns. The purpose and goal of Ainsley’s project was to help her community solve the problem of insect control through environmentally safe and sustainable methods. After researching this subject and meeting with the environmental services manager for the City of Frisco, she received permissions to build and hang ten bat boxes in a wooded park near her home. This project was needed because in suburban areas such as Frisco, development has destroyed wooded areas where bats like to live and reduced the overall number of bats. An individual bat eats thousands of insects each day, so restoring the bat population can reduce the number of insects, such as disease-carrying mosquitoes, and therefore reduce the use of harmful pesticides. Also, by keeping the insect population in check, bats help maintain the natural balance of both animal and plant life. By giving the bats a permanent home in an area where they would thrive, Ainsley hoped to create a sustainable solution to a problem that affects her entire community.
Ainsley received donations of cash and materials, then enlisted the help of her family and friends to build ten bat boxes using chemical-free wood and materials. The boxes were hung without using nails or hooks imbedded into the trees. She educated the community about her project through a scrapbook and the internet.
EPA Region 7:
Purple Loosestrife Project
Class of 2013, Niobrara High School
The Purple Loosestrife Project is a wetlands conservation project focused on controlling Purple Loosestrife, an aggressively invasive plant species, around the tiny town of Niobrara, Nebraska. This project originated six years ago as a good excuse to get outside the high school biology class to help conservation agencies dig thousands of Loosestrife roots out of the wetland areas which are used to raise Galerucella beetles in captivity. A host-specific biological control method, the beetles are propagated to maintain biodiversity in the wetlands by eating only Purple Loosestrife plants.
This project started out as a one day a year community service project that has grown into a yearlong intensive conservation program, a legacy passing from one biology class to the next. This past year, biology students collaborated with various state and federal agencies including Nebraska Game and Parks, US Army Corps of Engineers, Lower Niobrara Natural Resource District, Missouri National Recreational River and County Invasive Species boards to raise the Galerucella beetles in a constructed pond in an under-used playground area. Using GPS and population counts, the effect the beetles had on Purple Loosestrife infestations has been documented. The result has been an increase in diversity in wetlands that were once completely infested with the “purple plague”.
The project has been a great opportunity for the students. It not only meets state and local science standards, but more importantly gives students the opportunity to do real science work and engage them in problem based learning. This project has given students an opportunity to become more involved in their community and helps them understand the environment is not permanent and that we must help maintain and protect it. Students grow from simply being a resident and by becoming an active citizen in the community.
EPA Region 8:
Radon Awareness Project (RAP)
Christina and Eric B.
In November 2010, Christina and Eric developed the Radon Awareness Project (RAP) to educate Coloradans that radon exposure can cause lung cancer. Ms. Faye Dugan inspired them with the sad and untimely death of her husband Steve who was exposed to radon while working in his basement. Christina and Eric feel that it is important to recognize inherent dangers in the environment. Radon, a radioactive gas from uranium breakdown in our rocks and soil, is one such danger that we can reduce or prevent altogether from getting in our lungs. Colorado has an unusually high level of the gas; over 21,000 people die from radon each year in the U. S. and estimated 500 die in Colorado.
Christina and Eric worked with their state health department, EPA, and the American Lung Association and in 8 months grew the collaboration to include Jefferson County Health Department, Habitat for Humanity, Girl Scouts, 4-H, and CanSAR (Cancer Survivors against Radon). They addressed a basic part of our community, the homeowner, by educating them on radon and testing. They presented to community outreach groups and government officials demanding greater attention to this invisible killer. Publicity was via the web site), a RAP rap song, newspaper articles, local News and various blogs.
The RAP is a concerted effort through multi-faceted community outreach and media exposure in order to reach homeowners; it is applicable to all states with high radon zones. The RAP has culminated in starting public policy in Colorado. Christina and Eric Bear have learned that kids, no matter how young, can positively impact environmental effects on health.
EPA Region 9:
Oak Park High School
Since 2009, six high school students have been raising awareness of large container ships striking and killing migrating whales in the Santa Barbara Channel, including the boundaries of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. They wanted to educate people about the beauty & majesty of whales; learning and becoming involved in whale protection issues and understanding how whales around the world remain in danger due to hunting, pollution, and global climate change.
They started out developing a lesson plan for middle and high school students about whale migration in the Channel, the complex issue of ship strikes and other threats. They've done extensive research through the years regarding recommendations and petitions to move the shipping lanes out of the sensitive areas and reduce the speed of the ships as they transit through them. They planned a Week of Whale in 2011. With the help of the PTA's at all 8 of the schools, they were able to fund naturalist Brent Nixon, an expert on whales, to hold assemblies at all the schools at Oak Park USD. They also arranged a community whale watching expedition for 125 people to view migrating California gray whales and humpback whales, serving as docents for the day, along with two naturalists from the American Cetacean Society. The students also authored a creative whale activity book that they used as one of their interactive activities while visiting elementary school students in the district. All of the 4,200 students in the schools were impacted by the various projects.
EPA Region 10:
Boise Riverbank Restoration Project
Carl B., William D., and Nathan W.
Carl Breidenbach, William D'Onofrio and Nathan Wong, along with community support, undertook the rehabilitation of a stretch of eroding bank on the Boise River greenbelt. As part of their class process, the students decided to write a mock grant proposal. But, instead of staying as a mock proposal, they actually submitted the proposal, were accepted and received funding. The students also ran into several hurdles causing the project to take much longer than their one year project plan. In fact, it spanned almost two years during which the students transitioned from junior high to high school. Even with this significant educational transition and time element, the students saw the project through to completion.
To protect both land and aquatic life, they were determined to re-stabilize a destroyed area of the Boise River bank. Their plan was to provide a limited access trail complete with plant native plants but the specific requirements of this seemingly simple landscaping project required far more than anticipated. Soon after contacting the city with their proposal, they were working with people on every level of government, non-profits and businesses - Boise City, Ada County, Idaho Department of Water Resources, the Army Corps of Engineers and Trout Unlimited and the Rock Placing Company. After students explained their vision to the Rock Placing Company, they made a significant contribution by donating the materials, stone slabs, heavy equipment and staff resources to create access to the popular beach.
The next phase involved re-vegetation. After months of research and well into the following fall, the students could finally plant. By engaging and enlisting the help of Timberline Tree Club, they planted over 100 native plants, moved a massive 3/4 log bench to create a sitting area, and planted a 25 foot weeping willow to symbolically replace one nearby that had died. Although the project took almost two years it will last for decades, improving trout habitat, water quality, and creating a beautiful spot to stop along the Boise River.
2010 National Winners selected by each EPA region
EPA Region 1:
Youth Climate Action Network (Youth CAN)
Boston Latin Schools
Boston Latin School (BLS) students founded the Youth Climate Action Network (Youth CAN) in 2007 after watching the movie, An Inconvenient Truth. BLS Youth CAN was the first and founding group of a growing network of afterschool, extra-curricular environmental climate change clubs. BLS Youth CAN's major initiatives include a statewide education for sustainability campaign and corresponding curriculum initiative, a free annual climate change summit at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for youth and educators, a growing network of Youth Climate Action member clubs in Massachusetts schools, a shared green roof and community learning center proposal that students developed in partnership with Studio G Architects, and a comprehensive sustainable food program working with Farm to School, a local chef, and parents. The students act to address issues of global climate change and promote sustainability in their school and communities. They engage in extensive educational outreach and host numerous events for students and teachers. They are demonstrating a model for greening middle and high school campuses and curriculum, and are promoting a network capable of fostering youth leadership statewide.
In the four years since BLS Youth CAN was founded the students have won tens of thousands of dollars in grants, competitions and prizes. Their accomplishments include the launching of a statewide education for sustainability campaign, proposing a green roof and community learning center to be shared with other schools, and conducting an energy audit and energy assessments for BLS.
BLS Youth CAN has also organized and hosted many events such as an annual climate summit at MIT, an annual fall kick-off for the Youth Climate Action Network, an annual Teach-In on global climate change solutions at the Boston Latin School, and a weeklong Summer Institute on Sustainability for educators.
EPA Region 2:
D.R.O.P. (Delanco Recycles Our Plastic) Bags
Over 500,000 plastic bags have been collected for recycle or reuse since Miranda founded D.R.O.P. (Delanco Recycles Our Plastic) Bags in 2008. Pawline began the project after witnessing excessive amounts of plastic bags in and alongside of the Delaware River near where she lives. Plastic bags are not part of the Delanco Township public recycling program so Pawline set up drop-off sites around the area. Recycling buckets are now located in the schools, library and municipal building. Pawline let the residents know about the program through notices, the local paper and on the township website. She collects the bags on a regular basis and takes them to the local ShopRite where they are picked up by a company that uses the plastic to create lumber products.
To date, Pawline has spearheaded the collection of over 500,000 plastic bags. She promotes recycling and the use of reusable shopping bags by distributing reusable bags at the Burlington County Earth Fair, Delran Day, Delanco Community Day, and works in conjunction with the Philadelphia Phillies Red Goes Green campaign. She was also honored to plug into the multi-million dollar solar field for the Mt. Laurel Municipal Ambassador for the New Jersey Clean Communities Council. Wearing her plastic bag Green Queen ball gown, she passed out reusable bags at trade shows and public events throughout New Jersey and has recorded public service announcements that will air on network and cable stations.
Additionally, Pawline is an honor roll student, in the school band, and passionate about playing sports. Outside of school she volunteers with many community organizations. She was Miss New Jersey Junior National Teenager in 2009 and is the 2011 America's Junior National Sweetheart, a title she earned for scholastic achievement, community service and leadership.
EPA Region 3:
Environmental Awareness Festival
Philadelphia high school senior Joy Best was presented the EPA Region 3 President's Environmental Youth Award for her hard work to bring environmental awareness to her community.
EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin presented the award to Best at a ceremony held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on April 13, 2011. Best developed and implemented an Environmental Awareness Festival geared toward both students and adults at the Wyoming Branch of the Philadelphia Library in Philadelphia's Feltonville section. The festival used youth-led research, displays, arts and crafts, and experiments to educate and inspire the community about environmental issues including water protection, solar energy, urban forestry and community gardens. Best was assisted by other youth, ages 9 to 15, and her sponsors.
EPA Region 4:
Wetland Boardwalk & Wildlife Observation Deck
Kyle Kittelberger began the construction of an 80-foot wetland boardwalk at Falls Lake Recreation Area in 2008 to earn his Eagle Scout. Over the next two years Kittelberger continued his environmental endeavors by building new access points throughout the recreation center and improving the surrounding habitat. Kittelberger built an observation deck, new staircases to prevent erosion and eight recycling centers throughout the recreation center. Public access was improved so visitors could better enjoy the outdoors. The surrounding habitat was also improved by removing invasive species. With the help of park rangers, Kittelberger and volunteers were able to remove the invasive species, Autumn Olive, which was threatening native plants.
Kittelberger was presented the President's Environmental Youth Award by EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg at Raleigh's "Planet Earth Celebration" on April 16, 2011.
Kitterlberger's project is divided into four parts which allows for promotion of awareness of our nation's natural resources and encourages positive community involvement while addressing conservation and sustainability issues in the ecosystem at the Sandling Beach, Falls Lake State Park.
EPA Region 5:
Mother McAuley High School
Just before the major earthquake that devastated the island nation of Haiti, a group of teenagers, thousands of miles away in Chicago, Illinois, were hard at work developing a solar-powered biodiesel processor for a Haitian school.
The EcoMacs consist of young women from Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School. These PEYA winners developed Operation Haiti with the hopes to bring more economic stability to Pichon, Haiti. The students studied the region, the people and the economy. They took the initiative to learn about the environmental resources available in the village of Pichon, such as the Jathropha plant and constant sun exposure.
To utilize the natural resources of Pichon, the students built a solar-powered biodiesel processor and worked with farmers to plant Jathropa whose seed oil can be converted to marketable products. The EcoMacs educated students and faculty at the Pichon School on the process of making soap out of a glycerin by-product and the use of biodiesel in oil lamps.
Due to logistical issues, the processor is still awaiting shipment to the Pichon School, but that did not stop the EcoMacs from continuing to promote environmental awareness by educating members of the local community about the project through PowerPoint slides and Earth Day events.
The Mother McAuley High School EcoMacs were presented the President's Environmental Youth Award for Region 5 by EPA Deputy Regional Director of Air and Radiation, Bruce Sypeniewski on April 13, 2011.
EPA Region 6:
Abbie R., Kennedy B., Jenna B.
Three teens from Allen, Texas created the H.O.P.E. (Help Our Planet Earth) for the Best Campaign in 2008 to educate people about the long- and short-term effects of plastic bags on the environment. The founders of H.O.P.E. are focused on encouraging people to switch from disposable plastic shopping bags to reusable bags.
The inspiration for the H.O.P.E. for the Best Campaign began when a mother of one of the teens wanted to create an environmentally friendly reusable bag and asked her daughter to do research on the environmental impacts of plastic bags. After completing the research and sharing the shocking information with friends, the three Texas young women became inspired to make the switch to reusable bags and campaign for others to do the same.
The high school students have spread the word of H.O.P.E, by handing out brochures, traveling to eco-events and giving presentations at schools, businesses and government organizations.
The teens were presented the President's Environmental Youth Award by EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz on April 22, 2011 at an Earth Day event in Dallas, Texas.
EPA Region 7:
Renew and Reconnect
Goddard High School
Students at Goddard High School were presented the President's Environmental Youth Award for their "renew and reconnect" project that led to the development of an Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site (OWLS).
Close to 130 students participated in the "renew and reconnect" project that restored a 4,000-square foot native area of prairie grasses located on school grounds. They also established and maintained three garden beds as a native prairie garden which contains culturally significant native plants. The plants helped to certify the site as a Monarch Way Station for migrating Monarch butterflies. Students also built benches to be used by classes visiting the gardens and developed ceramic sculptures that are displayed along the tall grass nature trail. By collecting paper and aluminum cans from district schools, the students have been able to use the recycling proceeds to fund many of their environmental projects.
Region 7 Deputy Administrator William Rice presented the award to Goddard High School as part of the school's Celebrate Earth Event on April 20, 2011. During the Celebrate Earth Event, teachers and high school students from Goddard conducted environmental workshops for visiting elementary school students. The event included environmental- and biology-themed demonstration booths, static displays, and games. There were also six hands-on classroom lab opportunities featuring an oil spill simulation, creation of a watershed and a game highlighting the predator-prey relationship.
EPA Region 8:
Net Zero Club
Fairview High School
A group of students from Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado received the President's Environmental Youth Award at a March 2, 2011 ceremony attended by officials from EPA's office in Denver, Colorado. The students were recognized for founding the Net Zero Club in 2007 and taking extensive measures to make their high school more environmentally sustainable.
"The committed students of the Net Zero Club have not only reduced Fairview High's carbon and waste footprint, they have raised environmental awareness and left a legacy of sustainable practices that will benefit future generations of students," said Larry Grandison, EPA's regional communications director.
The long-term environmental impacts the students have made at Fairview High are impressive. More than 150 student volunteers planted 59 trees in the schoolyard, which will absorb roughly 2,800 pounds of carbon every year. The students also made changes in waste management practices at Fairview, which now diverts about 260 cubic yards of waste from the landfill annually, through recycling, composting and waste reduction. Additionally, measures taken by students have eliminated nearly 900 pounds of junk mail a year.
EPA Region 9:
F.A.S.T. (Falcon Autistic Solar Team)
Independence High School
High functioning students with autism at Independence High School formed the Falcon Autistic Solar Team (F.A.S.T.), a club that peer-tutors students about how solar panels take radiant energy from the sun and convert it into electricity.
During visits to various Kern County schools, F.A.S.T. conducts demonstrations of what solar power can accomplish, using models built by club members. The solar-powered models include cars, a house with a working ceiling fan, and a Ferris wheel. During demonstrations, a solar-powered oven even bakes cookies for the audience!
F.A.S.T. members help special-needs students at Independence High School gain a concrete understanding of the science behind alternative energy forms and usage, teaching about topics such as radiant energy, photosynthesis, photovoltaic systems, and how solar energy conversions can be technologically applied. They raise awareness of how the energy choices we make can lead to a more sustainable community.
F.A.S.T. activities bring autistic students who have a passion for science and the environment into the mainstream of education, allowing this student population to be more fully integrated in campus life and to develop socialization and public speaking skills. The core goals of F.A.S.T. are to integrate these ambassadors of solar energy into the broader community and to promote awareness about green and renewable energy as a basis for a more sustainable future and for environmental stewardship.
EPA Region 10:
Tahoma Senior High School
Soon after realizing that Tahoma Senior High School did not have an environmental club, senior Cort Hammond took the initiative to form the Green Team in 2008. By the end of the year, the garbage output of the school decreased from 100 to 60 cubic yards per week, saving the school $24,000 in landfill expenses.
In addition, the club has brought recycling, conservation, and community involvement to the high school. Other projects include the Adopt-a-Road program, recycling of Styrofoam products, restoration projects, energy reduction programs, community outreach, and lunchroom food waste collection.
The Green Team was presented the President's Environmental Youth Award on April 25, 2011 at an all-school assembly at Tahoma Senior High School in Covington, Washington.
2009 National Winners selected by each EPA region
PA Region 1:
Project T.G.I.F.: Turn Grease Into Fuel
Westerly Innovations Network/Westerly Middle School
This group of middle school students, who are passionate about community service, decided to do their part in tackling global warming by creating a sustainable project to collect the town's waste cooking oil, refine it into biofuel, and then distribute it.
The students presented their project to the local town council and convinced them to place a grease receptacle at the town's transfer station to collect waste cooking oil from residents. The group also convinced 64 local restaurants to donate their waste cooking oil, which is a by-product of fried food. To collect the waste oil from restaurants and the transfer station, the students collaborated with a local company to collect the waste oil and bring it to a biodiesel refinery where waste cooking oil is recycled into biofuel. Funds received from the refinery for the recycling of the waste oil were used to purchase Bioheat®, a biofuel, from a local distributor to give to local charities.
This project has been, and continues to be, a success for the environment and local families in need of heating assistance. To date, this project has collected over 36,000 gallons of waste oil and produced 30,000 gallons of biofuel a year, which eliminated 600,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. The students have donated 4,000 gallons of Bioheat® to local charities and helped 40 families with emergency heating assistance.
Another important part of the project is educating school children and local residents about energy alternatives. The students have made numerous presentations to the local elementary school and local residents to encourage them to participate in the T.G.I.F. project and to teach them about alternative energy sources, the town's recycling program, and global warming.
EPA Region 2:
Steps to a More Sustainable School
When Josh entered Solomon Schechter High School of Long Island, he was surprised that there was no recycling program in his school. Paper, plastic and aluminum were constantly discarded into the trash to be hauled away to a landfill; however, the lack of recycling was not due to a lack of awareness. For almost 40 years, the environmental movement and the media have brought light to issues like air and water pollution, conservation, and deforestation. Locally, towns on Long Island have required residential recycling of newspapers, plastic containers, and aluminum containers. Al Gore's documentary film "An Inconvenient Truth" was a very popular film after its release in 2006, and yet so many people still found recycling and active conservation to be too inconvenient. Many were still skeptical and they did not believe that their personal actions or individual efforts would make a difference.
During Josh's freshman year, hoping to make a difference, he founded the Student Action for the Environment (SAFE) Club at his high school. The goal of the club was to establish a recycling program for the school. Josh called the City of Glen Cove's recycling department, and after many phone calls and e-mails, the city finally began picking up recyclables. Unfortunately, the solution was short-lived. Even after extensive effort, the city stopped picking up recyclables from the school. To continue the program, Josh investigated other possible solutions outside the government realm, and he found a private company called Royal Recycling that was willing to pick up the school recyclables for free. The school now recycles paper, plastics, aluminum, and cardboard on a weekly basis. In addition, the SAFE club led a successful boycott this year of the lunch program's disposable trays.
Student interest and membership in the SAFE club has grown since its inception, reflecting increased awareness of the students, teachers, and administrators about the positive benefits of recycling. The club began with 8 charter members and has grown to include more than 50 students from a total population of 180 students. Teachers at the high school are active partners in the project and have helped to facilitate the collection of paper, bottles, ink cartridges and used battery drives. Each week, members of the club collect recycling bins from each classroom. In the past year alone, more than 7 tons of paper, cardboard, plastic, and aluminum collected from Solomon Schechter High School were recycled.Josh's work with the SAFE club has shown that the school's efforts to recycle really does make a difference. Students, teachers, and administrators are more aware of how their actions can improve the environment. Working together, Josh and club members have taken measurable steps to increase recycling at the school and are actively promoting how to make their school as eco-friendly as possible.
EPA Region 3:
Illick's Mill Project
Illick's Mill Partnership for Environmental Education
The Illick's Mill Partnership for Environmental Education is an innovative consortium that has transformed Illick's Mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania into a thriving community environmental center. Illick's Mill was a grist mill built in 1856 that was later abandoned. Junior and high school students and one dedicated teacher from Liberty High School launched the Illick's Mill Project (IMP) to finish the restoration of Illick's Mill into an environmental education center. With funding raised by IMP, the mill reopened in 2009 as a Stream Science and Environmental Education Center due to the hard work and dedication of many students. The mission of the center is to serve as a home for environmental action to preserve and protect the Monocacy Creek watershed and its abundant wildlife, and to provide a model of environmental sustainability and technology.
