kids

Benjamin and the Animals

By Amy Miller

I was busy packing for a road trip and frankly didn’t hear the squawking. Not until Benjamin appeared did I notice the commotion in the trees: “Mommy, there’s two crows attacking a hawk,” said my 10-year-old son.

“Really?” I answered and kept packing.

“You know, I just love to wake up and be in wildlife,” he answered.

My village in southern Maine isn’t exactly Baxter State Park, but where there is wildlife,  Benjamin will find it. Since he was old enough to communicate – in other words always – he has shown a kinship for animals. And like children do, he has helped me see what I would have missed.

“I loved animals when I first saw them,” Benjamin said when invited to write this blog with me. “I wanted to know more about them, about the ways that they do stuff, like hunting and playing.”

Benjamin’s interest goes beyond learning the facts.

“I like to see animals from their point of view instead of from people’s point of view. I like to see an animal’s view of a mouse, or an animal’s view of a giraffe,” he said. “Like a giraffe, for us it’s like, ‘oh it’s a big animal’ but for a tiger or lion it’s like ‘oh, it’s food, we got to go eat it.’”

Even as an adult, I’m too restless to cast a fishing rod more than four or five times without a bite. At 2, Benjamin waited for hours on the end of a dock among the reeds at our favorite lake in Bridgton. He never gets bored on that dock.

“I just like to have patience. I like to test my patience, to see how long I can go,” he said. Plus,“I like to give myself a challenge and try to find the best or the biggest fish. I like to see what fish are in the pond. No matter how long I wait I know that they’re in there.”

I used to think an animal dying would be hard for Benjamin. Not so. “It’s the way of life, if they die they die,” he said.

This week Benjamin went to a neighbor’s to return something. When he came back, he reported on his latest wildlife experience.

“There was a chickadee that I came millimeters from,” he said. “It flew onto a hedge, but I didn’t move one muscle because I knew if I moved it would go away. And I wanted to see it more.”

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Poster contest for kids!

Students in grades K-8 can help raise awareness about sun safety and win great prizes by entering the 2012 SunWise with SHADE Poster Contest, organized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SunWise Program and the SHADE Foundation.

The due date for entries is April 1, and more information is available at: www.epa.gov/sunwise/postercontest.html

Original, hand-drawn posters should show sun safety action steps. Participating students are eligible for state and national prizes. The national winner will be chosen through an online vote open to everyone. The grand prize is a family trip to Disney World and a shade structure for the winner’s school. Top posters will be displayed at the National Children’s Museum during summer 2012.

Julie Kunrath is an ASPH Fellow hosted by the SunWise program in the Office of Air and Radiation in DC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Happy Lead Free Kids

Look both ways before crossing the sidewalk.  Don’t take candy from strangers. Don’t stick your finger in the light socket!

There’s a long list of things my parents told me to be afraid of when I was a kid, lead-based paint was never one of them. Maybe that’s why I was able to grow up without worrying about what was coating the swing set I played on and what kind of paint was on the walls in my room was because of the federal regulations and efforts made since the late 1970s to prevent children and adults from being affected by lead-based paint poisoning. It makes me sad to know that there are still so many children who are exposed to lead-based paint dangers in and near our homes. More than 1 million children are affected by lead poisoning today, and this is especially troublesome, in my opinion, because lead poisoning from lead based paint is 100 percent preventable.

We might not be able to make things better overnight and, as students and young adults, the scope of power to affect policy change may seem limited. Together though, we can help prevent lead-based paint poisoning. You’re probably asking how.  You do not have to donate money or start a march for the cause. Use social media and other technology to spread the word. It’s at our fingertips.  Just help by simply spreading the knowledge to your friends and family that lead in paint is still a problem in the US and that lead-based paint exposure can be prevented. Send an E-card on lead-safe practices or print out a poster and hang it in your room or at school. You can also find great prevention information and a neat web tool to help parents identify common danger zones for lead in older homes built before 1978. Check it out. Read about the facts and act on them.

