National Environmental Education Foundation

It’s Don’t Fry Day– Protect Your Skin Today and Every Day

Today is Don’t Fry Day, a day designated to remind Americans about the dangers of skin cancer and how to protect themselves. As we enter the summer season, we join with the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to remind Americans that each year more people are diagnosed with this largely preventable disease. Today, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting nearly five million Americans annually with a price tag of $8.1 billion. Most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

The SunWise program works to educate Americans about the simple steps they can take to stay safe in the sun all year long. These tips include checking the UV Index to plan outdoor activities when the sun is less intense. Our free UV Index app gives you an hourly forecast from your smartphone. Seek shade during the sun’s peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. And, my personal favorite: Slip, Slop, Slap, and Wrap: Slip on a shirt. Slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen. Slap on a wide-brimmed hat, and wrap on sunglasses.

This month marks the 15th anniversary of SunWise. Since 2000, more than 58,000 educators have joined SunWise and used its educational resources to teach children about stratospheric ozone, UV radiation, and the health effects of overexposure to UV radiation. These educators represent more than 34,000 schools and over 7,000 other partners from state and local health departments, non-profits, science and children’s museums, camps, scouts, 4-H clubs, and universities.

I’m proud of what we, together with our partners, have achieved. As we celebrate SunWise’s anniversary, I am pleased to announce a new collaboration between EPA and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) that will extend the reach of SunWise and keep the momentum going. In working with health professionals, weathercasters, land managers, teachers and others, NEEF connects with millions of people and will be able to bring important SunWise messages and actions to a new and broader audience.

Today, we formalized this collaborative relationship with NEEF in a Memorandum of Understanding. I’m looking forward to a bright future for SunWise but some shade for me this weekend!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Environmental Education Week 2015

This week, April 19-25, EPA and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) are celebrating National Environmental Education Week along with thousands of students and teachers across the country. Through environmental education, educators show students how science is a part of our daily lives, teach them the skills to develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues, and encourage them to make responsible decisions. Earth Day, which falls in the middle of Environmental Education Week this year, is an important time to reflect on our environmental impact and what we can do to protect our planet.

Over the past several years, NEEF has led Environmental Education Week by focusing on “Greening STEM,” encouraging teachers and students to explore the connection between the natural world and STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEM education provides the building blocks for questioning, investigating, interpreting, and ultimately protecting the world around us. Within the STEM classroom, environmental education can help students relate the formulas on the whiteboard to real world, outdoor experiences. Environmental education and STEM together equip students to critically analyze and identify effective solutions to environmental problems.

This Environmental Education Week, EPA offices across the country are working with their communities to connect with educators as well as recognize outstanding young environmental stewards—the new winners of the President’s Environmental Youth Award. This year’s winners are directly restoring damaged ecosystems, exploring exciting new alternative fuel options, and mobilizing their communities to support sustainable solutions to environmental problems. Later this year, our Office of Environmental Education will announce recipients of our Environmental Education Grants. Each year, we award $3.5 million to school districts, local governments, universities, tribal education programs, and other partners to support environmental education projects promoting awareness, stewardship, and skill building.

On Earth Day, NEEF staff will visit Nizhoni Elementary School in Shiprock, New Mexico, for the unveiling of a brand new Schoolyard STEM Lab, a unique learning space where students and teachers can participate in hands-on activities that exhibit the “greening” of STEM activities, from a greenhouse for science investigations to outdoor stations for engineering projects and more.

These unique experiences are what environmental education is all about—encouraging students to combine the skills they learn in the classroom with their curiosity about the natural world. It’s up to all of us to give them the chance to discover solutions to environmental challenges. We’re excited to explore the connections between environmental education and STEM throughout the year and to help teachers find the most engaging ways to enrich education through environmental themes.