IMP students participate in a non-traditional classroom course at the local high school that emphasizes inquiry-based learning, with learning objectives based on community needs. During the yearlong course, the students organize events and membership drives, write grants, create presentations, engage in environmental work, and learn how to run a nonprofit organization and an environmental education center. This year's students have been recognized as the "new pioneers" of the center. In recent months, they have designed, built, and planted four native gardens, wrote a mission statement for the center, and are currently developing curriculum for courses taught at the center. Under their inspiring leadership and enthusiasm, the Illick's Mill Partnership for Environmental Education has evolved from a restoration effort to a site now focused on full-time environmental education and action.
Under the supervision of IMP students, along with members of the supporting consortium, the education center is now open to the public and hosts habitat preservation, bird watching, fly fishing, water quality monitoring, green technology efforts, and stream bank restoration. Through the committed efforts of students and others, Illick's Mill serves environmental groups across the Lehigh Valley, and in turn, has become an exciting center for environmental learning throughout the community.
EPA Region 4:
Oak Hall School Biodiesel Project
Oak Hall School
The Oak Hall School Biodiesel Project began as a science fair project to collect and process used vegetable oil (UVO) into biodiesel fuel for the school's diesel-powered lawn equipment and eventually, school buses. With the dedication of several high school students, the project evolved into a plan to build a student-operated biodiesel facility on the school campus as an effort to pursue alternative energy sources and to encourage school-wide environmental stewardship.
Members of the Oak Hall School Biodiesel Project team obtained all necessary local and state regulatory approvals for biodiesel production; raised funds for the reactor, a facility to house the reactor and supplies to manufacture biodiesel; collected more than 250 gallons of UVO; and produced over 25 gallons of biodiesel. The students also wrote an instruction manual to encourage other schools to replicate the biodiesel project.
While identifying and satisfying governmental regulations regarding biodiesel manufacture, one of the team members discovered Florida Statute 206. This statute imposes a burdensome reporting requirement and tax that may inhibit other school administrators from launching school-based biodiesel activities. The students also learned that a school may petition to have this tax refunded based on its tax exempt status. The Oak Hall School Biodiesel Project team has sought legislative relief from Statute 206. The team has obtained commitments from a Florida State senator and several members of the Florida House of Representatives to sponsor an amendment to reduce this reporting and tax hurdle. The project team is preparing a presentation for the Florida House and Senate Committees in the 2010 legislative session in support of this initiative.
Based on the demonstrated success of the project at Oak Hall School, the students continue to promote the project's duplication in other schools and by youth organizations in Florida.
EPA Region 5:
Recycle Because You Care
Dana G., Angel L., and Maggie O.
The Recycle Because You Care (RBYC) Team was founded by three middle school students at St. Philip the Apostle School. When these three students in the Chicago suburb of Addison, Illinois, discovered that less than one fourth of the households in their neighborhood recycle, they decided to take action. Historically, the recycling rate in Addison was one of the worst in the Chicago area, primarily because of a lack of information about recycling. The teens learned that failing to recycle negatively affects the environment by increasing air and water pollutants, the greenhouse gas effect, and the amount of garbage that sits in landfills for decades. Dana , Angel , and Maggie believed that if they did not find a way to address the recycling challenge, some of the beautiful nature that people enjoy today may cease to exist for future generations. To focus their efforts, they decided to test the effectiveness of six different approaches to increase recycling among their neighbors. They tested these different approaches on seven neighborhood blocks. To improve recycling in their whole community, RBYC employed the two most effective methods from their pilot tests: (1) distributing recycling bins and (2) disseminating information about recycling.
The RBYC Team began working with Addison's Public Works staff and Allied Waste, the local waste hauler, and they continue to do so today. They also met with the Mayor of Addison to report their findings and to get his support. Working with St. Philip the Apostle School, the students implemented a new recycling program, and shared their successes with the public school administration. Allied Waste used the results of their pilot tests in a grant proposal to obtain recycling bins for everyone in the Village of Addison. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) awarded the grant, and the RBYC, together with Allied Waste, invested $90,000 in the project. The RBYC team created a public service announcement and arranged to have it played on a local cable television station. At the request of the local library, Dana, Angel, and Maggie also developed and conducted a class on recycling. This motivated group of teens helped prevent 85 tons of garbage from entering landfills in October 2009, which equates to more than 2 million pounds per year in Addison alone. They hope to spread the message beyond the Village of Addison to Chicago-area mayors and get recycling legislation passed in the State of Illinois.
EPA Region 6:
The Vision is Green
Sarah Jo L.
Sarah Jo developed "The Vision is Green" project to fulfill her Girl Scout Gold Award requirements and help educate children about living green. Her goal was to help young children realize that living in a "green" friendly world is possible.
One aspect of Sarah's project involved designing and building an environmental education center made entirely out of green earth-friendly materials. Her goal was to develop a center where environmental education could occur and would continue for many years. The building used the Compressed Earth Block (CEB) method of construction, incorporating MegablockTM. The blocks were 10 feet long, 18 inches wide and weighed about 1 ton each. To accomplish the building project, Sarah recruited help from students at Texas Tech University, the owners of EarthCo Building Systems, two structural engineers, a landscape architect, and others in the community. To raise funding for the project, Sarah also solicited sponsorship from American Clay, Inc., Home Depot, Lowes, Stanley Tools, Grainger Company, as well as numerous individuals and volunteers.
Lorax Lodge, the new environmental education center, is located in a beautiful part of West Texas called the Caprock, overlooking a Girl Scout camp. To allow visitors to experience the beautiful site and learn about native plants and wildlife, Sarah identified the local vegetation and planned a new nature trail. The "Rattler Trail" includes a map and a curriculum guide. The second aspect of the project involved developing a curriculum guide for the center with hands-on activities to teach visitors about the environment. Sarah identified activities that would help the kids visiting the center to think about things they could do to start living with greener attitudes.
To date, approximately 1,300 people have visited Lorax Lodge, including visitors from 14 different states. The environmental education center has had a profound learning impact on various education groups. For example, 14 undergraduate and graduate students majoring in sustainable construction and engineering at Texas Tech University have adopted Lorax Lodge to use as their pilot program for an energy audit. Additionally, representatives of the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) program at Texas Tech University have arranged to use Lorax Lodge as a model for sustainable construction. It is anticipated that 400 STEM students per year will visit and conduct research at Lorax Lodge.
The final component of Sarah's project involved issuing a "Green Challenge" for other Girl Scouts around the world. In issuing the challenge, Sarah asked girls to learn about the environment and instill similar green ideas about environmental awareness and education in their communities.
EPA Region 7:
Warning about Warming
The goal was simple: inspire others to protect the environment. With that goal in mind, Pavane Gorrepati developed a campaign to increase environmental awareness locally and nationally, to inspire conservation efforts by young people, to promote sustainability, and to advance environmental education.
During the first part of the project, Pavane looked at new ways to conserve energy. Fuel cells were once considered to be a new and innovative method of energy production. By current standards, however, fuel cells may soon become a primary energy source for the future. To learn more, and share information about fuel cells with others in her community, Pavane researched the benefits and disadvantages of fuel cells. She analyzed the capabilities of different fuel cell systems and identified ways to increase efficiency of the fuel cells by balancing the costs and benefits. At local, national, and international science fairs, Pavane presented her research and shared her ideas and knowledge with many scientists and experts.
Pavane's project helped to identify alternative energy sources best suited for the cars of tomorrow and may contribute to the development of fuel cells that can be mass-produced. Pavane hopes that affordable fuel cells will serve as a major generator of energy in the future.
After concluding her research, Pavane expanded the "Warning about Warming" theme from the science project into an outreach effort that focused on community involvement to inspire youth to conserve, encourage sustainability, and promote environmental education. Applying her knowledge and research, Pavane started her school's first Environmental Club, which included a core group of middle and high school students who were focused on educating the school community about environmental issues. As president of the Environmental Club, Pavane initiated a recycling drive and launched a campaign called "Green Bags" that involved students, teachers, parents, and administrators from her school. Under her leadership, the Environmental Club collected and recycled aluminum cans to raise funds and purchase "green" grocery bags. The "green" bags were distributed to families in the community to highlight the positive effects that using reusable grocery bags can have on the environment by reducing the amount of non-biodegradable waste. The bags were custom-made and many families placed orders for additional bags. As a part of this effort, Pavane promoted environmental awareness and education within her local community.
EPA Region 8:
Conserving the Hollowed Ground
Bigfork High School Cave Club
Student members of the Bigfork High School Cave Club have been committed to conserving cave resources since the club began in 2007. Through study and exploration of caves, they realized that cave environments are unlike anything above ground. Caves can be totally dark and isolated from surface weather, and they can contain items of incredible scientific value such as archeological artifacts or the bones of extinct animals. Through direct observation, the students also learned that caves can support the growth of unusual mineral formations and provide a home for bats and other interesting animals. Sadly, the students also realized that many caves, especially those on nearby public lands, are being damaged by human visitors.
In 2009, the Cave Club members initiated the "Conserving the Hollowed Ground" Project to help public land managers restore heavily vandalized caves and conserve other caves that are still in good shape. The group focused on four types of conservation: (1) graffiti and trash removal; (2) cave resource monitoring; (3) Global Information Systems (GIS) computer modeling of monitoring data; and (4) a noncollective study of aquatic cave invertebrates.
Students removed graffiti and trash from four caves on nearby public lands, and coordinated graffiti removal work with land management agencies so they would not accidentally remove anything that was historic or prehistoric. Graffiti was removed from over 1,500 square feet of cave walls and ceilings. Next, they established resource monitoring in two caves in Glacier National Park. Both caves, discovered in 2007, contained very fragile features. The students conducted visitor impact point (VIP) mapping, photo monitoring, and temperature monitoring. After completing fieldwork, students prepared maps, cataloged photos, and wrote reports, including recommendations to help managers protect the caves. The club members also computerized their monitoring data using GIS to organize and locate field data onto maps. The fourth aspect of the project involved a noncollective survey of aquatic cave invertebrates in Glacier National Park. Before this study, surveys for these animals involved collecting and killing specimens. The students set out to develop methods to identify cave invertebrates by photographing them in the cave, and are gathering data to show how seasonal variations in water flow, water chemistry, and other factors affect invertebrate populations. The Cave Club's studies will provide park managers with valuable information to help conserve cave invertebrates, and other fragile cave resources, in park caves.
Bigfork High School Cave Club's "Conserving the Hollowed Ground" Project and related conservation efforts have been well received and supported at the local and national level. Sponsors include: Charlotte Mountain Foundation, Glacier Park Fund, Environmental Sciences Research Institute, Best Buy for Business, and Gonzo Guano Gear. The student project also would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and collaboration of National Park and Forest Service personnel.
EPA Region 9:
Adarsha S., Apoorva R., and Callie R.
The Project Jatropha Team promotes the cultivation of Jatropha curcas, a perennial shrub with oil-rich seeds, as an ecologically friendly and economically sustainable source of alternative fuel production. To date, the work of Project Jatropha has supported the planting of 13,000 seedlings by more than 50 farm families in Southern India.
Adarsha and Apoorva got the idea for this project while visiting their grandfather's farm in Karnataka's Hunsur County, India. There, they became aware that poor farmers need an alternative to cultivating tobacco for income because tobacco production in rural India requires ongoing wood fires to cure the leaves which contributes to greenhouse gases and deforestation. To address the problem, they conducted research and learned that the biofuel produced from the Jatropha seeds provides an alternative source of energy. The biofuel can power diesel engines, vehicles and equipment like irrigation pumps, and produces cleaner exhaust emissions than traditional fuels. Mature Jatropha curcas shrubs efficiently absorb carbon dioxide, which provides an additional environmental benefit. The shrub can grow with fewer agronomic inputs than other crops and it is recognized for its abilities to rejuvenate infertile soil and to prevent erosion. In turn, farmers benefit from the income generated by the new crop, without sacrificing land used to produce food crops.
In 2008, Adarsha and Apoorva, along with Callie, founded Project Jatropha to supply Jatropha seedlings to farmers in India. They manage the project by visiting India during summer and winter breaks from school and by telephone from the U.S. during the year. Participants in the project are provided training in agronomics for the new crop and financial relief while the plants mature. Upon harvest, the project purchases the seeds back from farmers at market price.
With the aid of a non-governmental organization and a plant biotechnology company in India, the team conducted outreach activities for individual farmers and women's self-help groups in Hunsur County. Local residents in Hunsur County were educated about Project Jatropha through town-hall meetings, a presentation at Rotary International, and a press conference in the City of Mysore. In the U.S., Project Jatropha team members collaborated with high school and middle school student leaders, teachers, environmentalists, nonprofit organizations, and city council members. To spread awareness of climate change and sustainable fuel, Adarsha, Apoorva, and Callie gave numerous presentations in the San Francisco Bay Area, wrote articles for magazines, blogs and newspapers, and conducted interviews with local television and other media. Project Jatropha also established a partnership in the U.S. with Sirona Cares Foundation, a sustainable fuel and living project.
The goals of the project are to decrease the dependence of developing countries on fossil fuels, to mitigate global climate change, and to alleviate poverty for rural farmers around the world. The project was implemented successfully because the three members of Project Jatropha believed one simple thing: "Have an idea? Just go do it," says Adarsha.
EPA Region 10:
No More Trash Talk: Let's Clean Up Our Act
A group of junior high students in Homer, Alaska, formed EcoLogical to reduce local waste when they learned that their local landfill would be full by 2013. The group partnered with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Homer Middle School Site Council to reduce the weekly waste volume generated at the Homer Middle School.
Within 30 days, the girls convinced Kenai Peninsula Borough Waste Management to recycle tin cans, and they proposed eliminating the use of Styrofoam trays at their school cafeteria. The group has helped reduce the use of the non-recyclable Styrofoam trays; the school is now using reusable plastic trays and has set up a recycling area in the lunchroom. After the first week, the school reduced the amount of trash disposed in the landfill from eight bags of trash per week to only four, cutting waste by 50 percent. In 3 weeks, the average recycling went from 36 pounds per week to 120 pounds per week. After a year, EcoLogical estimated that it prevented 2,000 Styrofoam trays from being tossed in the local landfill.
The EcoLogical group also wanted to create awareness in the community about reducing, reusing, and recycling. The youth distributed information through local newspaper and radio interviews, YouTube, Facebook, and a fashion show. Their "Trash into Fashion" show was attended by more than 120 local recycling designers, models, and audience members. This approach made recycling fun for all ages. Local artists designed dresses made out of bread bags, newspapers, magazines, plastic sacks, and even juice pouches. The students worked with local governmental organizations to provide space for the fashion show, with the school board to encourage district-wide recycling, and with local environmental organizations to promote reducing, reusing, and recycling.
Recently, the Kenai Peninsula Borough dedicated $20,000 to increase recycling in the town of Homer. The team continues to work with the school district warehouse to encourage the availability of recyclable products for all district schools.
2008 National Winners selected by each EPA region
EPA Region 1:
Green Your Lives
Gilbert H. Hood Middle School
"Green Your Lives" is a student-led initiative in the Gilbert H. Hood Middle School in Derry, New Hampshire, dedicated to educating students and the school community about "going green" and putting their knowledge to work.
The students' goal was to promote greener lifestyle choices that reduce energy costs and carbon emissions. After surveying the student body, the students began their work within the school, focusing on energy conservation, waste reduction, and recycling. Their work has expanded to include a community outreach program: "Give and Go" in Bedford, New Hampshire, educating more students and community members on greening their lives. This outreach was accomplished by creating an informational Web site, producing public service announcements, creating educational posters and videos for several schools across the state and country, building a model solar car, and experimenting on creating a hydro prototype. The Give and Go program encouraged students and members of the public to donate items they no longer needed (such as small appliances, clean clothing, and canned food) to a local non-profit organization. Eleven vanloads of materials were diverted from landfill disposal and sold by the local Salvation Army, which netted $3,000 at its summer garage sale.
Over the project's history, the team's efforts have prompted the school to: (1) reduce paper output by 30 percent and promote the use of 100 percent recycled paper; (2) set all printers in the school to default to print double-sided; (3) power down classrooms and computers nearly 100 percent when they are not in use; and (4) increase recycling in the cafeteria. In addition, the team has educated all the students in seven schools about the lifecycle impacts (material inputs, energy use, and waste outputs) of products they buy and use.
Over the lifetime of this project, 1,000 pounds of waste has been diverted from landfills or other waste streams, and the students have received more than $3,700 in financial support from organizations for their efforts.
This team believes that school is the place to start, and that when students receive quality instruction regarding the positive effects of green practices, they will become environmentally responsible. They have expanded their goals to include staff and the community. Green Your Lives has been a motivating project that has allowed students and staff to think and act beyond the project, to make green living a way of life.
EPA Region 2:
The Sustainable Development of Ethanol for Environmentally Friendly Alternative Energy
The use of ethanol as an alternative fuel has been steadily increasing around the world for a number of reasons. Among them, domestic production and use of ethanol fuel will: (1) decrease dependence on foreign oil, (2) reduce trade deficits and air pollution, and (3) create jobs in rural areas. As quoted in USA Today, "Biofuels offer a great alternative for farmers in developed and developing countries and could help unlock global trade talks." Brazil has already taken advantage of this alternative fuel and produces 16 million cubic meters of ethanol a year as its main source of fuel.
Currently, bio-ethanol use in some locations is limited due to production challenges, including a reliance on expensive enzymes, a multi-step production process, and a reliance on corn. However, high school student Sujay Tyle investigated the bacterium, Clostridium thermocellum, at the University of Rochester, cloned its genes, and studied their ability to degrade cellulosic biomass. A new enzyme, Gene 5, was discovered and shown to degrade cellulose efficiently.
Sujay's investigation found that developing a technology to regulate the component of the bacterium that is responsible for creating the active cellulase system would provide the missing link to making bio-ethanol commercialization practical.
EPA Region 3:
Ryan Morgan's "Project Greenlight" came together as a result of two experiences during his sophomore year of high school. First, he observed the work of grassroots activists at a Farm Aid concert and, second, he viewed former Vice President Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth." As a result, Ryan was inspired to do his part to help end global warming. "I realized that one common person, even a teenager, really can have an impact on the environment," he said.
After he conducted research, Ryan's plan was set. He decided to take a proactive approach by persuading people to switch to more energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs. Ryan wrote more than 100 letters to celebrities and businesses requesting donations for a raffle to raise money to buy the bulbs he would then give away. Bruce Springsteen, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., John Mellencamp, Philips Lighting, and Harper Collins were among his contributors. Ryan sold raffle tickets at the mall, supermarket, and church and ultimately raised $1,300, with another $500 in corporate gift cards and a grant. He obtained more than 800 CFL bulbs from manufacturers and stores and, in the end, acquired 2,000 bulbs for distribution.
Ryan created pamphlets, posters, PowerPoint presentations, and a Web site to promote his project. He also created a display on how to dispose of CFL bulbs at his community center, visited an elementary school classroom to teach energy-saving tips to the students, and gave presentations to community groups, including the Lions Club and his church congregation. Ryan distributed 1,000 CFLs for free at community events and another 500 in a door-to-door event with the help of the high school environmental club he founded. In spring 2009, along with environmental club members, Ryan will distribute the remaining 500 bulbs as part of the group s continuing effort to "relight" the town. By giving away the bulbs for free, Ryan has persuaded many who would not otherwise try the energy-saving CFLs to make the switch.
EPA Region 4:
Green Books Project
Cory Adkins started selling old textbooks on the Internet for summer cash. For several years, it remained an individual pursuit. Over time, however, he became dismayed by the sight of $75 textbooks that were thrown in the dumpster after his school's book sale. He faced a tough question -- "what to do about it?" -- and that´s when the "Green Books Project" was born.
Cory created the Green Books Project to sell used textbooks online. In turn, this project has funded an environmental club that collects and recycles old books. The proceeds from book sales have been reinvested into the community and used to purchase recycling bins. Additionally, the project has helped his school start its own recycling program. Cory designed and distributed a "how-to" manual for others who might be interested in starting a similar program. Excess books that are not sold are largely donated to prisons, elementary schools, and a mobile library in Kenya. Cory used money from the project to spearhead an initiative that placed energy-saving devices in his school and community. This Green Books Project maintains a legacy today in Lewisville, North Carolina.
EPA Region 5:
Wetlands Education Team
West Geauga Local Schools
The Wetlands Education Team (WET) was founded by the students of West Geauga Middle School. When a few students in rural Chesterland, Ohio, discovered that 90 percent of the state's wetlands had been destroyed in the last 200 years, they decided to take action. Ohio's wetlands reduce flooding, control erosion, and purify runoff water, and they are also sources of food, shelter, and habitat for wildlife. Students Shawn Cooper, Zak Kucera, Clay McMullen, Isabella Todaro, and Kelli Wright also learned that half of all the bird species in North America use wetlands during some part of their life cycle. To focus their efforts, they decided to work on preserving the remaining wetlands and one bird that relies on wetlands for its survival: the osprey. Decades ago, as Ohio farmers were filling in wetlands, the use of Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT) was also causing osprey to lay eggs with thin, fragile shells. The resulting decline in the osprey population directly threatened the state's biodiversity. Therefore, WET is working to increase nesting sites by constructing platforms that can take the place of trees lost to development.