http://www.epa.gov/lead/

Esther Kwon was an intern for the Lead, Heavy Metals & Inorganics Branch in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. She will be graduating in the spring of 2012 from Smith College.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Why is Coco Orange?

coco book cover

Hmmm… good question!  Coco has a problem. He’s a chameleon, but he can’t change colors, and his asthma is acting up. Read how Coco and his friends at Lizard Lick Elementary solve this mystery as they learn about air quality and how to stay healthy when the air quality is bad.  http://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=picture_book.index

Play some cool games and learn about the Air Quality Index at:

http://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=aqikids_home.index

Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Have You Seen … Kids.gov ???

kidsgov

Kids.gov is the official kids’ portal for the U.S. government. It links to over 2,000 web pages from government agencies, schools, and educational organizations, all geared to the learning level and interest of kids.

Check it out at: http://www.kids.gov/

Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Una palabra con cinco letras para un gas radioactivo inerte

El otro día trabajaba en un crucigrama del periódico bastante difícil cuando me tropecé con esta clave – palabra con cinco letras para un gas radioactivo inerte. Bien, me dije a mí mismo, creo que sé ésta. Tiene que ser radón. Me hubiera gustado que el resto del crucigrama fuera igual de fácil!

Enero es el Mes Nacional de Acción de Radón y estoy escribiendo este blog para crear conciencia acerca de los peligros del radón. Afortunadamente, aquí puedo ofrecer más información que la clave de un crucigrama.

El radón es un gas que se produce en la naturaleza del uranio radioactivo en el suelo y en las rocas que se encuentra alrededor del mundo entero. Ya que los materiales radioactivos se descomponen y cambian con el tiempo, usted podría pensar que el uranio se desintegra. Sí, de hecho, se desintegra, primero y se convierte en radio, y después de un tiempo, el radio se desintegra en radón. Ya que el radón es un gas, este se mueve fácilmente a través del suelo y fluye desde el suelo hacia la atmosfera y los edificios. ¿Ahora comprende por qué me preocupan los niveles de radón en los hogares?

De hecho, aunque parece una idea descabellada, el radón puede adentrarse fácilmente en su hogar. Tome como ejemplo donde yo vivo, en nuestro frío clima del medio oeste, necesitamos calentar nuestros hogares. Al calentar el aire, el aire tibio sube y crea una mayor presión arriba y una baja presión abajo, que básicamente trabaja como una aspiradora que succiona el suelo debajo de la casa. Es por esta razón que vemos niveles elevados de radón en los sótanos y en los pisos bajos de algunos edificios.

Peor aún es el hecho de que aunque usted no puede ver ni oler el radón, éste si le hace daño. ¿Pensaba que el proceso de desintegración eliminaba el radón? Pues, claro que no lo elimina. El radón es radioactivo, así que también se descompone, y cuando lo hace libera partículas alfa. En sus pulmones, las partículas alfa causan daño al golpear los tejidos. El respirar muchas partículas alfa puede causar serios problemas de salud, incluyendo cáncer. El radón es la segunda causa principal de cáncer pulmonar, y la primera causa de cáncer pulmonar entre las personas que no fuman.

Por su salud y por la salud de su familia, haga la prueba de radón en su hogar. Hacer la prueba es la única manera de saber si los niveles de radón en su hogar están elevados. Si encuentra niveles de radón altos – 4 picocuríes o más – haga los arreglos en su hogar- lo cual también es fácil de hacer. Simplemente mire la página web de radón de la EPA. Me gustaría que el resto del crucigrama hubiera sido tan fácil como es hacer la prueba de radón.

