About the Author: Kelly Leovic manages EPA’s Educational Outreach Program in Research Triangle Park, NC and loves sharing science with students of all ages. On occasion, she has to dress up for meetings. Kelly is a regular blogger here on Greenversations. Some of her most recent blogs can be found at http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2009/01/30/what-would-you-do-with-1-million-and-an-acre-of-riverfront-property/ and http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2009/01/13/watts-up-with-school-energy/.
As the mother of three, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve rushed my kids out the door yelling, “Hurry, I have a meeting today!” As they matured (yikes – the oldest is in high school!), they began to pick up on the visual cues foreshadowing a meeting: a suit, heels, and coffee in the container with a sippy-cup lid. But a question still lingered in their minds: what really happens in those meetings our moms and dads keep rushing to attend?
In February, 40 preschoolers from First Environments Early Learning Center found out when they walked over to EPA’s Campus in Research Triangle Park. Our little visitors showed up at the Security check point ready to go – complete with their very own ID badges with hand-drawn pictures of themselves. They slipped through the metal detector, careful not to touch the sides and showed their IDs to Ms.Burton at the Guard’s Station.
We spilt the kids into two groups, and I headed to the elevators with my 20 preschoolers and three teachers. We stopped along the way to visit Brian, a dad who works on the 4th floor and has lots of computer screens. Next was our big meeting on the 6th floor, a great room with a commanding view of the campus and lake. The students took their places around the table, and I explained that we were having this meeting because we had to solve the problem of too much trash going into our landfills. (Being mostly kids of EPA parents, most know what a landfill or dump is!) I showed them my big bag of “trash,” and we sorted through it trying to figure out how to keep each item out of the landfill. I was so impressed with the creativity of these bright 4 and 5 year olds. With their innovative ideas, nothing was left in the trash, and very few items even made it to the recycle bin. Instead they suggested numerous ways for most items to be REUSED!
After our very successful meeting, we rode the elevator down to the 2nd floor where Miss Susan showed us the library with their very cool movable shelves. Some parents work in laboratories, so we visited Miss Sania in the demo lab to learn what research scientists might do when they go to work. One of my favorite questions from an inquisitive young lady was “Where do all the hallways go?” We soon found out as we strolled into our sunny atrium, enjoying the natural light. We ascended to the 5th floor on a different elevator where we saw another dad, Mr. Rocky, in the hallway who showed us all of his computers. We could all tell that Mr. Rocky really loves his job.
As we headed back to the Cafe for snack, the kids thought it was neat that we have a Post Office and Fitness Center, but the most exciting part for me was to see the smiles that the kids brought to the faces of our EPA employees as they passed in the hall.
So whose idea was this field trip anyway? A teacher explained that one day on the playground overlooking our campus, they noticed that several of the kids had constructed a mini-EPA building with their blocks. This architectural feat led to conversations about what parents do at work, and the next thing you know, we had a field trip in the works. Do you think we need to include some preschoolers in our next “brainstorming” meeting?