To be effective, however, the students knew they had to educate their peers about wetlands, and they needed the help of their peers to preserve the remaining wetlands. WET surveyed fellow students and discovered that only 10 percent were aware that the woods adjacent to the school harbored a wetland. By creating an outdoor classroom at their school, WET began to teach other students about wetlands using hands-on education. As a result, its members now have involved the whole school. The outdoor classroom includes native plants, signs, birdhouses and feeders, a trail to a seating area, a directional signpost, and a weather station. WET also travels to nearby schools and communities to educate others and to help area schools create their own outdoor classrooms. In addition, WET has created educational kits to aid science teachers when they take their students outdoors. WET also has collaborated with several community environmental organizations to map wetlands and teach other students how to use global positioning system (GPS) technology. Finally, they've also worked to request that the state legislature designate the spotted salamander as Ohio's state amphibian through a bill that was enacted in the Ohio State Senate. To achieve this goal, they coordinated a letter-writing campaign and testified at a hearing. This motivated group of teens has raised more than $63,000 in grants, awards, prizes, and donations to support their efforts.
EPA Region 6:
Keystone Kids Café
Keystone Adventure School and Farm, Inc.
The Keystone Adventure School and Farm, Inc., in Edmond, Oklahoma, is a very environmentally conscious school of 55 amazing children, Grades 1 through 7. All types of learners flourish at the school. Their classrooms are a magical mix of children, from students without disabilities to others with chronic illnesses, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Developmental Delays, and even Autism Spectrum Disorders. The children are recognized, respected, and treated as an integral part of the educational team.
Because they wanted their school to be sustainable, the children put together a sustainability plan to make their school "green." Working together as a team, they recycle, use chemical-free cleaning practices, use cleaning rags instead of paper, offer reusable serving ware instead of paper and plastic, compost, have a chemical free garden, reuse seeds for crafts and replanting, and have taken on a special project, the Kid's Café.
The café meant establishing their own restaurant, run by the children, using all the green practices described. However, the café wasn't their own idea: the kids there aren't above recycling good ideas, either. As it turns out, they got the idea from a school in California. Their school invited the California school administrator to come to Oklahoma and talk to the Keystone kids about its program. That talk was all the encouragement they needed.
They opened the restaurant and the children take on all the tasks themselves, from the smallest to the biggest. They not only grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables, but they cook the food, wait tables, clean up, and manage the café. The Kid's Café also sells its food to make money to donate to an orphanage and school in Thailand. The children there use the money to plant and grow their own green garden that supplements their diet of white rice.
The Keystone children take green to the highest level. They recycle the seeds in their garden to plant again the following year. The children also make crafts using some of the seeds to sell at their craft fair, which helps support the school. Likewise, they fertilize their garden with compost from their own worm farm and with the manure from the farm animals they keep. They mulch their plants with leaves and clippings from the school property.
Going a step further, they keep bees to pollinate their plants and use the honey for their food and at the café. They also collect water samples from the creek on their property to make sure the water is safe for their animals to drink and for their own use.
EPA Region 7:
Scottsbluff Recycle Rally
Elizabeth Turnbo, Natural Resources Class
Scottsbluff High School's Natural Resource student Lizz Turnbo is full of great ideas, motivation, and dedication. She single-handedly initiated one of the largest recycling events this Nebraska community has ever seen: a Recycle Rally.
As part of a class project, Lizz wanted to create a family event that would educate the community about recycling through games, displays, and handouts. The purpose of the Recycle Rally was to let people know the importance of recycling and to inform the public where to take recyclable items in the community. Lizz wanted to host the event in an area that would allow for maximum exposure to attract numerous participants. She wanted at least 100 people to participate in education about recycling.
The event was held from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, 2008. Wal-Mart was the partner and host site for the Recycle Rally. At the end of the 3-hour event, the booth set up by Wal-Mart staff had distributed more than 300 canvas tote bags to people that attended the Recycle Rally. Her goal of attracting 100 participants was exceeded by well over 200.
Everything at the event was constructed from recyclable material. There were six games, five informational booths, four displays, and handouts with directions on how to recycle and maps showing where the community s recycling facilities are located. Lizz was able to rally volunteers for the event and recruited other students to help assemble the games and displays.
Her goal to inform the community about recycling was successful. Surveys revealed that the Recycle Rally informed 96 percent of the people who attended about the location of recycling facilities and encouraged more than 75 percent of the people surveyed to consider recycling paper, glass, and plastics.
EPA Region 8:
Smoke Free Parks
OUTRAGE-Anti-Tobacco Youth Group
OUTRAGE is an anti-tobacco youth group made up of middle school and high school students from Utah County. The students are not only involved in but also formed the group with the help of just one adult. Some of the OUTRAGE members come from households where their parents smoke. As a result, these OUTRAGE members have experienced first hand the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, such as asthma.
OUTRAGE members recognized that many other young people in Utah County were being exposed to second-hand smoke in public parks, where hundreds of families gather to play team sports, use playground equipment, have picnics, hike, bike, and fish, or just enjoy the outdoors. Of the 219 parks in Utah County, not one was smoke-free, leaving the youth in Utah County few places to enjoy outdoor activities free of tobacco smoke.
OUTRAGE recognizes that second-hand smoke contributes to bad air quality, which in turn contributes to many health issues. The group decided to take action and teach others in the community about the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. Working closely with their youth advisor from the Utah County Health Department, OUTRAGE got involved in many community activities to educate residents about second-hand smoke. Its members collected cigarette butts from playgrounds and were surprised to learn the majority of cigarette butts were found near the playground equipment. OUTRAGE also surveyed Utah County residents at various community events to find out their feelings on exposure to second-hand smoke in parks. These surveys revealed that Utah County residents favored mitigating tobacco smoke in parks. In response, OUTRAGE started a grassroots effort to make all parks and outdoor recreational areas in Utah County smoke free to protect children from second-hand smoke and to help reduce litter from cigarettes.
After all was said and done, OUTRAGE held more than 40 planning and training meetings, where the group planned events and trained other youth on the harmful effects of tobacco. From 2007 to 2008, OUTRAGE planned and implemented 21 major events, with some taking place over multiple days. In total, 33 days of volunteer service were spent within the community finding out the opinions of Utah County residents. Examples included multiple health fairs, concerts, a Relay for Life, the Utah County Fair, and multiple rodeos. At each event, OUTRAGE members spoke with members of the community and educated them on smoke-free parks and the effects of second-hand smoke. They ran the booths and incorporated creative ideas to involve the public. After all the hard work, OUTRAGE gathered 5,112 opinion surveys on smoking in parks and 13,474 signature cards in support of smoke-free parks.
With this information, they presented their work to elected officials at two city council meetings, one meeting with all the mayors in the county, and five meetings with the Board of Health over the course of several months. The Board of Health was the deciding body that would vote to make parks smoke free. OUTRAGE met with the board on several occasions to talk about the need for smoke-free parks. In response to OUTRAGE s actions, Utah County cities joined together in passing a regulation that banned smoking in all city parks, outdoor recreational areas, and outdoor mass gatherings throughout Utah County.
The work of OUTRAGE has just begun. Now, the group is planning a campaign to educate Utah County about the new regulation and to spread the message about second-hand smoke and tobacco.
EPA Region 9:
A Plastic Predicament
Clay and Chance
Inspired by the service and environmental education outreach projects of the East Hills 4H troop of Alameda County, middle school students Clay and Chance created a video, "A Plastic Predicament," to educate the public and to propose pragmatic solutions to the environmental threats associated with use and disposal of plastic products. The video challenges the notion that better living can be achieved through consumerism based on a disposable model.
Clay and Chance initially learned about the great Pacific trash gyre, a whirlpool of plastic debris twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific, through a 4H environmental stewardship project, Plastic Eliminators. Recognizing the significant long-term problems associated with processing huge volumes of waste plastic and with ongoing landfill management, they became interested in educating the public about the gravity of plastic pollution and modeling ways for everyone to reduce their use of plastic.
They've shown their video at 4H county, sectional, and state meetings as well as in public venues such as farmers markets. To increase the visibility of the issue in the community, they met with the mayor of San Leandro and made a presentation at a city council meeting. Clay and Chance participated in discussions of a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags at a meeting of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority attended by more than a dozen East Bay mayors. They furthered their outreach when their video was displayed by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation's blog site and used as part of an online ecology course at Las Positas Community College.
In response to the negative impacts of waste plastic, the video presents solutions for the shopping public, such as using reusable cloth shopping bags, purchasing products with "mother nature's wrapper" or with minimal manmade packaging, and avoiding juice boxes and Styrofoam. The video also encourages smart recycling and notes that used plastic bags can best be recycled as clothing or construction materials, rather than ending up as landfill mass or marine pollution.
Perfectly transferable to the overall goals of the field of environmental education, the pledge Clay and Chance took in 4H -- like their video itself -- helps their audience to think more clearly regarding the subject of sustainable consumerism.
EPA Region 10
Protect the Dunes
Thousands of visitors come to the shores of the Kenai River during each summer's annual personal use fishery season. Their environmental impact on the sensitive areas around the beach grass and dunes has contributed to coastal erosion. Lincoln Wensely's first place award-winning "Caring for the Kenai" environmental project created educational materials to increase public awareness of the damage being done to the dunes and the health of the Kenai River. Through partnerships with local government and community organizations, Lincoln produced a 3-minute educational movie about protection of the dunes. Mass production and distribution of the video were funded by the City of Kenai, and the video was distributed through many local organizations. Lincoln also created a video public service announcement that was televised statewide throughout the personal use fishing community, as well as radio public service announcements that aired locally. City of Kenai officials credited his project with improved public awareness and a decrease in violations during the 2008 personal use fishery season. The success of Lincoln's efforts has decreased the human impact on coastal erosion.
In 2007, more than 18,000 personal use fishery permits were issued. The high volume of human traffic during this short period created the need for increased enforcement, managed access, and education. As a result, after the 2007 personal use fishery season, the City of Kenai outlined the need for increased protection of the dunes in its annual personal use fishery report. The city proposed plans to increase enforcement and provide more extensive managed access, including protective fencing around the dunes. Since the City of Kenai had already proposed plans for managed access and enforcement, Lincoln focused his efforts in the area of education. Although signs, fencing, and additional law enforcement during high-use times were critical, there was also a need to educate visitors and the local community about this environmental issue. Lincoln's goals were to create and distribute educational materials to inform the local community and its seasonal visitors about the environmental impact of people on the Kenai beach dunes and to make protection of the dunes a priority during the 2008 personal use fishery season. He was able to achieve these goals through the cooperation and support of the many organizations that assisted him in the research, development, and distribution of his educational materials.
Once his educational materials were completed, Lincoln shared his project with many different segments of the local community. The Kenai City Council awarded him a grant for mass production and distribution of his movie. In addition, after a review of his project, the City of Kenai passed an ordinance that increased the fine for trespassing on the dunes from $100 to $500. The city also assigned two seasonal officers to patrol the beach during the fishing season. Lincoln interviewed the mayor's office and the police department after the fishing season and both indicated that his project was the drive behind the City of Kenai's increased efforts to protect the dunes. They also noted that his educational materials helped to inform the public and, with their combined efforts, helped to prevent and minimize further erosion of the dunes by human impact during the 2008 fishery. The City of Kenai is now discussing the possibility of even more long-term protection of the dunes, including year-round fencing and construction of raised walkways.
Lincoln's project was selected as the first-place winner in the nationally recognized "Caring for the Kenai" environmental contest. He also won additional recognition with semi-finalist awards from the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center and KDLL, the local public radio station. His project was recognized in the local paper, the Peninsula Clarion, as well on local radio stations.
2007 National Winners selected by each EPA region
EPA Region 1
Get the Lead Out of Fishing
Michael Browne wanted to tie his favorite hobby, fishing, into his Boy Scout Eagle project. He started thinking about all of the lead fishing weights and sinkers that local fishermen had lost in nearby rivers, lakes, and streams. When Michael read about the harmful effects of lead on the environment, Michael knew he could make a difference-and his project topic was decided.
Lead weights are one source of lead poisoning among our most beloved waterfowl and raptors. When waterfowl scoop up small pebbles from the bottom of ponds that they consume to aid in digestion, they can ingest lead weights that remain in the water. The lead breaks down in their bodies and makes them unable to defend themselves, eat, or care for their young. Raptors such as eagles are poisoned when they eat the dying waterfowl or catch fish that have ingested lead weights. Lead can also be hazardous to people who handle the lead.
Michael applied for grant money and received donations of money and materials from a variety of sources. With the money and materials he received, Michael and his troop assembled more than 700 sample weight packets, which included an insert that outlines the dangers of lead in the environment and safe alternatives. He also created a full-color brochure and a 3-foot by 6-foot banner to educate anglers.
Michael and his troop went to local fishing derbies, where they handed out the brochures, exchanged lead weights for the packets of environmentally safe alternatives, and talked to anglers about the dangers of lead in the environment. He also sent out press releases and called local environmental organizations. He successfully collected 43 pounds of lead weights from various fishing derbies.
Through multiple newspaper and magazine articles, Michael reached thousands of New England anglers. He presented his project at the Massachusetts State House in June, 2007, and was invited to speak before a legislative committee in September, 2007, in support of a Senate bill that would ban lead from fishing. His project was selected by Field and Stream Magazine as its first Boy Scout "Heroes of Conservation" award. Michael's project not only included his favorite hobby, but it also educated his fellow fisherman about using weights and sinkers made of safer alternatives and reducing lead lost in local lakes and streams, which benefits the environment.
EPA Region 2
Several years ago, Raphael Spiro made two important discoveries. While visiting his grandfather in a nursing home, he noticed that good reading materials for the residents were in short supply. Returning home to his neighborhood, Raphael noticed bundles of books and magazines at the curb on recycling day. He realized that people were throwing away what appeared to him to be perfectly good books. He started collecting and donating books to schools, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and wounded soldiers to reduce the volume of books and magazines in garbage dumps and landfills in New York City. Raphael's effort led to the beginning of Bedsidebooks.
Over time, Raphael expanded his local project by creating a Web site to encourage other students to conduct similar programs in their own communities. To date, more than 200 students in 16 states have collected and distributed 44,000 books. The environmental impact of this program can be measured in many ways. Reusing these books has spared 150 trees (a small forest) from being cut down, saved more than 60,000 gallons of water that would be used to produce paper, and prevented more than 5,000 pounds of air pollution.
Education is another important element of the Bedsidebooks program. Raphael continues to inform young people of the need to reduce, reuse, and recycle. For example, he develops and sends informational flyers to youth groups, schools, and libraries to emphasize the impact individuals have on the environment. Raphael makes book donors aware of their important environmental contributions. Devoted to raising awareness about how to reduce the tons of trash created by the average person each year, Raphael encourages colleges to provide electronic copies of their catalogs, and he recommends that phone directories be made available online.
Bedsidebooks has enriched the lives of thousands of people who have received donated books, many of whom do not have access to libraries or may not be able to purchase new books. And, because paper and paperboard make up a large portion of the total amount of solid waste produced, Raphael has improved the environment by reducing the number of books discarded and built awareness of the ease and environmental benefits of reusing books.
EPA Region 3
"We'll Bring It to You" Curbside Electronics Recycling
HB Woodlawn 6th Grade Science Class Group
The inspiration for the "We'll Bring It to You" Curbside Electronics Recycling project came after the HB Woodlawn 6th grade science class participated in a watershed inventory of a local stream. The students found discarded electronic equipment such as hard drives and cell phones in the stream. They started researching local recycling programs, and learned that Arlington County, Virginia, provided drop-off sites for recycling of electronics, but did not offer curbside recycling for these items. They suspected that few residents knew how to recycle these items. As a result, the students were compelled to create a civic action project to address this need.
On March 24, 2007, the 10 students collected more than 450 pieces of "e-waste" (used electronic equipment such as computer and stereo equipment) from Arlington County homes through an electronics recycling event. With the help of their parents, school faculty, and high school students, the students properly disposed of the items at Arlington County drop-off sites. But their work did not stop there. By engaging community leaders and citizens at every stage, the students sought permanent improvement in the existing Arlington County electronics recycling program.
The goals of the project were to: (1) assess the effectiveness of current electronics recycling programs through a survey of residents; (2) raise awareness of the need to properly dispose of or recycle electronic items; (3) provide curbside pickup of electronic items for recycling in a 1-day recycling event; and (4) provide recommendations to the Arlington County Board to improve the recycling program. The students involved the school government, local residents, and community groups such as Earth Force and the local chapter of the Sierra Club in their effort. They also made two presentations (one during the project and one at the conclusion) to the Arlington County Board.
The students are pleased and proud to see that their project will have an impact beyond the 1-day recycling event. As a direct result of the project, the Arlington County Board approved a resolution to consider the feasibility of curbside recycling for electronics.
EPA Region 4
Wiser Misers Energy Team
The Wiser Misers Energy Team consists of 11 3rd-grade students from Huntingdon Primary School, a small Title I school of 400 students in rural West Tennessee. The team worked together to lead the student body and community in environmental education activities and projects. The team's mission includes promoting environmental awareness and supporting environmental goals of making the nation's air, water, and land cleaner. Their effort intends to increase environmental stewardship and personal responsibility through education and volunteer opportunities. This is the fourth year that the team has been promoting environmental awareness.
This year, the Wiser Misers Energy Team posted an energy saving tip promoting "Change a Light, Change the World Day" on 16,000 Carroll County, Tennessee, electric bills. In return, the team received pledges from 245 community members to change one light from an incandescent bulb to a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). In addition, the team reached more than 12,000 people with an energy saving display at the Carroll County fair.
The team's first annual "Walk to School Day" attracted 500 participants and generated interest by the Town of Huntington to apply for a $250,000 Safe Routes to School grant. The grant was received and will fund 11,000 linear feet of sidewalks, crossings, and ramps for the disabled. Students and parents will be able to save energy and stay healthy by using a safe route to walk or bike to school.
To learn more about energy and conservation, the team went on five energy-related tours, held after-school meetings, invited four energy-related speakers to the school, and used a Tennessee Space Grant to learn about energy from the sun. Students earned money by picking up cans after baseball games and recruited people to save paper, cans, and printer cartridges for recycling. With a portion of the funds received from the recycling efforts, the team bought an energy-efficient water heater and CFL lighting for their school.
The team partnered with a variety of businesses, organizations, and local officials to help achieve their goals. The Carroll County Chamber of Commerce presented the team with the Jessica Andrews Youth Achievement Award for 2007.
EPA Region 5
After she saw the movie "An Inconvenient Truth," 9-year old Kate wondered what she could do to help the environment. Since her school did not have enough recycling bins, she wanted to come up with a way to buy more. As a result, she decided to raise money for the school and the environment by organizing an International Fair.
Twenty-one friends from James Whitcomb Riley Elementary School divided into groups and selected and researched a country of their choice. Each group created a poster about its country to be displayed at the International Fair. Kate worked with the Arlington Heights Park District to rent a neighborhood gym for the event. She made and sold passports to the fair for $5 each. She also sold energy-efficient light bulbs, raffle tickets, and snack tickets. She hung flyers and posters about the fair at the Arlington Heights library, her school, and local businesses. She also submitted articles to her town newspaper as well as her school paper. Her town newspaper ran an article about the fair on the first page of the neighborhood section.
Kate organized the entire event herself. She e-mailed her volunteers and hosted an ice cream party to discuss how the fair would be run. Baird and Warner donated a computer, among other raffle prizes, for the fair. Kate sold a total of 50 energy-saving light bulbs, exceeding her goal by 20. With the money raised from the fair, Kate worked with her principal and the president of operations at her school to purchase recycling bins for the lunch room and classrooms. The new recycling bins will allow for recycling of paper, cans, and bottles. The International Fair was a huge success, as Kate ended up raising $502 for her school and sold 50 energy-efficient light bulbs to members of the community.
Here is the poem she used in the school newspaper to promote the event.
On September 8 we will celebrate
The First International Fair so don't be late!
The fair will be at Camelot,
So bring everybody, even the tots!
We're raising money to environmentally help Riley School,
So please come, it will be cool!
We will start at 2:30 on the dot.
So if you're late you'll lose your spot.
Please come and have loads of fun,
And you'll be sad when it's done.
There will be snacks, games and toys for you,
At the end there will be a raffle too!
When the party's over at 4:30 or 5,
I'm sorry you will have to leave to say your goodbyes.
You will need to buy a passport to visit the stations,
They are five dollars each to visit each nation.
EPA Region 6
Public Environmental Awareness Program
Bianca Locke, a 12th grade student from Pasadena, Texas, has worked for the environment for most of her life, mainly focusing on teaching younger children about ways they can help the environment. She served her community as a Girl Scout for 10 years, as a volunteer in her church for 2 years, for 3 years as a volunteer for the City of Pasadena, and for 3 years helping Boy Scouts. She became a recognized environmental leader in her community in May, 2006, when her water conservation campaign at the city's first Environmental Fair won first prize for the "Most Educational Booth."