Jack Barnette es un científico ambiental que trabaja para la División de Aire y Radiación en la oficina regional de la EPA en Chicago. El señor Barnette ha trabajado con la EPA desde el 1984, Antes de unirse a la EPA, trabajó para la Agencia Medioambiental del Sstado de Illinois. El señor Barnette trabaja en un número de asuntos del medio ambiente y salud publica incluyendo la calidad del aire interior, protección de radiación, educación en asma y monitoreo del aire.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Week for Happy, Lead-Free Kids

By Esther Kwon

Among the long list of things my parents told me to be afraid of when I was a child, lead-based paint was never one of them. Perhaps the reason why I was able to grow up without worrying about what was coating the swing set I played on and what kind of paint was on the walls in my room was because of the federal regulations and efforts made since the late 1970s to prevent children and adults from being affected by lead-based paint poisoning. However, it saddens me to know that there are still so many children who are exposed to lead-based paint hazards in and near our homes.

I came to the EPA as an intern to learn about the Agency’s regulatory rulemaking process for six months, but I did not expect to gain so much knowledge about lead hazards and safety practices. For example, I found out about the types of cognitive disorders that could occur in children from lead poisoning, and learned that even a few particles of lead in the dust are enough to poison a child. More than 1 million children are affected by lead poisoning today, and this is especially troublesome, in my opinion, because lead poisoning is 100 percent preventable. Although, as an intern, the scope of power I have at the EPA is extremely limited, I am thankful that I can assist in any way that furthers the Agency’s public health protection and education goals for lead poisoning prevention, including reaching you through this blog.

This week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, a week dedicated to educating parents and children on the dangers of lead-based paint exposure and the importance of the health and safety of our homes. To participate, you do not have to donate money or start a march for the cause. You can help by simply spreading the knowledge to your friends and family that lead in paint is still a problem in the US and that lead-based paint exposure can be prevented. Send an E-card on lead-safe work practices or print out a poster and hang it at your work place or at school. You can also find great prevention information and a neat web tool to help parents identify common danger zones for lead in older homes built before 1978. Check it out. Read about the facts and act on them.

About the author: Esther Kwon is an intern for the Lead, Heavy Metals & Inorganics Branch in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. She will be returning to Smith College in December, where she will be graduating in the spring.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Kids Get It!

Just last week, I visited Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Hyattsville, Maryland for their Career Day. This time, I was assigned to speak at three separate classes—3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. During my presentations, I discussed the Agency’s mission, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and different types of jobs at EPA. In order to keep them engaged, I quizzed them on a variety of environmental issues. I was very interested in finding out what they thought about how best to protect the environment.  I was very pleased to see that the kids have definitely mastered the concept of the three R’s “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” Whenever I asked them about what they could do to help, “picking up trash and recycling” were the first issues highlighted in each of the classes. They also mentioned other useful green tips such as saving water, saving energy, and riding a bike instead of driving a car, to name a few.

At the school, they were incorporating many green habits into practice. One of the classes had even planted their own garden. The teacher mentioned that there were a group of students that lived nearby and regularly took care of it. I was able to see how the children talked about the garden with pride.

It was very inspiring to see that these children have internalized many of the values necessary to protect the planet. Children can be great teachers. In fact, we can learn a lot from them only if we truly listen. That reminds me of a song I heard recently on one of my daughter’s CD. It’s entitled “Wake up, America.” would like to share the chorus:

“Wake up, America. We’re all
In this together
It’s our home
So let’s take care of it
You know that you want to
You know that you got
To wake up America

Tomorrow
Becomes a new day
And everything you do
Matters
Yeah
Everything you do
Matters
In some way”

So, let’s listen to these teachers, TODAY!

If you want to see some key examples of young students who have taken environmental stewardship to the next level, I would recommend you see the projects presented by the winners of the President’s Environmental Youth Awards.  For more information on sponsoring a young person or group, visit our website.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

One minute I am sitting in Argentina at the end of my study abroad dreading the return to the Detroit suburbs and the next I am told that I was chosen for an internship at the EPA. I found out quite last minute but that just made it all the more exciting. Good news is I am learning more than I could have imagined and am having a great experience.