There are many ways to get involved. Be an Environmental Education Week ambassador. Get outside this week and learn something new about the natural world. Share your understanding and encourage those around you to do the same. Find resources for your classroom or your child at http://www2.epa.gov/students/lesson-plans-teacher-guides-and-online-resources-educators and visit http://eeweek.org/ to learn more about how you can join the environmental education Week celebration.

About the authors: Stan Meiburg is the U.S. EPA Acting Deputy Administrator and Diane Wood is the President of the National Environmental Education Foundation.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Digging the Earth

By Kathy Sykes

When I think about my Grandpa Lars, I always remember him digging in his garden, harvesting new red potatoes, and dill, as a good Swede, as well as lettuce, tomatoes, raspberries, and many other fruits and vegetables. His green thumb was inherited by my mother, Marguerite, who mastered the art of gardening vegetables, herbs and flowers. She not only inspired our family to love gardening, but also neighbors, who soon were planting their gardens too.

People on foot, bike or in cars often stopped, smiled and thanked us for our garden. Occasionally we received anonymous notes addressed to the “Residents of 2100 Rowley” thanking us for the beautifully cared for plants. We took pride in our mom’s treasure and in our small family contributions of weeding and watering the garden. Getting my hands dirty from digging in the ground was almost as much fun as using the hose to water seedlings and my siblings.

I also remember stepping outside to cut fresh flowers for the dinner table or sprigs of parsley, or basil that added the final touch and fragrance to her delicious dishes. I especially recall the crabapple tree that mom’s co-workers bought for her when my Grandfather died. Now the tree stands tall and provides much appreciated shade on hot and humid summer days.

The demands and distractions of modern society deter too many of us from digging in the ground. Time constraints and other dangers keep us indoors. Nowadays, children spend less time outside in unstructured play, while adults spend more time commuting in our sprawling cities.

This weekend we have the opportunity to share our knowledge of gardening and love of trees with youth and reminisce about the changes that have occurred during our lifetime. Getting off the couch, away from our blackberries and TVs and outside to appreciate our parks, local woods and green space is a worthy endeavor. Saturday, September 24th is National Public Lands Day. This event is celebrated annually and was conceived of by the National Environmental Education Foundation. EPA is one many sponsoring agencies. Volunteer to plant a tree and bring along your camera to capture the fun of digging in the dirt.

You can enter the Volunteers in Action Photo Contest.

Plant a tree. Dig the Earth! She will thank you.

About the author: Kathy Sykes began working for the U.S. EPA in 1998. Since 2002, she has served as the Senior Advisor for the Aging Initiative.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Teachers Sow “Green” Career Seeds

By Megan Gavin

I was fortunate enough to be part on the review panel for the Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation. While I didn’t know who Richard Bartlett was, I did know that the award is given to a teacher who successfully integrates environmental education into their curriculum and engages students in interdisciplinary solutions to environmental challenges. The application requires a letter from the nominee’s students. Here are some things students said about their teachers: ‘[our teacher is] a very passionate person about helping the environment’; ‘learning various science facts has become so fun thanks to my teacher’; ‘[our teacher] is every school’s dream science teacher’; ‘[our] classroom mimics a university lab, filled with stuffed specimens, pictures of local insects and high grade microscopes’; and lastly, ‘lessons in the environmental learning center were always my favorite’.

John Schmeid, a 7th grade science teacher from Bothell, Washington, is this year’s Bartlett winner. He frequently collaborates with math, art, literacy, social studies and history teachers to integrate their programming into environmental learning. As part of his class, each student develops her/his own action project to improve the environment; it’s called ‘my present to the environment’.

Dozens of John Schmeid’s students have gone on to pursue science and engineering degrees citing his class as the spark. I tried to recall what impact a teacher had on my career. While I got a taste of environmental studies in my high school chemistry class, I didn’t take an environmental science class until I was in college. But, because of that course and the teacher, I decided I wanted to go into the environmental field. And that led me to EPA. Now, I wonder how many of John Schmeid’s students will end up working at EPA?

About the author: Megan Gavin currently works as the environmental education coordinator in the Chicago office of EPA.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.