Bianca subsequently decided to develop a whole Environmental Education Program. She wrote two books for all ages, including one about storm water and one about recycling. In addition, she developed computer presentations, activities, and posters, and even designed her own mascot and costumes to enhance the messages in her books. Bianca crafted her presentations for audiences of all ages and backgrounds, breaking language barriers with skits, pictures, and scale models to get her messages across. She recruited other students and city staff to help with her work. The 12th grader took her program to more than 30 schools, day care centers, community events, youth organizations, environmental workshops, churches, local libraries, and summer camps. Each time, between 5 and 150 people would attend her events, particularly the children she has sought most of her life to reach.
She also designed an innovative and successful method to measure her program's effectiveness. Whether her audience includes Boy Scouts, children of National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) employees, or science teachers at an environmental teachers' workshop, Bianca does not waste any opportunity to pass along her environmental message. She plans to attend college to become a better, more effective environmentalist and is ready for any challenge.
EPA Region 7
Stream Team #432 Water Quality Monitoring
Reeds Spring High School
Reeds Spring High School Stream Team #432 was formed in 1993. During 2007, 11th and 12th grade students monitored water quality in streams each month after school and on weekends. The Stream Team became involved in this water stewardship project after its members studied environmental issues that affect streams in their community.
In the spring, members of the Stream Team researched and designed a project on water monitoring. In September 2007, the Stream Team collected and analyzed water samples at specific sites along a local stream. Students conducted tests at the streamside, including pH, dissolved oxygen, ammonia, nitrates, phosphates, conductivity, turbidity, and Macroinvertebrate sampling. The data they gathered was analyzed and sent to the Department of Natural Resources to be included in a state-wide water quality database. The team also floated the James River to pick up litter, sample stream invertebrates, test water acidity, and take water samples back to the laboratory to measure fecal coliform counts.
They prepared maps, graphs, and spreadsheets of data to illustrate the results of water testing. Stream Team members also gave presentations to school staff and organizations to inform the community about protecting its streams and how individuals can become involved in improving the quality of Missouri's streams. Team members researched environmental regulations and the impact on stream quality. They traveled to Jefferson City, Missouri, to discuss local water quality issues with the Missouri legislature.
Stream Team #432 has successfully established partnerships with universities, state agencies, and local organizations to work on sustainable solutions for environmental problems. Students have worked with staff of the University of Missouri at Columbia to organize stream teams to work on its volunteer lake testing project. The Missouri Department of Conservation provides training to the team on stream monitoring. The team also has worked on a water quality grant with Table Rock Lake Water Quality, Inc.
Stream Team #432 is a group of well-informed students who are actively engaged in protecting the environment. Their dedication and hard work to teach the public about environmental issues and how individuals can become involved in this project are making a difference in their community.
EPA Region 8
EARTH Action Montana
10 -- 6, 7, and 8th graders
The Environmental Awareness and Response Through Human (EARTH) Action Montana project was designed, developed, and delivered by middle school students in Helena, Montana. The middle school students approached students in other grade levels, brainstormed environmental topics of interest, and organized various teams. The teams in turn developed creative ways to share information about environmental topics at the EARTH Action community event, which was organized through the Helena Public Schools Promoting Enrichment Activities for Kids (PEAK) program. They designed interactive booths, videos, an art show, and drama vignettes, and then field tested them on their peers and experts on environmental subjects before the EARTH Action event. The student reviewers also used a student-designed criteria rubric to evaluate their success, and professionals gave them advice about improving their presentations.
Agencies in Montana were supportive of the projects and helped the students with equipment and advice. For example, the U.S. Geological Survey lent and showed a group of students how to use global positioning system (GPS) units to find previously mapped noxious weeds, enabling the students to have a direct impact on the environment. The Weed Awareness and Eradication groups eliminated noxious weeds in more than 30 acres of forest land in the Helena National Forest.
The impact of EARTH Action was exponential. Initially, 220 students participated in developing the projects, and the information was shared with nearly 1,000 participants during the EARTH Action event. The projects were as diverse as the students. The projects addressed a total of 28 environmental concerns, including building a model hydrogen car, as well as studying biodiesels, recycling, solar power, and the impact of four-wheelers on the wilderness.
Students and communities are interested in taking this event to the next level to engage students across the state, nation, and world in an initiative designed, developed, and delivered by students that showcases the passion and power of young leaders. The 2007 EARTH Action PEAK event was televised by Beartooth NBC.
EPA Region 9
Indoor Air Pollution: The Pulmonary Effects of Ozone-Generating Air Purifiers
Most people automatically associate ozone or smog with outdoor air pollution; however, ozone can be a major component of indoor air pollution as well. Even though air purifiers are advertised to improve breathing, some emit harmful ozone. For a science project, Otana Jakpor decided to test the pulmonary effects of ozone-generating air purifiers after she read a Consumer Reports article titled "New Concerns about Ionizing Air Cleaners." The article reported that certain models of ionizing air cleaners emit high amounts of ozone, but it did not include any research data.
Otana designed, coordinated, and implemented three experiments using a pulse oximeter and microspirometer, which she borrowed from her mother-who happens to be asthmatic. She also used an ozone sensor. Her original research included testing subjects with and without asthma on various time exposures to air purifiers, personal air purifiers around their necks, and the concentration of ozone produced by five ionizing devices at various distances. One result was 15 times higher than the level of a Stage 3 Smog Alert.
She sent a copy of her research paper to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency, while it was drafting a proposed regulation for limiting ozone emissions from ozone-generating air purifiers. On September 27, 2007, Otana was asked to present her research data at the CARB public hearing and it was officially submitted into evidence, as it provided strong support for the proposed regulation. CARB voted to adopt a regulation to limit ozone emissions from air purifiers to less than 0.050 parts per million (ppm), and now California is the first state in the nation to regulate ozone generators.
Otana has received several medals, certificates, and awards, including the Outstanding Environmental Science Project at the RIMS Inland Science and Engineering Fair in 2007. As an honorary member of the educational team at CARB, she has been educating people at schools, science fairs, and symposiums about the potential hazards of air purifiers, and has received invitations to speak at the Inland Empire American Lung Association Air Quality Committee Meeting and the Riverside City Council. She hopes to publish this research and is preparing a manuscript to submit to a scientific journal.
Otana hopes to continue her educational efforts to encourage regulations similar to California's across the country.
EPA Region 10
Cool School Campaign
Redmond High School
In response to a question posed by one of their teachers, five energetic students from Redmond High School developed a program that challenges teachers to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide generated in the classroom through transportation, recycling, electricity, and heating. In its first year, the Cool School Campaign reduced 72 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2); now in its second year, the campaign is expecting an even greater reduction in energy usage.
The students began the project by asking each teacher in the school to complete a pre-survey that introduced the "Cool School Campaign" and provided simple tips on how to reduce energy usage. The students asked teachers to sign a pledge to reduce 1,000 pounds of CO2 during the year in their classrooms. (In 2008, the goal will be increased to 2,000 pounds.) Once the teachers signed the pledge, the students provided a poster for the classroom and a ream of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper. The posters added a competitive spirit to the challenge and helped "pressure" other teachers to sign the pledge. The students educated and encouraged teachers to take simple steps to reduce energy usage. Small changes, like turning the temperature down a few degrees, using only two of the four sets of ceiling lights, car pooling, turning off DVD players at the power strip, and drinking coffee out of reusable mugs, meant a big reduction in the CO2 emissions. In the first year, the teachers' actions saved the school district $7,500.
The Cool School Campaign has generated interest district wide and has produced measurable environmental results. For example, over the past two and a half years, the district has saved $550,000 by recycling more, watering less, reducing waste, and generally using less energy. The Cool School Campaign, which is interactive and involves the entire student population, not just the staff, has been adopted by 17 other schools and in the district administrative offices, and students continue to offer training to support the cause. The success of the students' efforts prompted the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and Puget Sound Energy to provide financial assistance to train additional teachers. The students also had a chance to present their results to the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Los Angeles, California.
2006 National Winners selected by each EPA Region
EPA Region 1
Durham Fair Recycling Project
ECO & Boy Scout Troop 27 of Durham, Connecticut
The Coginchaug High School's Environmental Coginchaug Organization (ECO) recognized that large quantities of recyclable goods were being discarded at the Durham Fair. In an effort to promote recycling at the fair, ECO partnered with Boy Scout Troop 27 to form the ECO Club. The ECO Club's mission is to help the environment through various means and to educate the local communities of Durham and Middlefield, Connecticut, about environmental issues such as recycling.
The ECO Club was successful in removing more than 19,000 bottles -- one-third of the 20-fluid-ounce beverage bottles sold -- from the waste stream at the Durham Fair by initiating a recycling program. In addition, the ECO Club educated participants at the fair about recycling.
The ECO Club built its own recycling containers and located them throughout the fairgrounds to promote recycling. Boy Scouts made lids that fit specifically on the receptacles dedicated to recycling and stenciled the lids with the recycling symbol. Throughout the 3-day fair, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, ECO Club volunteers walked around and collected recyclables in the containers. The ECO Club also maintained a sorting station on the fairgrounds. Recyclable containers were delivered to recycling organizations that converted the recyclable goods into packaging for the company's products. The ECO Club marketed the recycling effort to visitors at the fair and informed newspapers about the project. The community and press supported this program and helped make this first-time recycling effort a big success.
EPA Region 2
The Birds of Eastern Puerto Rico
Gabriela McCall, Senior Girl Scout -- Troop 236
Gabriela McCall, a 12th grade student, initiated a project to raise public awareness about birds and the importance of preserving their habitat in Puerto Rico. She started the project after she became concerned about a decrease in the population of birds in her neighborhood. The decrease seemed linked to the increase in real estate development in the community that was occurring at the same time. Because of Gabriela's love and respect for nature, she began to conduct research by taking photographs and identifying bird species. She used the photographs to develop and implement a community outreach project on the importance of preserving the birds' habitat. Gabriela's research serves as a reference to birds in the local community.
The primary goal of Gabriela's outreach project was to inform members of the community in the eastern part of Puerto Rico about the birds so that they could understand their importance to the environment. She also introduced children to the beauty of nature by teaching them how to observe and enjoy the birds. Gabriela encouraged the community to help protect species such as the West Indian whistling duck in hopes that it would survive for future generations to enjoy.
Gabriela also wanted to increase public awareness about the destructive effect of unplanned development on native bird populations by documenting the need to preserve the natural habitat. Concerned about what she perceived as a lack of attention to environmental needs and a situation that did not adequately consider the input of the community, Gabriela worked hard to raise awareness about birds and their habitat. Her project has helped to educate the community and increase interest in protecting the birds' habitat. Gabriela was especially interested in raising the awareness of children in the community so they will grow to treat the environment with respect, ultimately ensuring a healthy island for future generations.
EPA Region 3
Crellin Environmental Education Lab
5th Grade Class, Crellin Elementary School
The Crellin Environmental Education Lab (EEL), an outdoor classroom at Crellin Elementary School, was created in conjunction with the restoration of Snowy Creek which runs adjacent to the school. Restoration of the stream has been used as an educational tool to engage students in meaningful, hands-on learning opportunities that benefit the entire community and enhance the students' knowledge of Maryland's watersheds.
Students at Crellin Elementary School participated in developing the EEL. They have taken part in cleanup of the stream, planted native trees and shrubs, constructed a native butterfly garden, assembled and erected bat boxes and birdhouses, and provided content for a history-themed recreation area. Fifth-grade students have collected baseline data on newly planted native trees using grade-appropriate math and measurement skills. These data, to be collected annually, help monitor the progress of the restoration project. Throughout the project, the students documented their experiences in journals and developed presentations about their projects.
In the fall of 2006, an interpretive nature trail complete with a boardwalk was constructed through the wetlands. The students worked with local botanists and environmental educators to prepare the content of and identify photographs for field guides. Students from Crellin Elementary and other schools will use the field guides. The students assisted geographers in using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to develop a site map of the EEL and stream restoration site. The students also observed wetland wildlife and participated in Project Wild.
Through an integrated environmental education approach, the students are gaining first-hand experience and knowledge about ecological principles such as watersheds, acid mine drainage (AMD), historical uses of natural resources, biological and chemical stream monitoring, riparian buffers, and wetlands. The students are developing a sense of responsibility and stewardship for the watersheds in their home state because Crellin Elementary School has adopted "green" practices, such as water conservation, recycling, and reducing waste.
EPA Region 4
Alexander "Zander" Srodes
Like most teenage boys, Alexander "Zander" Srodes looks forward to high school football games, would rather water ski than talk about his future plans, and drives the family boat a tad too quickly. But the Lemon Bay High School junior stands apart from the crowd as an authority on sea turtles and environmental stewardship. Thanks to Zander, more than 5,000 children have returned home from school with their minds full of facts about sea turtles and a newfound love for the creatures.
In 2001, when Zander was 11, he created an environmental education program called "Turtle Talks." Zander presented "Turtle Talks" to the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and received a youth grant for the program. "Turtles Talks" is an educational program that discusses the life of sea turtles that share our beaches and the marine turtles in our estuaries. Included in the program is a biodegradable chart that teaches students how to take care of fragile shorelines. Zander also created a turtle costume for students to wear. The turtle costume helps the students experience how a turtle feels and what it takes to survive.
Zander has created his own 20-page activity book for kids on sea turtles and persuaded his school's advanced Spanish class to translate it for publication in Spanish. Zander received more than 1,000 requests for the activity book before it was printed. The activity book is currently in its fourth printing, with more than 10,000 booklets in circulation.
Zander has spoken at numerous schools, libraries, special functions, and events. He has received many awards for his outstanding community service work and monetary support from a long list of private groups and supporters. While speaking to his peers, Zander emphasizes how they can make a difference in the environment and encourages them to follow their dreams and ideas. Zander also emphasizes that grownups will listen to them and help them to develop their project. In his own words, Zander states, "We are the next generation to make a difference on the planet."
EPA Region 5
Collecting for a Cause
Tayler M., a 12-year-old Boy Scout from Toluca, Illinois, became a virtual one-person environmental movement 2 years ago when he started an aluminum recycling program in his community. More than 16,000 pounds of aluminum later, Tayler's efforts have raised more than $9,000 for local charities while sweeping area highways clean of discarded cans and area garages clear of junk aluminum.
Two years ago, when Tayler was only 10 years old, he decided to seek the prestigious William T. Hornaday national conservation award from the Boy Scouts. His first goal, which seemed ambitious at the time, was to collect 500 pounds of scrap aluminum. His mother would take him on pre-dawn searches along highways, where he learned it takes about 25 to 35 cans to make a pound and some 17,500 cans to reach 500 pounds. He met his first goal quickly and donated the proceeds to the Marshall County, Illinois, Habitat for Humanity, a charitable group that builds homes for underprivileged families.
Although he became one of the Hornaday Award winners, Tayler did not quit there. He began collecting metal from aluminum swimming pools, decks, satellite dishes, garage doors, window frames, and even a 36-foot-long mobile home and a junked truck trailer. Tayler set up nearly 20 permanent recycling bins in Toluca and surrounding towns and organizes special can drives for conservation projects such as the Toluca Coal Mine Association's campaign to create an historical recreational and preservation area. Tayler branched off from recycling for that project and developed a trail of bluebird houses and worked on tree planting and erosion controls for the historical area.
But Tayler continues to be the scourge of throwaway cans. He estimates that he has walked nearly 200 miles of highways. He now wants to collect 5,000 pounds of aluminum annually. He developed a "Scouts Can" logo for his special can drives, which is featured on an embroidered patch that people can earn when they bring in at least 75 cans.
Tayler is a popular speaker at local service clubs and schools, where he spreads the message about recycling. Local media refer to him affectionately as the "Tin Can Scout" or the "Can Do Scout" for his devotion. Besides his work on the coal mine historical area, Tayler also sees direct benefits from his campaign when Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on another new home for a Marshall County family.
EPA Region 6
Girl Scout Troop 222
Girl Scout Troop 222 stepped outside its comfort zone to give bats a home and teach others about them. "Going Batty" was developed to educate children and adults on the importance of these misunderstood creatures as pollinators. Jessica Mackiewicz and Alex Bryan from Edmond, Oklahoma, and Teresa Ezersky and Cristina Navarro from Guthrie, Oklahoma, are members of Girl Scout Troop 222.
The scouts researched, interviewed educators, and met with wildlife conservation biologists. They learned that pollinators -- including bats -- are responsible for bringing us an estimated one out of every third bite of food and assist 90 percent of the world's flowering plants to reproduce. Selecting bats as pollinators for their project, they focused on four main goals: develop an educator's check-out crate; build, assemble and install bat houses at Deer Creek Prairie Vale Elementary; build a human bat house to help children understand how bats live; and participate in the 2005 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo to teach a wide range of visitors about bats.
The Girl Scout Troop 222 educator's crate includes the following learning tools: a bat skeleton; 21 units of bat study; posters and hand-outs on pollinators; bat puppets; bat, butterfly, and dragonfly field guides; bat, bee, and butterfly crafts; bat house construction pamphlets with an assembled bat house; an activity guide; videos; and books. This extensive collection of materials is free for use and does not require previous knowledge.
Building, assembling, and installing the bat houses at the elementary school was challenging, yet exciting, for the girls. In fact, they learned as much about carpentry as they did about bats. It also afforded them an opportunity to give bat presentations on site and to use the bat house locations as an outdoor classroom. Building the bat houses helped them learn to design and build the human bat house, a 4 foot by 8 foot by 6 foot structure with four steel bars inside at varying heights that allowed human visitors to hang like a bat. The girls took this structure and the educator's crate to the 2005 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, where 45,000 visitors had fun being "batty" while learning about bats as pollinators.
The patience, long hours, and hard work the girls put in were the real force behind "Going Batty." Now, teachers, master naturalists, students, Girl Scouts and their leaders are reaping the benefits. These four young women will have a long-term environmental effect on the community and throughout their state for years to come.
EPA Region 7
Jami Harper, a student from Grand Island Northwest High School in Grand Island, Nebraska, created a project to teach water protection called H2Owood Squares. In the fall of 2003, industrial solvents were found in the wells of residences in Grand Island, Nebraska. The solvents were so toxic that the vapors made even doing laundry and flushing toilets hazardous to people's health. Jamie wanted to keep this kind of contamination from happening again, so she started the H2Owood Squares project to teach safe water practices.
H2Owood Squares is based on the famous television game, Hollywood Squares. The interactive H2Owood Squares game is an innovative way to teach water protection. In H2Owood Squares, all questions are related to facts about water. The set for the game was constructed from sections and fittings of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe that can be easily assembled and disassembled. It is lightweight, so it can be easily transported and inexpensive to construct and can be easily duplicated for others to use.
This educational game was designed to be presented to youth and adults from more than 150 communities in Nebraska. Jamie recruited 34 volunteers from 9 high schools to present this program to several hundred 4th and 5th graders, as well as parents and teachers across the state. H2Owood Squares has been presented at workshops at the children's groundwater festival and at county and state fairs. The contestants in the game are grade-school youth attending the workshops. Local teens were recruited to be the celebrities in the squares, chosen because they serve as role models to 4th and 5th graders.
To reach more people, Jami designed a Water Wizard Web site to post a different question about water each weekday and tips on how to use water wisely. The questions on the Web site are the same as are used in the H2Owood Squares game.
Jami has worked with several community groups, such as presenters at the Groundwater Foundation's annual water festival, members of Youth Leadership Tomorrow, Earth Force, the United Methodist Church, and students at the Grand Island Central Catholic High School to obtain volunteers to assist with the game. Students at the University of Nebraska Extension were contacted for questions.
In partnership with the Groundwater Foundation, Jami will continue to present H2Owood Squares at fairs and festivals to encourage youth to get and stay involved. In addition, the Water Wizard Web site reaches thousands of people every day, giving visitors tips on how to use water wisely. By protecting the water today, the benefits will be seen far into the future.
EPA Region 8
Get Really Energy Efficient Now! (GREEN)
Morningside Elementary, GREEN Team
The GREEN team project made many positive environmental impacts in the local community and society. The main goal of the team members was to decide how they could educate members of the Salt Lake community about how to use energy resources more efficiently to improve the quality of air in the future.
The GREEN Team delivered to 500 homes compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs with an educational message about their energy benefits to increase energy efficiency. In recognition of this event, Governor Huntsman signed the "Change a Light, Change the World Proclamation," honoring the students.
The students distributed "stop idling" stickers at 15 community council meetings while singing their own "Stop Idling" song to encourage people to turn off their vehicles while waiting instead of idling. In addition, they mailed out more than 50 survey letters about idling vehicles to the education and transportation departments in Utah, and gave 15 presentations to community councils, PTAs, womens'clubs, and other organizations about the need to stop and turn off vehicles when idling. The GREEN Team's logo is "Stop Turn-Off and Save." In addition, the GREEN Team has been hailed by the community, speaking at the request of the director of Utah Clean Cities at its "Billionth Celebration," presenting mock debates for the State Debate Conference and at a Roots and Shoots Earth Day Celebration and for the city at the Earth Day Festival. The GREEN Team even affected policy decisions through the bus survey sent to the district's transportation departments. Many districts have now implemented idling policies, including the local Granite School District transportation department.
