Earth Day and the Next Generation

By Gabrielle Thompson

Do you know how many people observe our great earth on Earth Day? According to the Earth Day Network (, more than one billion people participate in Earth Day activities. That is a very significant number considering that when I was a school girl growing up in small-town, Alabama in the 1970’s, I had never heard of Earth Day; not to mention Earth Day activities. What was that? Thank goodness for the growing support of environmental awareness. Today, school children from around the world celebrate Earth Day with activities varying from one day to sometimes a week.

Stan Walker (a colleague of mine shown to the right) and I were invited to Delaware Ridge Elementary School, in Kansas City, Kansas earlier this year to share our thoughts on environmental protection. What can be more fun than 3 classrooms of happy go-lucky fourth graders? The time went by quickly as Stan and I treated them to our presentation. Who doesn’t love a PowerPoint presentation? That’s a rhetorical question.

Anyway, we tried to keep it light and informative. I begin by giving some interesting tidbits about EPA and how we protect our health by ensuring our air, water, and soil/land are safe. The kids really liked many of the examples I shared of Region 7’s commitment to the environment especially those about our assisting with Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, Joplin after the tornado, and the Gulf after the oil spill.

Stan followed up with concrete examples of Region 7’s Superfund activities by showing how seemingly impossible and abandoned residential areas can be transformed into beautiful living areas for all to enjoy in our own backyards (before and after shots below). He stressed the importance of different stakeholders (federal, state, city and the community) working collaboratively to make change happen.

Gabrielle Thompson is an environmental scientist in EPA’s Environmental Services Division (ENSV) and has worked at EPA for 5 years.  She is single and loves to cook, zumba and travel.