One of my favorite experiences so far was working the EPA booth at the Taste of Chicago. This is one of many festivals that bring people from all over to the city during the summer. The EPA often has information and activity booths at festivals all over the country.

image of author leaning over an environmental jeopardy game boardAlthough it was raining, we eagerly unloaded the van of the Environmental Jeopardy board I had worked on for about a week and the Energy Star bike which were our main attractions at the Taste this year. I was a little nervous about how appealing the Jeopardy game would be to kids and told myself I would be happy if kids stayed long enough to answer more than one question. The questions were in categories like Energy Issues, H2O, and Climate Change and the kids got to choose which category they wanted just like real Jeopardy. To my delight most kids wouldn’t leave until they answered all of the questions. There were kids all the way from 4 years old to 18 years old and there wasn’t a moment of silence at my table. It was really rewarding to see that so many kids were interested in the environment. Our EPA kids’ websites are a great place for kids to learn about different environmental issues. With the Energy Star bike on the other end of the table, EPA’s booth turned out to be a great success and seemed to have reached lots of kids of all ages as well as their parents.

My EPA experience will have been short but sweet. Soon I’ll be back in Michigan but I do plan to stay involved with my new found passion for Environmental Education.

About the author: Kelly Archer is an intern working with Environmental Education and Indoor Air Programs in Region 5. She is a junior at Michigan State University working on a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Use su sentido común cuando vaya a la piscina

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

image of toddler stanind in a kiddie pool wearing a hat, sunglasses and life jacketEl fin de semana del Día de la Recordación por los caídos en guerras de Estados Unidos indica el comienzo extraoficial de la época veraniega en el continente estadounidense. Y con esta nueva temporada, muchos estadounidenses reanudan otro ritual veraniego—la excursión a la piscina de la vecindad. Sea al final de una larga jornada de trabajo o durante el fin de semana, muchos niños entusiastas obligan a sus padres a llevarlos a la piscina para un momento de diversión. No lo tomen a mal. ¡Me encanta el verano! Me encantan las cálidas playas arenosas y nadar en la piscina. Sin embargo, con el pasar del tiempo, no sé si se trata de mayor sabiduría o cautela, pero a veces lo tengo que pensar dos veces antes de entrar al agua, especialmente las piscinas infantiles, cuando veo demasiados niñitos envueltos en pañales.

Al investigar el tema de este blog, confirmé mis sospechas. A través de Estados Unidos, ha habido un aumento en el brote de enfermedades relacionadas a las aguas de recreo (RWI, por sus siglas en inglés) en los últimos veinte años asociadas con las piscinas, parques acuáticos, piscinas de agua caliente y otros cuerpos de agua. Uno pensaría que los  antimicrobianos y el cloro usado para tratar el agua de las piscinas sería suficiente para mantener las piscinas seguras de algunos gérmenes y bacterias que se difunden en el agua como el Cripto el E coli.

La realidad es que se necesita algo más que las sustancias químicas para proteger el agua. Una buena dosis de sentido común es esencial. He aquí algunas pautas básicas para la natación sana. En primer lugar—no nade si usted tiene diarrea. Tampoco deje que sus hijos naden si tienen diarrea ya que el agua en la piscina servirá para transmitir los gérmenes y enfermar a los demás. En segundo lugar, evite tragar el agua de la piscina. Esto es algo que los niños pequeños muchas veces hacen inconscientemente, pero tiene que educarles sobre el tema a temprana edad. Las buenas prácticas de higiene son esenciales dentro y fuera de la piscina. Dúchese antes de nadar. Lávese las manos después de ir al baño o de cambiar pañales. Lleve a sus hijos al baño con frecuencia y cámbiele el pañal aún cuando no se lo pidan. Cuando ya los niños dicen tener los deseos de ir al baño, podría ser demasiado tarde. Cambie los pañales en el baño o en el área de cambio de pañales. No lo haga cerca de la piscina. Sobre todo, lave a su hijo (especialmente la parte trasera) con agua y jabón antes de nadar. Suena sencillo, ¿verdad? Es puro sentido común. Con unos pasos sencillos, usted puede protegerse a sí mismo, a su familia y amistades. Y por cierto, antes de ir a la piscina o la playa, ¡acuérdese de la crema de protección solar! Disfrute el verano.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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