The environmental need for the GREEN Team was apparent in the community, as the Wasatch Front suffers some of the worse air pollution problems in Utah. In the Salt Lake City area during the winter, atmospheric inversions trap pollutants such as ozone and carbon monoxide near ground level, producing dense smog. Nearly 200 dangerous pollutants have been found in the air people breathe. They come from many sources: industrial smokestacks, car and truck exhaust, wood stoves, and even household products. A large amount of pollution comes from automobiles and idling vehicles.
Some significant long-term environmental benefits have resulted from the project. For example, Utah Clean Cities has announced that it has recognized a need to educate transportation systems more about idling because of the research and survey information about school buses gathered by the team. In addition, Beverly Miller from Utah Clean Cities was able to use the valuable information gathered to speak to the state superintendent. Many people in the community are driving their vehicles with the team's "Stop Turn Off and Save" stickers.
The students have written scripts for speaking engagements, designed surveys and logos, made posters, handed out light bulbs, manned booths, composed and sang the "Stop Idling Song," written stories, did science fair projects, and met many hours after school to educate the public about the importance of conserving our national resources.
The team has many community partnerships, and the students created innovative approaches to deliver their messages. Feedback from a variety of sources has convinced the team of the success of the project. Granite School District published an article about the team's success with the "Change the Light, Change the World" light bulb campaign. Many organizations requested a copy of the creative speeches.
EPA Region 9
Arizona Water Activists Karing for the Environment (AWAKE)
Smitha R., Pooja R., Amol L., and Akash K.
Three years ago in Arizona, four students were inspired to raise money for underprivileged children in India. The driving force for this project began when one of the students visited India and saw children living in slums who had no drinking water. The students -- Smitha Ramakrishna, Pooja Ramesh, Amol Lingnurkar, and Akash Khare -- formed their own Asha Kid's Chapter in Arizona in conjunction with Asha for Education, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in India. With Mahatma Gandhi as their role model, they adapted the famous motto, "Think Globally, Act Locally" into "Think and Act Locally and Globally." In honor of Gandhi, the students organized three walk-a-thons, which together raised $5,400. This money was donated to three projects in India for promoting basic education for underprivileged children and buying and building reverse osmosis systems for schools and neighborhoods. These systems collect and purify rainwater; as a result, more than 3,000 children have been given clean, potable water to drink and use.
Because they live in Arizona, the students were more than aware of the arid climate and of the need to raise the water conservation consciousness of the population. They therefore began a new project, the Arizona Water Activists Karing for the Environment (AWAKE). Adding to the goal of helping children in India, AWAKE also aids the efforts of the Save the Peaks Coalition and raises local awareness on pressing local water issues in the communities.
The Save the Peaks Coalition is an organization formed by 14 Native American tribes who are against the creation of machine-made snow, made from recycled sewage water, on the San Francisco Peaks, a mountain range considered sacred by the native people. Because of Arizona's dry climate, ski resorts in Flagstaff use this reclaimed water to make snow. To support the coalition, the students took four water samples for testing from more than 30 lakes and ponds in the range and its drainage area. They repeated this sampling three times over a 1-year period. Their data indicated that the reclaimed water contained high levels of many contaminants, especially coliform. The students wrote letters to the governor and other state and local officials to publicize their findings. They also amassed some 300 signatures on a petition against this machine-made snow. The issue is now the subject of an ongoing court case. And, as reclaimed water in Arizona is used to irrigate many lawns in parks, the students feel that periodic testing of this kind of water is of immense value to the public.
AWAKE was able to spread the message of water conservation, preservation, and restoration to various communities by participating in many environmental events and festivals. The students used many resources, including the EPA's Kids Club Web site, to make word and board games, crossword puzzles, mazes, and hands-on activities about water, so people of all ages could have a fun and memorable learning experience. They also created special activities such as the "AWAKE Challenge" and the Eco-Hero game. The "AWAKE Challenge" models real-life situations that occur between people working in various fields and how they affect today's main water supply. The goal of the Eco-Hero game is educating people through brainstorming sessions and discussion of the causes and effect of humans on the environment.
The students of AWAKE believe that, by increasing the public's awareness about water conservation and pollution, adults and children will start using water responsibly and make lifestyle changes to help benefit themselves and the environment. They try to follow this quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "Be the change you wish to see."
EPA Region 10
AYEA Global Warming Outreach and Education Project
Alaska Youth for Environment Action
The Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA), a group of committed teens, is making a notable impact through a statewide global warming outreach and education project. AYEA is a high school program of the National Wildlife Federation. During a "Summer Get Together" training, AYEA teens gathered in Homer, Alaska, to learn about the impacts of global warming in Alaska, the science behind the greenhouse effect, and how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the end of this event, AYEA graduate Verner Wilson wrote a "Letter to Our Leaders" describing the devastating impacts of global warming on Alaska and requesting national action through legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in renewable energy.
Other AYEA members turned Verner's letter into a statewide youth petition and developed an educational presentation on global warming. AYEA chapter youth leaders gave the presentation to more than 300 science and social studies classrooms and received an endorsement from the Spirit of Youth Foundation, affording the petition even more statewide representation. AYEA students collected 5,000 teen signatures from 105 communities in Alaska, which represents more than 10 percent of the enrolled high school population.
During April 2006, teens from Dillingham, St. Michael, Anchorage, and Yakutat traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional leaders to discuss global warming. They presented their petition to Senator Lisa Murkowski, who requested that AYEA members meet with climate change specialists in Fairbanks to bridge the "science and public awareness" divide. A group of the teens then traveled to Fairbanks and worked with scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks to educate 25 rural Alaska Native college students about global warming.
AYEA teens also worked locally to raise awareness about global warming. During the 2006 Civics and Conservation Summit, 15 AYEA teen leaders promoted legislation to create an Alaska Climate Change Impact Commission. The teens successfully lobbied for a youth seat on the commission and met with 20 legislators to promote other bills supporting alternative energy projects.
AYEA teens introduced a Climate Change Resolution at the Alaska Association of Student Governments Conference in April 2006. Four hundred teens from 20 communities unanimously adopted the resolution, demanding action at the state legislative level. AYEA members hope to push this resolution forward during the 2007 Civics and Conservation Summit. A team of AYEA members held a press event with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich to announce initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the city. AYEA members also presented the petition to the Juneau Assembly and asked for a local model of emissions reduction within the next year.
Through this project, AYEA was able to engage 500 percent more young people in 1 year with environmental issues and five times as many youth than have been engaged in the program's history.
The project has already sparked some 15 media stories on statewide television, national public radio, and national and local newspapers. Teachers throughout the state continue to ask for the youth global warming presentation. Teens who have received the presentation have since started two new AYEA chapters, motivating even more young people to become involved with health and environmental issues.
Two mayors have now signed the Mayor's Climate Change Protection Agreement, both referring to the student drive on this issue as a motivating factor in their decision. Anchorage Mayor Begich, who hosted a climate change conference for 33 mayors from all over the nation, asked AYEA member Megan Waggoner to deliver a keynote address. The response was overwhelming. Several mayors inquired whether they could learn about AYEA and how the youth in Alaska are making such an impact.
2005 National Winners selected by each EPA region
EPA Region 1
Marshfield Town Hall Rain Garden
Marshfield High School
A bio-retention system, also know as a "rain garden," was built by the sophomore honors biology class at Marshfield High School in Marshfield Center to catch runoff from a parking lot and prevent it from entering the South River. A requirement of the biology class was that the students had to select a project that included an environmental-service component and that benefited the school or the Town of Marshfield, Massachusetts. By conducting research, the students learned that 13 sites in downtown Marshfield required remediation to purify runoff before it reached the South River. The South River is polluted; shell fishing is banned, and limited recreational activities are allowed.
The students chose a site behind the Marshfield Town Hall because of its size and scale (0.8 acres) and because they hoped the rain garden would serve as a model for action at other sites. Beyond the task of planning the bio-retention system, the cost of building the system -- $20,000 -- had to be addressed. The students met with town engineers and consultants to design and construct the rain garden. They also presented information to town officials on the need for the project and the steps to complete it.
The rain garden was built in August 2005 with donations of labor, goods, and supplies secured by the students. Runoff from a parking lot is carried to the rain garden where the water drains through mulch, loam, and gravel before it enters a perforated pipe that is attached to the town drainage system. Because most pollutants are carried in the first inch of storm water, any amount beyond the first inch is allowed to flow into the drainage basin, which is set at a slightly higher elevation in the system. The plants in the garden are indigenous, hearty, and capable of absorbing many of the pollutants as they soak into the soil.
The rain garden functions well and is expected to require minimal maintenance. Although the full benefits of this project for the South River are not yet apparent, they are expected to be considerable. The students hope that this project will inspire others to remediate the remaining 12 sites that were identified. Based on the success of this project, the Marshfield students were invited to make presentations in other towns about the project and on the involvement and impact students can have on their environment and community.
EPA Region 2
Don't Dump, Drains to Creek
Kerri Anne Orloff
Kerri Anne Orloff, a lifelong resident of Gerritsen Beach, wanted to raise community awareness about debris on the streets and its eventual outcome. Gerritsen Beach is a peninsula on the southern end of Brooklyn and is bordered by Gateway National Park and residential and commercial establishments, including a sewer plant, boat yards, and restaurants. The outflow is a combination of residential and commercial sewage. After about an hour or an inch of rainfall, the sewers shut down, and all of the sewage flows directly into waterways used for recreation such as fishing, boating, waterskiing, and swimming. Kerri saw the need for a solution.
Kerri was a member of the 1st National Student Summit on Ocean Issues in Washington, D.C., where she spoke about the effects of the combined sewer outflow and possible solutions. Her team presented the results of water samples from around Gerritsen Beach which were collected to check the pH, salinity, oxygen levels, coliform count, and clarity of the water. Kerri's idea of stenciling "Don't Dump, Drains to Creek" became part of the Declaration of Students pledge at the summit. Once she returned home, she continued to raise community awareness by speaking at local Girl Scout meetings and her high school.
Kerri then began the lengthy process of obtaining permission from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to stencil "Don't Dump, Drains to Creek" in the community. After her idea had been rejected several times, she approached Congressman Anthony Weiner and State Representative Marty Golden's offices seeking support for her idea. Months passed without progress, but she continued to speak at public gatherings to keep the communities informed. She gave presentations at the New York City's Parks Department Environmental Center, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Bronx Zoo, and Central Park Zoo. The Bay News wrote an article about the lack of support for an important environmental issue.
Kerri was finally able to contact Mayor Michael Bloomberg and provided him with information about her project. Mayor Bloomberg promised to convey the information to Iris Wienshall, commissioner of the DOT. Kerri received permission to work on the project the next week. Various organizations and businesses such as VFW, Knights of Columbus, G.B. Cares, Mobil Gas Station, Sign O'Rama, and many others donated supplies for her project.
The project date was set for September 25, 2004. Kerri prepared fliers and visited various schools in the area to promote the event. She walked through the neighborhood to locate all the sewers and made "assignments" for the participants. She designed and distributed an informative pamphlet using graphics to explain the issue faced and how residents could help. About 100 volunteers came to support the event. Public outreach was in the thousands and was achieved through public speaking coverage by media such as Channel 7 news and newspaper articles. The feedback received at the event was great, the public had fun, residents commended her efforts, and more importantly, the neighborhood was cleaned. It also was a great lesson on the bureaucracy of the city and the drive required to get things done.
Kerri has since started an environmental club in her high school and has publicly spoken out against development of waterfront and salt water marshes in Sheepshead Bay. She remains committed to making a difference and protecting the environment through the efforts of the Kingsborough Community College environmental club.
EPA Region 3
Students Against Violating the Earth (SAVE)
Souderton Area High School
The Student Environmental Education Center (SEE) is a unique and visionary environmental program that embraces environmental preservation through demonstration and implementation. Founded in 1992, SEE strives to promote environmental stewardship in every aspect of living. This program was created by the Students Against Violating the Earth (SAVE), a high school environmental group from the Souderton School District in Souderton, Pennsylvania. SAVE maintains a membership of more than 300 high school students, grades 10 though 12. Its goal is reflected in the mission statement: "To promote the preservation of our natural world by encouraging appreciation, understanding, and responsible use of the environment. Our goal is to create a sustainable world by spreading information about environmental problems and encouraging appropriate public involvement in the solutions to those problems."
SAVE has received national recognition for its numerous achievements through a multitude of awards and grants. Among the most notable endeavor was Project EFFECT: Environmental Friendly Facility Exploring Conservation Technology. Inspired during a tour of an environmental demonstration house at Slippery Rock College, Project EFFECT is a 34-foot by 22-foot environmentally friendly facility completely planned, designed, and built by SAVE students on 8 acres of land adjacent to an elementary school. The entire project was conceived and executed by SAVE members who worked with architects and 47 businesses while managing to raise all the funds necessary for the project themselves.
This facility is used for the following three main purposes: for practical demonstration of environmental products and technologies in a home setting; to serve as a community meeting place to promote community awareness through education; and to serve as a classroom for teaching the concepts of environmental science. Project EFFECT allows for self-guided tours through trails constructed throughout the premises for environmental education. Wetlands were created when the school district planned to construct a retention basin to collect run-off water. Members of SAVE worked with local officials, soil scientists, engineers, and the district to redesign the retention basin to include three small ponds, one dedicated as a nature memorial for a past SAVE member killed in a car accident. A pavilion was constructed to include picnic tables made from recycled milk jugs. The students and their advisor, Ken Hamilton, received national recognition for this achievement during an award ceremony held in Orlando, Florida, by the Anheuser-Busch Entertainment Corporation. They were honored by receiving the $20,000 grand prize, "A Pledge and a Promise Environmental Award Program.
Mr. Hamilton has referred to SAVE as "trailblazers who have proven themselves worthy of leading the future." What is most impressive about SAVE's achievements is that they have been accomplished by applying a variety of strategies.
EPA Region 4
The Creek Freaks
Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy
Named by its enthusiastic members, the "Creek Freaks" is a Georgia Adopt-A-Stream (AAS) science club formed in 2003 by a group of teens interested in taking action to save local wetlands. Once a month, they conduct chemical monitoring on Butler Creek in Phinizy Swamp Nature Park in Augusta, Georgia. The Creek Freaks test water and air temperature, dissolved oxygen levels, pH, settleable solids, turbidity, conductivity, nitrogen, orthophosphate, ammonia, and alkalinity. Once a quarter, the Creek Freaks return to the creek for comprehensive biological monitoring. With dip nets, they sample the water, vegetated banks, woody debris, leaf packs, and stream bed for macroinvertebrates (small spineless organisms that are an important indicator of the creek's health). All data are sent to Georgia AAS, a division of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. Aside from the regular monitoring, the Creek Freaks have been involved with stream restoration projects, visual and watershed surveys, River's Alive Cleanup Days, Earth Day presentations, as well as other volunteer cleanup efforts.
The Creek Freaks describe themselves in their own words:
"Through our dedicated involvement in the Creek Freaks, we demonstrate that teens are interested in preserving the fragile habitats and ecosystems that are so critical to the health of the environment and our long-term future. The Creek Freaks offers an outlet for us to actively participate in making the world a better place in the future while helping each of us develop the skills that we will need to become well informed citizens. We feel that what we do is important because our club leaders teach us what to look for so we can teach others and make others, especially the youth, aware how important it is to keep this creek and other creeks healthy for our future depends on it. Without clean creeks, rivers, lakes, and oceans, we will not last long on this planet. So we know we are making a difference one creek at a time. The Creek Freaks group has assisted with many local projects, some benefiting the environment in the short term, others in the long term. We have cleaned up trash-polluted creeks, planted trees to prevent bank erosion, established habitats for research, and educated others in our effort to protect the environment."
EPA Region 5
Rain Garden at Chippewa Nature Center
Kacy M. Hermans
A relatively simple but cutting-edge environmental technology known as a "rain garden" became a labor of love for high school senior Kacy Hermans in Midland, Michigan. Starting as a 4H project, the rain garden idea blossomed under Kacy, becoming a full-blown environmental demonstration that will educate thousands of people who visit the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland every year.
Environmentalists from around the country are beginning to experiment with rain gardens, which in their simplest form are plots of soil planted with native vegetation that absorb storm water runoff from manmade structures. Some large urban areas have planted rain gardens as a way to limit sewer overflows caused by excess runoff after heavy rains and to modify the urban heat island effect. Kacy, a senior at H.H. Dow High School, proved that rain gardens can help the environment anywhere buildings interrupt the natural flow of rainwater.
Searching for ideas for a 4H project, Kacy was led to the Chippewa Nature Center, where a 1960s-style, flat-roofed building served as the visitor area. All storm water from the expansive roof and parking lot flushed directly into the nearby Pine River. Nature center officials were concerned about the runoff because the water was warm and raised the river temperature, depleting oxygen. When Kacy sought a place to build a rain garden, the Chippewa Nature Center readily volunteered.
Kacy marshaled local donations of money, labor, equipment, and supplies. Local landscaping and excavating companies supported the ground work because they wanted to learn about the rain garden to serve their customers. A 20- by 10-foot plot, 3 feet deep, was dug along the sidewalk that leads to the visitor's center. The hole was filled with a mix of sand, topsoil, and compost and was planted with Michigan wild flowers and plants such as Joe Pye weed, swamp milkweed, and strawberries. A rock-lined trench was dug from the building's downspout to the garden, and glass sidewalk panels were installed so that visitors could view the water flow from above.
In addition to cooling the runoff from the roof, the rain garden filters out pollutants and percolates water into groundwater. Kacy's rain garden has become a centerpiece of the nature center's environmental education. Visitors are taught about the concept and shown how they can set up simple rain gardens at home.
EPA Region 6
Parker Branch Stream Team
Margaux and Isabella I., Millie and Madeleine H.
Traveling along a scenic country roadway, catching glimpses of a clear, flowing stream, one might wonder how the Parker Branch Stream Team saw a need for environmental action. What the students saw, and that a casual observer might miss, is a decline in stream flow that has occurred over several years. They saw their "crawdad catchin' holes" filling up with gravel and their hiding spots among the willow banks disappearing. The scenic country byway that they traveled on by bicycle, horseback, and car was becoming a road that needed constant maintenance by county road crews as spring and fall rains eroded the road and stream banks. Residents along the roadway seemed increasingly focused on speedy travel rather than enjoying the beautiful scenery. In an attempt to make a difference four young women -- Margaux I. and Millie H., eighth graders, and their sisters, Madeleine H. and Isabella I., sixth graders -- founded the Parker Branch Stream Team, believing that they could affect the stream and the community before the natural beauty was lost.
The girls began with a quest for knowledge. They did research, attended community meetings, and learned to collect water samples to evaluate water quality. They became involved with the Arkansas Stream Team Division of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). Through the state's program, the students applied for a grant to purchase water testing equipment. The team received instruction in physical and biological assessment of the watershed from the AGFC Stream Team coordinator. Biological monitoring involved looking for macroinvertebrates in the stream bed and learning about the microscopic life in the stream as well. By mapping the watershed boundary of Parker Branch and comparing the historical and present-day maps, the students were able to visually and mathematically compare the changes in land use that had occurred over the past 30 years.
The girls used their knowledge to create a partnership with county and state officials. They cleared trash and developed projects to stabilize the banks of the stream. Furthermore, they encouraged county officials to develop guidelines for mowing and grading the road and riparian areas that border Parker Branch. They also worked with the adjoining landowners to discuss animal access issues, funding programs for riparian area protection, and how the stream needs community participation to maintain its contribution to the quality of life in the area.
The team held a 1-day summer camp, Bug Kick Summer Camp, to educate residents about their project and how to protect the stream. Residents and their friends and families attended a hands-on workshop conducted at the Parker Branch Stream. Students ranging in age from 4 to 66 attended the camp. The Stream Team members acted as small-group leaders and taught techniques for capture, identification, and release of aquatic life.
As a result of the accomplishments, enthusiasm, and outreach of these students, the Parker Branch Stream Team was invited to make a presentation on their work to the Board of Directors of the AGFC, a nine-member panel appointed by the Governor of Arkansas. In a conference room occupied by powerful business leaders, state officials, reporters, and concerned citizens, four young ladies held their audience of 80 people spellbound. They presented with intelligence and passion and showed how perseverance and concern can combine to make good things happen. Their quest continues, as they plan to grow the organization with new, enthusiastic members and community leaders.
EPA Region 7
Young Park Prairie Restoration Project
Brittany Perrin, Megan Sparks, and Dan Marske
Four years ago, students at Blue Springs South High School started the Young Park Prairie Restoration Project. After the students had identified invasive plants and researched species native to that part of Missouri, they decided to restore a portion of Young Park adjacent to the school to native Missouri prairie. With the help of the director of parks and recreation and the City of Blue Springs, a portion of the park was transferred to the students to begin a long-term research project.
The students worked in partnership with the Missouri Prairie Foundation, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Project, the Audubon Society, and the National Wildlife Federation on the Young Park Prairie Restoration Project. Blue Springs South Groups, Jaguars against Waste, and the environmental science classes began this restoration project with the support of the Blue Springs School District and members of the school board. Students began recycling programs and a beautification project on school grounds. These environmental improvements have made an impact on the restoration project at the park.
As part of a quail project, native bobwhite quail have been hatched and released in the park in an effort to produce sustainable coveys. A woodland planting area also has been started and includes native Missouri orchids and shade plants. Students have harvested persimmons from trees planted in the park and use them for recipes originally written by westward-bound settlers.
Students participated in water quality studies on the park grounds. The results were provided to the City of Blue Springs to monitor the park's water quality. Bird feeders have been installed, and each winter students care for the feeders and send bird counts to Cornell University's Project Feeder Watch.
Young Park has been certified as a National School Yard Habitat and has received Missouri Department of Conservation designation as an outdoor classroom. The park is now used for physical education and for outdoor projects such as art classes, Earth Day poster contests, science classes, foreign language, and nature diaries. The Young Park Prairie Restoration Project has become an interdisciplinary, learning experience for the students of Blue Springs South and a nature experience for the citizens of Blue Springs. The project is planned as a long-term effort. Future park enhancements include building a new interpretive nature trail, planting native Missouri flowering dogwoods, and expanding the prairie area and woodland areas.
EPA Region 8
Pioneering Clean Energy Transportation Projects
Brent Singleton is an emerging leader in electric vehicle design. A 17-year-old junior at Bonneville High School, he was featured in the February 2005 issue of Car and Driver magazine's "Got Hybrid?" issue. He purchased a dismantled hybrid vehicle from Weber State University for his science fair and Eagle Scout project and modified it to become the first hybrid land speed racer. He has raced his unique vehicle in hybrid and zero-emissions mode at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah. To help with his daily drive to school, he added solar panels (Tribrid) and wind generators (Quadbrid) to recharge his 96-volt electric motor system while he is in class.
When Brett travels to various racing venues, his Quadbrid tows his other race car, the National Hot Rod Association's first electric powered junior dragster. Brett's Quadbrid tow-car and electro-dragster is the world's first fully sustainable race outfit. His Web site, International Alternatives Fuels Racing Association (www.iafra.com), promotes the latest in alternative fuels racing records and raises a challenge to be more "environmentally friendly and fast!"
Brett races for education and public awareness about alternative fuel vehicles and to help preserve the Bonneville Salt Flats. His science project monitored the salt crust and brine evaporation at the flats to better understand its complexity and the possible causes of its thinning crust. His research project also required coordination with U.S. Bureau of Land Management scientists and officials from the salt extraction company to help find solutions to reduce shrinkage and improve the salt-making conditions to this unique environment.
EPA Region 9
The Wonderful Weird World of Worms (WWWW)
2nd Grade LEAP Class Project Abraham Lincoln Elementary School
A group of 20 8-year-old students from Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Palm Desert, California, met daily to participate in the Language Enrichment Academic Program (LEAP). Students in this program chose an environmental awareness theme and developed the "WWWW" project, a vermicomposting and recycling effort. In partnership with various foundations, the City of Palm Desert, and other government agencies, the class developed an interactive multimedia CD that describes a variety of projects they accomplished throughout the year to educate their peers, parents, and the community. Their projects have included a fiction book written by the students titled "Diary of a Red Worm...Our Journey to School," a musical slide show of great worm art that features creative masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and American Gothic with worms as the central figures, and a puppet show that includes the song, "The Worms Crawl In," with original lyrics that describe vermicomposting.
The students also wrote, directed, performed, and produced a training video for the school lunch recycling project and a public service announcement that was shown throughout southern California, emphasizing the importance of recycling and the impact on the community. The ultimate goal for the students was to design a project to heighten awareness of, and involvement in, environmental issues.
EPA Region 10
Slikok Creek Stream Keepers Grate Walk
The Slikok Creek Stream Keepers Grate Walk was developed by Marit Hartvigson, a sophomore at Soldotna High School. She raised the funds and organized the labor to build a grated walk that provides access to the Slikok Creek in Soldotna and prevents bank erosion caused when students collect water samples.
When Marit was in the 6th grade, she participated in an Adopt-a-Stream program and learned how to monitor the creek. She noticed that the Stream Keepers were eroding the banks and bruising vegetation when they collected water samples. She wanted to develop a solution back then, but was not ready for the responsibility of a large project. Marit also was inspired by her brother who won the Care for Kenai contest that year. Once in high school, however, Marit gained the confidence to design and manage the project. In 2004, Marit won the Care for the Kenai contest for the design of her project to build a grate walk. With the help of several government agencies along with Mike's Welding, and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, Marit engineered, applied for a permit, funded, and coordinated a volunteer effort to construct a platform for access to the creek. She raised more than $14,000 to build the project.
Her original project was to replace the existing boardwalk along the bank of the creek with an elevated 16-foot by 15-foot aluminum walk built of grating that would allow light to penetrate. Grate walks used in other parts of the Kenai River watershed have rescued banks that were in poor condition. Attached to the platform would be two sets of stairs with handrails leading into the water. The stairs would be removable from the water to avoid winter freezing and serious damage, and also hinged so that they could be lowered and lifted easily. Farther downstream, a 4-foot by 5-foot platform with a set of stairs for additional accessibility and testing would be built.
When the landowner was not willing to renew the land use agreement, Marit had to identify a new location to build the Stream Keepers grate walk platform. The new location, downstream on state parks land, required that she modify the original design to fit the dimensions of the new site. These changes included building a grate walk to connect the platforms, eliminating one set of stairs from the large platform, and adding handrails around the entire structure. Marit's efforts to find a new location saved the Adopt-A-Stream program from being terminated, and it is now available for future generations of Stream Keepers on Slikok Creek. She and others in the community have already seen signs that the bank is mending and the students are happy that their program was not terminated.
2004 National Winners selected by each EPA region
EPA Region 1
Putting the Forest Back Into Forest Avenue
Middletown High School
With earth's natural resources dwindling, Megan Larcom, a student of Middletown High School in Middletown, Rhode Island, decided to pursue a project that focused on preservation of the environment through proper use of renewable and nonrenewable natural resources. Specifically, Megan's goals were to (1) teach a group of Forest Avenue Elementary School students about natural resources and the significance of Earth Day and Arbor Day, (2) lead an event that the students could participate in and the entire school could benefit from, and (3) help educate the community about preservation of the environment by displaying student artwork with environmental themes.
To meet her goals, Megan first conducted extensive research on preservation of the environment. She then created lesson plans for teaching fourth-grade students at Forest Avenue Elementary School. The lesson plans included interactive, hands-on activities that focused on renewable and nonrenewable resources, recycling, and the benefits of having a clean planet.
Megan then led an activity in which the fourth-grade students planted a beech tree outside the school. Prior to the event, the students had learned about the history and significance of Earth Day and Arbor Day. Although only fourth graders participated in the planting of the tree, the entire school benefited from its beauty and environmental advantages.
The final element of Megan's project involved promoting environmental awareness in her community. Megan arranged for 200 paper bags provided by a local supermarket chain to be decorated by students throughout the Middletown Public School District. The bags were decorated with student artwork related to Earth Day and Arbor Day themes. For example, phrases such as "Save Our Earth" and "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" were prominently displayed on the bags. During the week of Earth Day 2004, the bags were distributed to customers of the supermarket chain.
Megan's project had a direct impact on many students in the Middletown Public School District, particularly the fourth-grade students of Forest Avenue Elementary School. Megan's focused, fun-filled project helped many students understand that they can contribute to preservation of the environment no matter what their age--all they need to do is start today.
EPA Region 2
Saving Staten Island's Cavity-Nesters
Elias Bernstein School
The development of new communities on Staten Island, New York, is destroying many wooded areas. This trend is causing the loss of natural tree cavities, where birds classified as "cavity-nesters" build their nests. Four species of cavity-nesters--American kestrels, barn owls, eastern bluebirds, and wood ducks--are found in Mount Loretto Park (a state preserve) on Staten Island and are the focus of James' project.
James built and maintains a "nest box trail" at Mount Loretto Park. His construction of nest boxes in areas where trees are not plentiful has provided nesting cavities for the four bird species. James set up seven nest boxes containing wood shavings at Mount Loretto Park in February 2004. When spring began and birds started to return to the park, they looked for cavities where they could nest, and some birds nested in the boxes. James had two boxes containing a total of 11 eggs of tree swallows, which are also cavity-nesters. Depressions in the wood shavings in the other five boxes indicated that more birds were preparing to lay their eggs.
In addition, James serves as New York City's ambassador to the Birdhouse Network, which is sponsored by Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology. In this role, he monitors the nest boxes under a permit, prepares and delivers presentations to community groups, and answers people's questions about birds by email and telephone. James hopes that more people will become involved in protecting the rare birds of New York City, enjoy watching the birds in their natural habitats, and help to restore the natural balance of bird populations on Staten Island.
EPA Region 3
Saint Paul High School
In about 1900, when the sons of a farmer in Saint Paul, Virginia, dammed a creek and flooded their father's cornfield, Lake Estonoa was born. For years the lake served the farmer's family and the local community as a swimming hole and recreational area. At some point in the history of the lake, a local resident attempted to beautify the lake by introducing lily pads, and a road construction company began dumping waste into the lake which eventually made the once appealing lake an unsightly and dangerous water body.
In spring 1999, a Saint Paul High School senior named Stevie Sabo decided to focus an ecology project on investigating the eyesore of Saint Paul, the forgotten, lily pad-laden Lake Estonoa. His project included researching the lake's history, assessing its present condition, and developing a plan to return the lake to its former state. After Stevie graduated from high school, Nikki Buffalow, a fellow student, adopted the project in fall 1999. Through the hard work of Stevie and then Nikki, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took an interest in the lake, and determined that designating and protecting it as a wetland (which also could be used as an outdoor classroom) would be the best use for the area.
Since 1999, Saint Paul High School ecology and physics classes under the direction of Mrs. Vencil have continued the project and formed Team Estonoa. Because of its diligent environmental efforts, Team Estonoa has received many awards including the Virginia Naturally Award and the 2004 Sea World/Busch Gardens/Fuji Film Environmental Excellence Award.
Students, faculty, and other community members have worked together on the Wetlands Estonoa Project to address local environmental, political, financial, and social issues. As part of its efforts, Team Estonoa is developing the wetland site into a productive educational asset for the high school and community. The members of the team have used their leadership skills to address problematic situations in the Saint Paul area and develop its natural resources, thus leaving a legacy for the next generation.
Through Team Estonoa's efforts, a dangerous, mosquito-infested swamp has been transformed into an outdoor classroom for the Saint Paul community. Lake Estonoa now has walking trails, a wide variety of vegetation, a dock, and a sanctuary for birds. The team plants and maintains the entire area. A building project was planned 4 years ago, and thanks to the team's fund-raising and grant application efforts, a $175,000 learning center is now under construction at the site. Team Estonoa's motto explains its mission: "Remember when you were young and thought you could change the world...WE ARE!"
EPA Region 4
Environmental Issues Project
Cairo High School Science Club and Biology Students' Environmental Issues Outreach Program
The Cairo High School Science Club was formed 3 years ago with an initial membership of 10 students, and has grown to 70 members today. One of the main goals of the Science Club is to promote awareness of scientific issues, and during the 2003-2004 school year, the Science Club focused on local environmental issues by sponsoring, developing, and participating in three activities.
In the first activity, the Science Club raised money to sponsor a wildlife program for all of the high school's biology classes. Sandy Beck of the St. Francis Wildlife Refuge in Tallahassee, Florida, conducted the program which focused on animal adaptions, habitats, and the various measures people can take to protect them. Ms. Beck completed her presentation by showing the students a barn owl that was blinded by pesticides, a great horned owl and red-tailed hawk that were injured in automobile accidents, and an American kestrel that suffered an illegal gunshot wound.
A newspaper article concerning the local landfill, which at the current rate of dumping will be full in 9 years, prompted the second activity. In an effort to promote recycling, the Science Club sponsored a Saturday Science Camp for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Student activities at the camp included storytelling, making recycled paper, entering the Georgia Recycles Coalition Art Contest, participating in a "polymer detectives" activity, and constructing and launching water bottle rockets made of recycled items.
In the third activity, the Science Club focused on local water quality concerns. Tallahassee was accusing the wastewater treatment facility in Cairo of degrading the Ochlockonee River's water quality. Cairo was being fined $1,000 a month for illegal discharge of effluent water, and Tallahassee was also threatening to sue Cairo if the problem was not corrected. The Science Club completed a comprehensive investigation in which its members toured the wastewater treatment facility, attended Cairo city council meetings, interviewed the Cairo public works director and a Tallahassee water quality specialist, and conducted water quality testing at various Ochlockonee River locations with the help of environmental protection division personnel.
Science Club members also participated in seminars conducted by a river management analyst from Florida State University and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel at Tallahassee's Apalachee Audubon Society. During the investigation, the Science Club members discovered that Cairo had been the victim of faulty engineering at the wastewater treatment facility and was trying to find the money to correct the problem. The Science Club presented its findings at an Apalachee Audubon Society meeting in Tallahassee to demonstrate that Cairo was concerned about the problem and was working toward a solution. The Science Club also created a web page on the Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (www.green.org) to share the findings with a wider audience. Finally, for Earth Day in 2004, the Science Club members created posters depicting each step of their investigation and sponsored a question-and-answer contest for all Cairo High School students, teachers, and administrators to raise their awareness of local water quality issues.
EPA Region 5
Save Our Stream
Karoline Evin McMullen, Angela Primbas, and Amanda Weatherhead
A trio of Hawken School ninth graders in Geauga County, Ohio, decided that more should be done to save one of the last reproducing populations of brook trout remaining in the state. The trout or "brookies" live in Spring and Woodie Brooks in the Munson Township area east of Cleveland. The three girls learned that these environmentally sensitive fish are good indicators of the health of the brooks and the surrounding Chagrin River watershed. The trout's existence in the brooks was already considered remarkable because the streams flow through heavily populated areas.
Because the brook trout are viewed as a local treasure, the girls set out to learn all they could about the species and its habitat. They interviewed naturalists, conservationists, park staff, and public officials and discovered that no management protection plan existed for the fish. During extensive research, the girls learned that brook trout need cool (below 60° F), clear water to thrive. Silt, warm water, and pollution are the biggest threats to the brook trout. The trio discovered that stream monitoring was being performed but that no one was trying to inform people about what they could do to protect the fish.
The girls then started the organization Save Our Stream (SOS) and created a logo to place on shirts, hats, and brochures. SOS, which is made up of students, established partnerships with park officers; area schools and teachers; city officials; conservancy groups; the Ohio Department of Natural Resources; and even experts in the fields of graphic arts, landscape architecture, golf course management, and public marketing. SOS also brought together groups such as the Geauga County Park District and Geauga County Soil and Water District to work on Chagrin River watershed issues.
SOS mounted a sophisticated public education campaign and focused on reducing non-point source pollution such as runoff containing lawn fertilizer or vehicle cleaning and oil wastes. The SOS team-taught other students and local residents that healthy brook trout serve as indicators of the conditions needed for good human health as well. Because of the hydrology of the local watershed and groundwater, a thriving brook trout population means that the numerous residential wells in the area are providing clean, safe water for people to drink. To help people understand how their personal actions affect the local watershed, SOS sponsored a sticker application project for storm water grates in Solon, Ohio; the stickers remind residents that whatever flows down the drain winds up in area streams. In addition, the SOS team designed a survey that not only explored residents' environmental knowledge but also asked them to make written commitments to environmental protection. The team also created a pamphlet on riparian buffers that explains how residents can create such buffers in their yards.
The education and survey efforts of SOS paid immediate dividends. The team's survey revealed that 88 percent of the respondents had been unaware of the presence of brook trout in nearby streams. Another 67 percent of those responding admitted not having known that storm drains were connected directly to the streams. For the environmental pledge, 63 percent of the respondents committed to recycling cans and bottles, and about 50 percent promised that they would not pour anything down storm drains.
The trio of students and SOS also acted directly to preserve the brook trout by nurturing pregnant fish at a school hatchery and releasing fingerlings into the streams. The team's combined education and preservation efforts will help the brook trout population thrive for years to come.
EPA Region 6
Sustaining a Creek and Developing an Outdoor Science Classroom
Del City High School Water Watch Program Student Volunteers
Student volunteers in the Del City High School Water Watch Program engaged in a two-phase environmental project during the 2003-2004 school year. Both phases of the project, which involved maintaining Crutcho Creek and developing the Eagle Point Outdoor Science Classroom, relied heavily on a core team of students to take initiative and provide leadership. Heading up this team were Del City High School junior Heather Dorman and her teacher and sponsor, Gaile Loving.
The students began the project in October 2003 by testing the water in Crutcho Creek, which runs behind the high school campus. The test results revealed that the creek had a poor stream quality rating, which is indicated by a large number of limited macro invertebrates living in the water. With the intention of revitalizing the creek and making it more useful to the high school and the community, the students cleaned up the manmade debris in the creek from 1 mile upstream to 1 mile downstream of the campus water testing point. They also monitored creek macro invertebrates before and after the cleanup. Final test results revealed that the creek was sustainable, and final monitoring results indicated that the macro invertebrate population was actually increasing and that various organisms were present.
Even before the creek was cleaned up, the students began planning an interactive outdoor science classroom to be built on vacant school property adjacent to the creek. The improved creek was to be a source of wildlife to be studied in the classroom. The students studied the biotic and abiotic factors in the area, and they conducted research on Oklahoma songbirds, monarch butterfly food sources, wildlife needs, and groundwater issues.
To make the project successful, the students needed community involvement. They produced a video of the creek cleanup and showed it on public access television, at other schools, and to civic organizations. They also contacted the print media and developed a web site to promote their work. In addition, the students convinced the business community to get involved in the project and received food and monetary support from Burger King and Sam's Wholesale Club. Finally, they solicited help from state environmental agencies, which provided training in water testing and two separate grants. These grants paid for equipment for the outdoor science classroom, including birdhouses, bird feeders, and items to be used to build and maintain a nature trail.
By March 2004, the students had completed the Eagle Point Outdoor Science Classroom. Not only are the science classes at Del City High School using the classroom, but the fine arts and creative writing classes are taking advantage of it as well. The classroom is a resounding success and a credit to the hard work of the Water Watch Program student volunteers.
EPA Region 7
Groundwater Education and Program Development
Over the last several years, Allyson L., a fifth-grade student at Humann Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska, has been involved in many groundwater-related activities and events in both Nebraska and California. She incorporates groundwater knowledge and education into many aspects of her life. Through her participation in science fairs and competitions, Girl Scout events, and community activities, and even in her free time, Allyson has enhanced many people's understanding of groundwater at school and in her community.
Allyson participated in the development of a new event for the Science Olympiad called Awesome Aquifers. She served as an assistant in setting up and preparing for various Science Olympiad trial and test procedures; constructed models for the events; researched additional information about groundwater; and served as a test proctor, monitoring and grading the Awesome Aquifers event tiebreaker. During trial events held throughout the development process, Allyson offered her expertise to participants while assisting them in assembling their aquifer models for demonstration. Allyson's perspective as a student along with her capacity to apply her knowledge to the development process was beneficial to the Groundwater Foundation in formulating the final product, Awesome Aquifers for the Science Olympiad.
In addition, Allyson has taught others in her community about groundwater through hands-on activities, showing adults and young people alike that they can make a difference in addressing groundwater issues. She has devoted hundreds of weekend and evening hours to Earth Day and environmental education events where she has taught others about groundwater using such activities. For example, she taught people what an aquifer is by making one with ice cream, chocolate, gummy worms, and other food products, and she explained the elements of the water cycle by directing the design of colorful bracelets in a Water Cycle Bracelets activity.
Allyson's involvement in water-related education resulted in an opportunity for her to learn and to share her knowledge as a delegate to the 2004 Tunza International Children's Conference on the Environment. Allyson examined environmental concepts and discussed important issues while interacting with 450 other delegates from 52 countries.
Allyson has voluntarily taken action to benefit the environment by continuously learning and teaching others. Through her actions at school and her community service, she has shown both young people and adults that learning about groundwater can be fun and that everyone should protect and conserve this resource.
EPA Region 8
Habitat, Wildlife, and Population Monitoring Projects
Students at South Cache 8-9 Grade Center
Students at South Cache 8-9 Grade Center in Hyrum, Utah, examined the impacts of urban sprawl and found ways to improve the environment for their community as well as for wildlife. The students felt that it was imperative to establish and restore wildlife habitat around their school and at other locations in the community. As a result, the students pursued projects in three major categories: habitat, wildlife, and population monitoring.
The habitat projects included such student activities as installing winter feeders for pheasant and grouse, improving trout habitat, monitoring water quality in the Little Bear River, establishing a Utah Native Plant Heritage Garden, planting a tree wind row, composting, and promoting forest growth. The plant species targeted for population monitoring in habitat projects included milkweed, currant, penstemon, sunflower, yarrow, butterfly weed, mullen, coneflower, daisy, aster, cottonwood, and maple.
In the wildlife projects, the students maintained an indoor honeybee hive; built a pheasant flight pen; installed bird houses and bat houses; monitored songbirds; established American kestrel nesting boxes; raised and released fish; and raised, tagged, and released monarch butterflies. The wildlife species studied in these projects included Italian honeybees, ring-neck pheasants, western and mountain bluebirds, grouse, various species of bats, nonmigratory songbirds, American kestrels, rainbow trout, German brown trout, and western monarch butterflies.
Among the population monitoring projects, students represented Utah in the National Journey monitoring program. Observations of seasonal changes were sent via computer to National Journey headquarters, where national maps were displayed to illustrate observations of robins, hummingbirds, earthworms, tree buds, melting lake ice, emerging and blooming tulips, frogs, and other indicators of the coming of spring. Students also administered the school's paper and cardboard recycling program, for which a local company collected waste products. In addition, some students studied various ecosystems and painted 4- by 8-foot murals depicting what they had learned; the murals were hung on the walls surrounding the classroom. Other students performed experiments involving growing plants without soil (hydroponics) as is done in spacecraft. In 2004, South Cache 8-9 Grade Center students received special recognition from Governor Olene S. Walker for their efforts regarding watersheds.
Finally, in memory of Dr. Seuss and his book, The Lorax, students constructed a model of the "Unless" monument, which is described at the close of the book: "And all that the Lorax left here in this mess was a small pile of rocks, with the word . . . UNLESS." Brown Monument Company donated the sandstone for the 20- by 36-inch, engraved model.
As the next generation of responsible citizens, the students at South Cache 8-9 Grade Center felt that they needed to positively impact their community and the environment for the benefit of future generations.
EPA Region 9
Hickory Creek Watershed Bioassay Project
Winding between the back yards of homes in the southern California community of Chino Hills, Hickory Creek is a little-noticed stream in a small nature park. For Scott Elder, a Chino Hills High School freshman who lived near the creek, it became both a laboratory for studying water pollution and an opportunity to serve his community. Scott's project focused on monitoring and cleaning up Hickory Creek, which he had long explored with friends. The year before beginning his project, Scott had performed a global positioning system experiment that involved surveying the creek. The survey revealed that the creek ran about 2 miles through several types of topography. Fascinated by this diversity, Scott was dismayed to discover that the creek had been used as a dumping ground. Shopping carts and batteries rested in the creek bed along with street trash carried there by storm water runoff.
Scott set out to clean up the creek as best he could. He also analyzed its water for toxic pollutants. Once toxic characteristics were charted for the creek's watershed, he performed analyses to determine the locations and sources of pollution. To carry out his project, Scott used bioassay methods at 16 locations along the creek. Meticulous recording of the bioassay results-over 260 individual measurements in all-enabled Scott to pinpoint six different sources of the pollution in the creek. These sources included oil and tar deposits and tainted runoff from yards and streets.
Working in a makeshift laboratory in his bedroom, Scott kept detailed records of all his tests, complete with charts, graphs, and photographs. Upon finishing his project, he forwarded his findings to city and county authorities, resulting in further cleanup and restoration of the creek. Scott's presentation of his findings earned a first-place prize in the San Bernardino School's Science Fair, and he also received awards from three local community organizations. His dedication, scientific discipline, and desire to understand and address environmental problems close to home serve as an inspiring example.
EPA Region 10
Saving the Fender's Blue Butterfly
Eighth-Grade Students of 2004
Grant Community Middle School
A project to help preserve the Fender's blue butterfly was developed by 30 sixth-grade students who worked on the project until they completed the eighth grade. Part of their classroom work at Grant Community Middle School in Salem, Oregon, involved learning about different environmental issues. The students first chose local endangered animals for their 3-year project. They then narrowed their focus to the native and endangered Fender's blue butterfly, which they were to study in detail in order to assist the species.
The students learned all they could about Fender's blue butterfly from the Internet and local experts. It became clear that the most important factor endangering this butterfly was the loss of its habitat. Fender's blue butterfly was originally widely found in upland prairie habitats throughout the Willamette Valley in Oregon, but over 90 percent of the native prairies in the valley have been destroyed by the actions of humans. In addition, the caterpillar has a very narrow range of food options, the most important being the threatened Kincaid lupine plant. The Kincaid lupine is a long-lived, perennial species that is native to the vanishing Willamette Valley prairies. The students found that the Kincaid lupine is not easy to grow and is also difficult to harvest, transport, and replant.
After 3 months of research, the students devised a two-part plan for their project. The first part of the plan involved restoring some of the butterfly's lost habitat. They found a park (Bonesteele Park) that was being converted into a native Willamette Valley prairie by the county public works agency. The students then spent 7 class days harvesting and cleaning native prairie seeds, preparing a ¾-acre plot in the park for seed cultivation, and removing weeds from the plot. After 2 years of labor, the student plot was transformed into a budding example of a Willamette Valley prairie. Throughout the plot were many small but vibrant Kincaid lupine plants, which the students hoped would attract Fender's blue butterflies.
In spring 2004, students made two unconfirmed observations of Fender's blue butterflies. The butterflies observed looked exactly like the Fender's blue butterflies seen in pictures. The students are staying in touch with the county public works agency in the hope of confirming that the butterfly has returned to their part of the Willamette Valley.
The second part of the students' plan was to develop a Celebrating Prairie Festival to be held for over 600 elementary school children in the Salem/Keizer School District. The festival was partially intended to teach the children about the life cycle of butterflies and to make them aware that a special species native to their own region, Fender's blue butterfly, is endangered. The students also wanted to educate the elementary school children about the importance of the prairie biome and to make them think twice before casually picking small wildflowers or carelessly stomping through sensitive grasslands. In developing events for the festival, the students composed a bilingual play (in English and Spanish) about the life cycle of and threats to Fender's blue butterfly. They also developed different activity stations to encourage hands-on learning among the children. In addition, some of the eighth-grade students accompanied a third-grade class to two native prairie sites in Oregon and helped guide the children through species identification activities.
2003 National Winners selected by each EPA region
The Groundwork Providence Environmental Education Team Program
High-school students in Providence, Rhode Island are taking care of their community and teaching others to do the same. Led by educators from Groundwork Providence, a local affiliate of the national nonprofit community and environmental group Groundwork USA, students participate in a program known as the Environmental Education Team or E-Team.
Each year, this team, which is composed of Providence youth between the ages of 14 and 18, runs after-school environmental clubs (E-Clubs) and summer environmental education camps (E-Camps) for students in grades K-6. E-Team youth develop, organize, and implement environmentally based programs and curricula for the younger students. They also train middle school students who volunteer for the Environmental Service Institute, at which both high school and middle school students serve as mentors for elementary school children.
Team members attend regular training sessions and workshops and participate in field trips to learn about environmental issues affecting their community. For example, to learn about proper solid waste management, students explored the issues of brownfields, trash containment, recycling, and household hazardous waste. After their training, team members share their newly acquired knowledge with the E-Club, Environmental Service Institute and E-Camp participants by leading community service projects.
Some of these projects include cleaning up vacant lots, stenciling storm drains, and creating and playing environmentally themed games. Students are also committed to educating community members about recycling and proper trash containment by providing brochures, recycling bins, and trash cans with lids. Together, the E-Team members and the E-Club, Environmental Service Institute, and E-Camp participants produce a newsletter as a record of their achievements and as a community outreach tool.
These Providence high-school students are learning to be stewards of their community by teaching neighbors about local environmental issues and serving as role models for younger children.
Dodge Elementary Scouts for Wetland Habitat Enhancement
Cub Scouts (Pack 279), Boy Scouts (Troop 279) and Girl Scouts (Dodge Service Unit) of Dodge Elementary School
Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts from Dodge Elementary School in East Amherst, NY are now in their third year of a wetland enhancement project in their town. The first phase of the project, which began in 2002, involved planting 400 tree seedlings around a 1-acre pond at the Lou Gehrig Baseball Fields. The pond was built 10 years ago, and since then, very little vegetation has taken root, so this initial phase was intended to encourage more growth along the pond's edge. Bird boxes were also placed around the pond for further wetland habitat enhancement.
The second phase of the project occurred in 2003 with the planting of over 800 trees along the ponds that adjoin the ball fields at the Town of Amherst's compost facility. The goal of this project was to plant wetland shrubs and trees around the pond, which previously had mowed grass up to its edge. The project not only benefits the pond by providing a more diverse habitat, but also benefits the Scouts by teaching them the ideals of conservation and community service.
Prior to the tree planting, the Scouts made bat boxes and tree swallow boxes that were placed around the site and put up several dozen additional boxes donated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They visited the compost facility to learn how it worked, observed the project site, and provided their insights on how best to plan their work.
Planting was done in April 2003 as part of Amherst's Arbor Day celebrations, and over 100 people turned out for the event. The work was hard, but the Scouts took up the challenge and did a wonderful job.
That day, the Scouts planted 780 tree seedlings, consisting mostly of wetland varieties including Streamco willow, green ash, river birch, and white pine. They also planted 50 5- to 8-feet weeping willows, black willows, and green ash trees at the site. In the months that followed, the Scouts went out to the site to care for the trees, making sure they were properly staked and watered and put up additional bird and bat boxes.
The third phase of the project is well under way. In March 2004 the Scouts, with the help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, placed several dozen bird boxes and bat boxes as well as several duck boxes around a 22-acre pond. The pond is on a property that has recently been obtained by the town of Amherst for use as a park. The annual tree-planting event is scheduled for April 25, 2004, when the Scouts will plant approximately 300 trees and place more bird and bat boxes around the pond.
The project has been made possible by a $500 grant awarded for each of the last 3 years by the Air and Waste Management Associations-Niagara Frontier Section. Additional funding in the form of matching grants was obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Town of Amherst.
Helping Hands in the New Millennium
Busy Bison 4-H Club
This community service and conservation project involves many aspects of conservation and environmental studies. Each Busy Bison member has organized, initiated, and participated in environmental projects designed to achieve individual goals. Members come together as a club to help one another achieve these goals to make life in their community better for everyone.
Many of these individual goals are represented by Adopt-A-Highway programs, stream monitoring and cleanup, recycling, local beautification, genealogy and history projects, and wildlife and habitat improvement.
Club members have designed and built a pond at a local county camp and set up wetlands and nature trails-the $6,000 cost was raised by the Bisons themselves. Participants have also given educational presentations about environmental and wildlife topics ranging from stream monitoring to bats. As part of its "Partners for Earth" project, the club took rejected plants from nurseries and greenhouses, nurtured them back to health, and planted them throughout the county.
4-H members also volunteer at a local Raptor Center to help care for injured birds, and at the Humane Society to help bathe and walk the animals and participate in animal food drives. The club held a rabies clinic last year and vaccinated more than 315 dogs and cats.
The Busy Bison 4-H Club has adopted more than 20 miles of highway that they clean up every month in addition to setting up and maintaining trash cans. Their "Clean Streams, American Dreams" project consists of two yearly cleanups of Buffalo Creek, a 20-mile river between Mannington and Fairmont, and monthly water aquatic monitoring and chemical monitoring.
Every month, the club recycles items in the Barrackville Community. Last year, the club recycled 610 pounds of aluminum; 4,305 pounds of steel; 6,002 pounds of paper; 27,953 plastic bags; 1,080 pounds of plastic; 2,929 pounds of glass; 690 tires; and much, much more as part of their "Waste Not Want Not" and "Guardian for Earth" projects.
Bison members have rebuilt and reprogrammed more than 500 donated computers, distributing many of them to local students and organizations in need, and shipping more than 300 of them to students in Nigeria.
These are just some of the many projects and events in which members of the Busy Bison 4-H Club participate. The need for their projects and enthusiasm is perhaps best demonstrated by the surprising tally of objects removed from local roads as part of a Bison project. These items include: shingles, metal, carpet, oil drums, various lengths of pipe and fencing, 310 bags of garbage, 338 tires, 8 televisions, 7 couches, 18 paint cans, 18 home appliances, a table and 8 chairs, 3 toxic Freon containers, 3 gallons of oil, a plastic pool and line, 3 commodes, 11 beds, 3 mufflers, 2 car fenders, 3 bags of newspaper, and 1 dishwasher. These helping hands are clearly a gift to their community.
Coweta 4-H Adopt-A-Stream
Coweta 4-H Adopt-A-Stream Club
Coweta 4-H Adopt-A-Stream was born 3 years ago when two 4-H members attended an Adopt-A-Stream workshop conducted by the Department of Natural Resources. Driven by their love of nature, the teens, who became certified in biological and chemical monitoring, decided that this program was a must for their county.
As the students began their search for streams to monitor, the need for the program became more apparent. Many streams were in very poor condition: hazardous waste filled Wahoo Creek, located beside a recreation area; a stream running beside the C.J. Smith Baseball Park was littered with beer cans and drug paraphernalia. A mechanic, operating illegally from a local apartment complex, was dumping oil into a nearby creek. Discarded tires also seemed to be a major problem.
The young people, inspired by the Adopt-A-Stream workshop, worked hard to educate themselves and recruit others, attending more conservation workshops and the Environmental Educators Alliance Conference. They sat in on Regional Development meetings and meetings of the Source Water Assessment Project. Membership in the State Wildlife Habitat Evaluation team and the Forestry Team was also a great resource for the students in locating others with similar interests.
With their numbers increasing, the next step was educating the public. The teens wrote newspaper articles, spoke to civic groups, and designed fliers. Local businesses were contacted for support, and Yamaha Motor Division donated all the monitoring equipment the group needed. As word of the project spread, the group was asked to teach classes to fifth- and sixth-grade 4-H clubs-some members also helped teach water pollution classes to over 1,500 fifth-graders in the school system.
Word about the Coweta 4-H Adopt-A-Stream Club got out and their planning session for the first Rivers Alive cleanup drew a large crowd. Supportive local businesses donated food and supplies to the project.
To date, four annual Rivers Alive Clean-up efforts and Two Great American Cleanups have involved more than 600 volunteers donating more than 2,400 hours of community service work. Tons of trash, furniture and debris, and more than 500 tires, have been pulled from local waterways and watersheds.
In addition, the group has organized training sessions and has many certified data collectors monitoring streams throughout the county and sharing data with the Source Water Assessment Project. Coweta 4-H Adopt-A-Stream attends county fairs to raise awareness on non-point source pollution and storm water runoff and is currently working with the engineering department on a storm drain stenciling project.
The attention raised by these students has been put to good use-the group feels that it has a voice and is being heard. The EPA has investigated the oil being dumped at the apartment complex, and the group has been asked by the county engineering department to suggest sites that need to be posted and monitored for dumping. Police Patrols have stepped up and cut brush from C.J. Smith Park, making it a safer place to play.
A handful of teen leaders opened their eyes and saw an environmental problem that was being ignored. They possessed the character to care and the courage to make a difference. They have taught the community how powerful the enthusiasm of youth can be, and what remarkable tasks young people are capable of accomplishing.
Jackson Park Adopt-A-Park Project
Benjamin Jacob Ulrich Banwart
The Jackson Park Adopt-A-Park effort began in May of 2000 when Benjamin Banwart made a request to the township board to personally adopt Jackson Park, becoming the official Jackson Park Adopt-A-Park Sponsor. The project was the culmination of a 4-year involvement that encompassed a Wood Duck Habitat Eagle Scout Leadership Project and numerous environmental restorations and litter pick-up campaigns.
Benjamin saw amazing potential in the park and viewed his task as a conservation challenge. Jackson Park is situated on 87 acres containing two lakes, a township hall, tennis courts, play areas, a ball field, and undeveloped environmental areas.
In October 2001 the seed of a truly ambitious conservation effort took hold when Benjamin recruited the services of fellow members from the local chapter of the Order of the Arrow, the Boy Scouts' national camping honor organization. Benjamin initiated, planned, developed, coordinated, and supervised the Jackson Park Adopt-A-Park Project, which included three specifically targeted and designed efforts: Forestry Management, Invasive Species Control, and Erosion Control.
The Forestry effort included identification, removal and utilization/disposal of unhealthy, diseased, damaged and unsafe trees and brush. The Invasive Species Control effort included setting in motion a program of continual suppression of invasive, non-native buckthorn. Erosion Control included the planting of hundreds of trees-dogwoods, maple and ash-to provide stability to slopes, slow water runoff, and provide wildlife habitat. The project also installed more than 1,000 feet of trails and removed debris and litter. The impact of these efforts will be seen and felt for years by the environment and by this community.
Successful completion of this project represents an American ideal: people from many different organizations working together, directed toward a single purpose. The project came together with support from the Township Board of Supervisors; park maintenance staff labor; U.S.D.A. expertise; Agriculture Extension Service plant donation; manpower from eight Boy Scout troops and the Dan Patch chapter of the Order of the Arrow; local media coverage; financial donations from a local wildlife conservation group; food prepared by local volunteers; and equipment provided by neighbors. Labor and resources were also provided by many other people. The project united community members and inspired them to make our world a better place through their determination and commitment.
Scott County is one of the nation's most rapidly growing counties, and its need for open space, recreational parks and environmental areas is paramount to its sense of community and to the well being of its citizens. The Jackson Park Adopt-A-Park Project created a better environment that stands as an example to others and, most significantly, introduced scores of young people to the importance of conservation and community service, teaching lessons that will help them to lead great lives and serve our country well.
Birds of Feather: Working for Avian Conservation
Seventeen-year-old birder Andrew Rominger put his skills to work for conservation through a one-year project of his own design. To this passionate young man, successful bird identification is more than accumulating an impressive life list-it is a means to an end.
Andrew began his bird survey work through his involvement with the New Mexico non-profit youth development and environmental education organization Talking Talons Youth Leadership (TTYL). As a participant in TTYL's Youth Conservation Corps, Andrew coordinated a survey of a unique bird habitat on a Bernalillo County Open Space that began in the autumn of 2000 and continues to the present. In the course of this work, Andrew recruited and trained a field team to expand the work of the surveys. This model of citizen involvement proved successful, and by the summer of 2003 the survey expanded to include nine Open Spaces within Bernalillo County.
Last summer Andrew took on the job of organizing and compiling data for the annual Magdalena Mountain Summer Bird Count, a citizen science venture. To add further to knowledge of avian ecology in the Magdalena Mountains, he volunteered to conduct a breeding bird survey for the Cibola National Forest Service. There is potential, with the completion of future surveys, to analyze what impact the construction of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory will have on breeding and migratory bird populations.
Andrew understood that research was not enough and that when people have a relationship with both science and nature the effect is most powerful. He decided to turn his experiences into an environmental education curriculum. Developing this curriculum was an integral part of Andrew's independent study in Art and Conservation at Valley High School in Albuquerque. He partnered with Stephanie Kasprzak, a teacher at neighboring Lew Wallace Elementary School, to turn his curriculum into a class entitled The New Mexico/Mexico Connection: A Study of Twelve Migratory Birds. Andrew taught fourth-grade students about the impressive biodiversity of the Southwest and the environmental issues facing birds that breed in New Mexico and winter south of the border. He facilitated a variety of learning experiences for the students and, to enhance their relationship with their subjects, added an artwork component.
A watercolorist himself, Andrew guided his class to develop a series of paintings of the birds they studied. Their interpretive research and artwork was exhibited at the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. Andrew's young students were proud of their work, empowered by their capacity to educate their community and inspired by their ability to help make a difference.
Andrew's approach to conservation is mindful of perhaps the most important factor-that crucial habitat in the United States today is governed by various political entities and decision makers that must be included in the conservation process. With this in mind, Andrew utilized his findings to educate land management agencies, local conservation groups and others. New Mexico Representative Tom Udall took interest in Andrew's conservation efforts and commended him in an address to Congress. Andrew nominated a large swath of land that covers three East Mountain Open Spaces for designation as an Audubon/Partners in Flight "Important Bird Area." He awaits response, but hopes the designation may lead to other, more rigorous types of protection.
Andrew's ability to use the scientific method to determine bird species occurrence and frequency and assess habitat condition is only the first step in his conservation efforts. His approach embodies an emerging paradigm shift in the sciences. He emphasizes not just ecology as a science, or the intrinsic value of species, but also the relationship that birds and habitat have with their human neighbors. He integrates science, hands-on learning and public awareness in a way that maximizes the impact of his work.
Partners in Promoting Hazardous Awareness in Used Oil Filters
West Branch Middle School Science Club
Partners in Promoting Hazardous Awareness in Used Oil Filters is a simple science project that can be replicated in any community.
Twenty-three Science Club members in grades six through eight researched problems associated with used oil filter disposal in landfills. They then collected and crushed over 500 oil filters.
Students recorded the brand, the mass of the filter before crushing, the mass of the filter after crushing, and drained filters at 45, 60 and 90 degrees. After several days of draining, a significant amount of oil remained trapped in the filters.
Students also punctured the dome to release the vacuum (this method proved to be rather messy.) The students learned that 88% of the residual oil contained in used filters is extractable by using a hydraulic press to compress the oil filter and collect the used oil. "Research" filters used by the students were then recycled by a local service station.
It was estimated that 351,000 gallons of used oil could be recovered in Iowa and prevented from possibly leaching from filters and into ground and surface water supplies. Students learned that only five states prohibit the disposal of used oil filters in their landfills. Approximately 85% of used oil filters in the United States are disposed of in landfills, and because of this practice 17.8 million gallons of oil and 161,000 tons of steel are going to waste.
Approximately 84% of an oil filter is steel. Students learned that steel is the number-one recycled material in the United States-enough steel to make 16 new stadiums the size of Atlanta=s Turner Stadium. They developed a four-by-six-foot poster display and a PowerPoint presentation to educate the public about the benefits of crushing used oil filters and recycling the oil.
Members of the West Branch Science Club learned environmental lessons that will remain with them for a lifetime. They also learned they can have a positive impact on the environment and make an important difference in their community.
Learn and Serve
In the spring of 2003, fifth-graders from Swansea and Whittier Elementary Schools, in inner-city Denver, led a habitat restoration project and created a new pedestrian and bike trail at the City of Cuernavaca Park on the South Platte River in Denver.
For six months, these Earth Walkers studied the local river ecosystem and conducted an investigative inquiry on the South Platte River. They found a site that was negatively affected by heavy pedestrian use, was full of non-native vegetation, and had trash everywhere. The students set a goal: to restore the area to its natural state and find a solution to the pedestrian issue.
Students addressed the problem of pedestrian use by constructing a new pedestrian and bike trail. They dedicated a Saturday in April to grading the earth, anchoring railroad ties with rebar to create steps and shoveling and hauling crusher fine to fill in the trail. They also painted trees along the river near the trail site, to prevent beavers from over-consuming them without interrupting or destroying beaver habitats. In May, they returned to weed out non-native plant species and replace them with drought-tolerant plants and add more crusher fine to the trail.
Earth Walkers received support from local businesses and the city government to successfully execute their project. They also earned the respect of many people in their community and increased community awareness of important environmental issues.
Getting Green at Central
Central Elementary School
In 2003, Central Elementary School in the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District started "Getting Green at Central," an extensive recycling and environmental education campaign. The program is intended to teach the next generation about the importance of recycling and how their efforts can positively affect the community. It includes a variety of activities, such as the "Kids and Cans" program, assemblies, field trips, Discovery Day and outreach education. The centerpiece of the program is the new, environmentally friendly playground made from recycled materials-the first "green" school playground in the area.
The impetus for Getting Green at Central was a lunchtime recycling program started by one student to divert recyclable materials from the trash. From this individual effort, the "Kids and Cans" project was born. Every Friday when the students come to school, not only do they bring their homework and books, they also bring aluminum cans. Within the first few weeks of the program, the students saw firsthand how working together could make a huge difference. Many began asking their neighbors to save cans. Some students went to their parents' workplaces to set up recycling boxes for employees, and a local newspaper article about the campaign brought many residents to the campus on Friday mornings to help. So far, students have collected over a ton of aluminum cans.
Central students are learning the importance of recycling. As a secondary benefit, the money the school receives for the recycled aluminum has helped fund the building of the new playground. The students embraced the "Kids and Cans" program so fully that other recycling efforts have been implemented. For Earth Day, the students partnered with a local group called Recycleworks to collect sneakers for the Nike "New Life for Old Soles" campaign. The students collected 286 pairs of sneakers, more than any other school. They are now collecting used printer cartridges for recycling and using the proceeds to buy new cartridges.
This year the school's Discovery Day classes included several recycling-themed activities: "The Ways of Worm Composting," "Papermaking with Recyclable Materials," "Recycled Art" and "Making Paint with Rocks, Dirt and Plants." Recycled art pieces that the students made with a local artist were auctioned off at the school's annual dinner dance auction to help fund the playground project. On America Recycles Day, a winning poster by Central Elementary students will be displayed on 450 public transit buses.
The Getting Green at Central campaign has had such a positive impact on the students, teachers, parents, administrators, community and school district that the school plans to continue it for years to come. The campaign has taken on a life of its own and has empowered many people beyond Central School.
Central parent volunteers have extended the "Kids and Cans" program to include a recycling program at Ralston Middle School and are also helping the school district to work toward implementing environmental education standards at the school. An integral part of the middle school program will include community outreach and service projects. The momentum keeps building, and it is evolving into a community program of environmental stewardship.
Belmont now has one of the highest rates of waste reduction in the county, in part due to the wonderful recycling-minded students at Central Elementary. The efforts of one young person to instill recycling practices at the school have blossomed into a successful program that all the students have embraced.
Eatonville High School Salmon Enhancement Group
Eatonville High School
The Eatonville High School Salmon Enhancement Group is made up of seven motivated young people. These students totally immersed themselves in the water quality monitoring and watershed stewardship projects sponsored by Eatonville High School and the Washington Virtual Classroom.
The students conducted comprehensive water quality studies on five streams that are tributaries of the Nisqually River. They published their findings in written and digital formats and entered the data into the Washington Virtual Classroom water quality database so that it could be used for further analysis.
After completing two online classes, The Science of Northwest Salmon and Salmon Ecosystems Management, the students worked with the Nisqually Indian Tribe in their efforts to restore salmon runs in a number of the tributaries in the Nisqually River watershed. They also worked with the Nisqually Stream Stewards to restore riparian habitat by planting stream bank vegetation along streams that have been affected by agricultural activities, forest harvesting and poor land management practices.
Last spring the Salmon Enhancement Group planned a "Stewardship of My Watershed" summit to bring the Eatonville community together to share knowledge and experiences. The seven students moderated a videoconference panel discussion on "Important Issues Concerning Wild and Native Salmon Recovery" with students from other consortium school districts. They published a written and digital report that outlines water quality trends in the Nisqually watershed over the last ten years. The Group has also made PowerPoint presentations on the watershed stewardship projects sponsored by local schools and worked with elementary students to demonstrate water quality studies and watershed conservation activities.
The young people of the Eatonville High School Salmon Enhancement Group have shown exceptional motivation and outstanding commitment through their participation in the curriculum and the application of their knowledge to environmentally based projects that benefit the community.
The students want to recognize Mr. James Clague, their sponsor and science teacher, who could not attend this ceremony. He has been a tremendous help to them.
2002 National Winners selected by each EPA region
EPA Region 1
Natural Resources and Conservation
Webelos Pack 92 Eagle Patrol
Webelos Pack 92 Eagles decided to improve awareness of the importance of our natural environment through exploration, communication and taking action. Specific targets were to restore or sustain Connecticut's natural resources including watersheds and ponds, land and forest trails, and the unique habitat of Trap Rock Ridge.
Under the guidance of their Den Leader, the Webelos embarked on a comprehensive plan to learn as much as they could about their surroundings and begin to assist in improving their environment. For example, litter pick-up took place in a pond and watershed area, the litter was analyzed and it was determined that three fast food chains were primary sources of the litter. Flyers were designed, and after discussion with store management, distributed to encourage the public not to litter and to help preserve our natural environment.
Nature hikes to increase forestry knowledge and to observe bird and wildlife settings were completed. Pond "catch and release" fishing was taught via recreational fishing and swimming events. Keeping watershed areas clean to protect aquatic life was a part of each lesson learned. Birdhouses, specifically designed for chickadees, were constructed and placed in a forest adjacent to an historic trail. A pile of sand and eggshells was placed on the ground to provide grit and calcium for the birds. Rocks were heaped into a pile to also provide shelter and a cool hiding and resting space for small animals and reptiles.
One hundred native white pine seedlings were purchased from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and planted in a residential area to reclaim lawn, reducing maintenance costs. The trees also are expected to provide shelter, and eventually food (mast) to birds and small animals.
EPA Region 2
Loving My Environment
Since the age of nine, Samuel has been involved in environmental education through photography. His first project, "Are we a waste culture?" focused on illegal dump sites, recycling, and effects of marine and river debris on wildlife. Samuel's continued interest in making others aware of their environment led to an expansion of his project, including a presentation of his work at the University of Fajardo. Samuel's photos of the Indio River were recognized in several competitions, and he was selected to participate in a photo shoot with the "I Clean Puerto Rico" Campaign President and members of the Puerto Rican cabinet. His photographs are recognized as the catalyst for a regional three year environmental clean-up campaign leading to a cleaner, safer environment for area communities.
One of Samuel's most recent on-going projects involved work with the Ford Motor Company in Puerto Rico. Samuel's photographs explored the problems of used tires in Puerto Rico. He visited different dump sites to assess the used tire problem which is so prevalent in the area; he has visited nine towns to date, and captured his concerns on film. His efforts to make others aware of how neglect of the environment can detract from the local well being of the area has won Samuel numerous awards on the local and state level.
EPA Region 3
Bellwood-Antis Wetlands Education Center -- An Eagle Scout Project
Working with fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 92, Padraig installed a 250-yard path through a wetlands area managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The six foot wide path was cut by hand, using hand tools, and laid with eight inch deep mulch, which was donated by the Blair County Department of Solid Waste. Padraig consulted with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to learn how to minimize the effect that the path would have on the area, since surface water coming from the highway would move down through the patch of woods into the wetland plants and finally into the retention basins. Padraig and his troop installed over 50 large rocks to allow crossing where the water flow was the most active. Upon completion of the path, Padraig and his Troop fabricated and installed over 30 handmade signs along the path. The signs displayed identification information including a picture of the plant and information about its origin, invasive species status, and method of propagation. The signs were made in the high school's woodshop with wood donated by the shop teacher. Padraig gathered information from the following sources: USDA's web site on wetland plants; maps and placement from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; on-site inspection of the area; and, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's website. He then created an educational PowerPoint presentation about the area.
The path was constructed in one of the same wetland areas where, under Padraig's direction, the Troop installed duck boxes and nests, and created a 20 x 20 foot observation deck which could be used by students from the local school district for outdoor studies and field trips. Placement of the deck was made after consultation with a wetlands specialist from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and an environmental engineer from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The deck was placed in the center of the wetlands in the most upland part of a peninsula that separated two bodies of water during dry conditions. This would allow a uninterrupted flow of surface water and minimal impact to the surrounding plants and trees. It also provided the best possible viewing area of both the water and the surrounding woodland from a vantage point that was unobtrusive.
Visitors to the wetlands path and the observation deck will now have an opportunity to see an example of how progress and environmental stewardship can be achieved successfully through cooperation and teamwork.
EPA Region 4
The Roots and Shoots Club
In the summer of 2001, Eva Nyeres read Jane Goodall's book, Reason for Hope, which made a great impact on her understanding of the responsibility of our youth in preserving the environment. Eva decided to start an environmental club in her school called "Roots and Shoots." "Roots and Shoots" is the Jane Goodall Institute's environmental & humanitarian program founded by Jane Goodall in 1991 in Tanzania. The club was organized to teach about the effect that humans have on the environment and to promote conservation, to spread the word of peace and of cultural awareness, to raise and donate money for programs that benefit the environment, and to protect the animal community. The Danville High School "Roots and Shoots" started a recycling program, which focused on making school-wide announcements recounting the history of Earth Day and encouraging students and teachers to celebrate by utilization of their new program. "Roots and Shoots" further partnered with students and faculty at Centre College to begin their environmental projects. Because Earth Day had not been celebrated at this school, the club highlighted their Earth Day Revival events by hosting students from the Environmental Street Theatre. Together the students brought education, information and commemoration of this special day to their area of the state.
EPA Region 5
A Home for Wildlife
This project began as a life science project to compare the frogs found in a local pond with those of the area, and in the state of Michigan; however, the project evolved into the development of an interest in backyard Wildlife Habitats through independent research and courses through the county 4-H extension office. After researching the known species of amphibians in Michigan, Nicholas contacted local organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation, Frog Watch, USA, Michigan Herp Atlas Project, Seven Ponds Nature Center, Project Feeder Watch (through Cornell Lab of Orinithology), Dr. James Harding of Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to expand his knowledge of not only frogs, but the ponds in which they live, as well as the areas surrounding the ponds. As a result of this interest, along with furthering the study of frogs in Michigan, Nicholas also became interested in gardening, and earned his certification as a Junior Master Gardener. During his research, a deeper interest in the environment prompted Nicholas to learn about various feeders and bird boxes. His own nine acre backyard became a fertile field for experimentation, resulting in an independent landscaping/ environmental project, which culminated in his yard becoming certified as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat. Nicholas' yard is now one of 17 certified in Lapeer County, and one of 1398 sites in all of Michigan as of March, 2002.
EPA Region 6
Trail of Dreams
Trenton's 4-H experiences increased his awareness about the animals whose habitats were being destroyed by a street-widening project. His concern included the issues surrounding the destruction of large native trees to add more pavement. His conclusion was that there was a great need to plant more trees and therefore he sought and got a tree-planting grant from the 4- H Foundation for a thousand-square-foot area.
He formulated his plan by researching the kinds of plants and trees that were native to the area. Trenton then enlisted his entire 4-H Club (YFR 4-H of Broken Arrow) to become involved with plant selections and getting "down and dirty" with the planting. His goal was to mesh 4-H projects with Oklahoma's native plants, such as the northern wild oats; Indian grass, Oklahoma's state grass; the Redbud tree, Oklahoma's state tree; and, the Indian blanket flower, the state flower. About 50 different plant species were selected, bought, and planted. Trent's outdoor classroom, "YFR Field of Dreams Outdoor Classroom," continually grows and gives back to the community who can enjoy this area, whether driving by and seeing the sweeping expanse of yuccas and loblolly pines, or walking the pathways of the Trail of Dreams that provides a closer look at Oklahoma's smaller wild flowers.
This beautiful outdoor classroom not only demonstrates the natural beauty of Oklahoma, but is now a certified Oklahoma wildscape. By carefully researching the plant life, water sources and habitats, Trent was also able to have the land certified as a National Backyard Habitat. Trent's tireless work in environmental education has also earned him youth awards from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful and from Tulsa County.
EPA Region 7
Refurbished Nature Trail
The Urban Environmental Outreach Program for Kids
The Urban Environmental Outreach Program for Kids (UEOP) came into existence in January 1999 to promote leadership for kids within their community. The group of 15 children range in age from 4 -- 17 and attend various schools in Wyandote County, and have become a true asset to their community. Their community projects include creating gardens for area churches, painting park benches, participating in community clean-up days, creating a diverse vegetable/fruit garden, restaking fruit trees, building a pond with a waterfall, and creating an Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site (OWLS), the first certified OWLS in Kansas City, Kansas.
The students identified a two mile nature trail, part of Kansas City Kansas Community College, which had been closed for twelve years and was in a state of deterioration. They determined that restoration/beautification of this trail for educational purposes would be a great contribution to their community. Their plan included clearing out poison ivy and overgrown brush and trees, repair of the bridge over the small pond, as well as the steps leading to it. They replaced birdhouses, planted flowers and trees, two butterfly gardens, laid rock for a pathway, rebuilt one of the bridges, posted plant identification signs, laid mulch for the walkway, and made the walkway accessible for wheelchairs. The trail also includes a section of classroom style seating and one wheel chair assembly bridge. Lumber used to rebuild the bridge was recycled from electric poles from Westar Energy in Topeka, KS.
The award winning project will become an outdoor learning environment for the community, K- 12 students, and biology students at the College. Students will be able to participate in tree identification, categorization of flora and fauna, building habitats, and continued enhancement of the trail.
The group has partnered with many community organizations in their projects to include: the Green Team of Topeka, the Sierra Club, Master Gardeners, National Guard of Kansas City, the Wyandotte County Conservation District, United Way of Wyandotte County, Boy Scout Troop 211, General Motors employees, and future leaders of Ft. Leavenworth Academy.
The UEOP Students consistently strive to show other students what it means to give back to their community. Their dedication to improvement is an outstanding example of how students of any age can become involved in the community to preserve and protect their environment.
EPA Region 8
FrontRange Earthforce Youth Advisory Board
For the last three years, the FrontRange EarthForce Youth Advisory Board (YAB) in Denver has been a leader in protecting the environment. Their activities have included the EarthForce Annual Youth Summit; the Environmental Justice Experience; EarthForce projects within their local schools groups; and, participation in training and outreach to area youth and communities.
The YAB, predominantly a group of middle school students, was responsible for creating the annual Youth Summit, a gathering of local EarthForce programs, affiliated youth service-learning groups, and other partners. Responsibilities include planning activities and entertainment, fund raising, developing promotional materials, creating and carrying through the agenda, inviting officials, soliciting refreshment donations, and recruiting volunteers. The Summit includes service-learning classes, project sharing, and hands-on activities to promote learning and enhance interaction. The most recent Summit was held at the Denver Zoo in collaboration with the Zoo's Education Department and WIN-WIN Program. Summit participation included over 600 youth, educators and community partners, such as Project Learning Tree, COPEEN, and Metropolitan State College's Center for Visual Arts. Participation, including writing letters of invitation and solicitation for donations, has afforded these students valuable lessons which can later be carried throughout their lives. The organization and interaction of each of the activities all lead to a better understanding of how students and business can partner to create programs to enhance the community.
The YAB's most outstanding accomplishment was the Environmental Justice Experiences which they created for over 600 youth and educators at the Summit, and for hundreds of others at the state-wide Colorado Department of Education's Service-Learning Conference in May, 2002. The students were concerned by the largely invisible practice of environmental injustice in the Denver metro area. Environmental justice is the notion that all people should equally share the environmental impacts of our American lifestyle. In actuality, it has been proven that low income communities of color bear a disproportionate amount of pollution and other negative environmental impacts. The YAB created an environmental justice village, an experiential model, which helped to educate people about what can be done to take constructive action to reduce and/or eliminate this problem.
Students on the YAB are representative from a variety of in-school and after school EarthForce programs. They are models of civic engagement for their fellow classmates around the metro area. All YAB members have been part of an EF group and have carried out at least two environmental service projects with that group. Through their participation, they have learned how to identify issues in their community, create an action plan and carry out on projects that have a long term effect on their community.
EPA Region 9
Sunnyside High School
The students in Sunnyside High School's IMPACTT program made an impact both in their local communities and in their own education. Based on scientific investigation, a view for the future and a drive to make change, these energetic students established goals for the restoration of native plants, the health of their rivers, and the protection of habitats from industrial pollution.
The Integrating Multiple Perspectives Across the Curriculum for Today and Tomorrow (IMPACTT) program bega n in 1999. The program emphasizes environmental science and environmental health issues as the context for learning traditional academic subjects. IMPACTT is a unique, fully integrated environmental health/environmental science academy, or "school within a school." Students obtain academic credits in science, health, math, English, social studies, physical education, and technology while investigating real problems, most involving environmental and health issues.
As part of their education they have constructed a schoolyard natural habitat featuring plants and animals indigenous to the Sonoran Desert that is used as a living laboratory as well as for school field trips and for community outreach programs. They have been active in the Tucson Urban Gardens' Backyard Gardening Project, which involves teaching area residents how to create gardens for food and beauty and to assist them in constructing these backyard gardens. They have collaborated with Diane E. Austin of the University of Arizona and students from across the border in Nogales, Sonora to compare habitats constructed in both countries by students.
The students have formed alliances with Tucson Audubon Society, Tucson Parks and Recreation, Tucson Botanical Gardens, University of Arizona Southwest Environmental Health Science Outreach Program, Native Seeds/SEARCH, as well as Native American groups. They have received their registration as a weather site for the GLOBE Project. They co-sponsor an annual IMPACTT Earth Day for Kids which is attended by elementary school students from around the county.
Their interest in safeguarding the environment evolved to include the protection of human health. They studied the correlation between air pollution and the frequency of asthma attacks, as well as the effects of pollution on plants and indigenous animals. They host an annual statewide Teen Health and Tobacco Conference. The students performed soil, water, and air testing in local river basins, comparing these data over time to evaluate damage to the habitat. They have monitored the weather at various sites in Pima County and analyzed the data to spot pollution trends.
In 2001 IMPACTT students started the Annual T.E.E.N. Summit (Together Expressing Enthusiasm for Nature) with funding from Pima County Government. It gathers teens from all over Pima County to present environmental data they have collected and to attend seminars about environmental issues and the implementation of the Pima County Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. The IMPACTT students did all the planning and execution and served as conveners and keynote speakers. In addition, many conducted breakout sessions based on their research. Every student also presented their work in a poster session. They have already begun planning the 3rd Annual Conference for this spring.
Students have also presented at the Eleventh International Conference on Thinking in Phoenix and attended the 10th Annual Conference in Harrogate, England. They have also co-hosted radio shows interviewing some of the great minds of our time and discussing issues like genetic engineering, education, sustainable development, creative thinking and systemic problem solving.
EPA Region 10
Suquamish Elementary School
In the spring of 2002, a small group of Suquamish Elementary students, staff and volunteers, in partnership with the Suquamish Indian Tribe, began planning to transform the water run-off area of the parking lot into a marshland. The Basket Marsh is now an environmental center that weaves together all of the school's curriculum in the areas of reading, writing, art, math, and science. It also serves as a common place to learn about the native culture of the area and respect for differences; it reinforces the concept that both nature and native cultures influenced this created environment.
A group of students were recruited to serve as the Student Advisory Board in the marsh development. They are called the "Pond Kids." Under the leadership of the Student Advisory Board, all of the students of Suquamish Elementary had the opportunity to participate in the creation and maintenance of the wetland habitat. The students learned about water quality, where their water run-off goes, and the benefits of native plants. The Pond Kids met once or twice a week after school to plan and coordinate the project, as well as do much of the physical labor; they cleared out blackberries and scotch broom, and helped to rake, dig and plant. The students worked directly with community members to plan the design for the pond, and studied wetlands, storm water run-off and water pollution.
The students' original plan was just to create the pond, but their concerns about oil and other pollutants getting in the pond from the parking lot led to the addition of the bioswale to filter the water before it reaches the pond. They built a 3-D model by shooting elevations with a transit every ten feet, plotting the data, and creating a layered topographical map of the area using such tools as a survey pole that measures the grade of the land. They helped plan the dedication, made speeches and conducted tours for parents, community members and tribal elders who came for the ceremony. The Basket Marsh now serves as a lasting testimony for the Pond Kids concern for their environment and will hopefully encourage other students to embark on similar projects.