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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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Promoting Environmental Stewardship Among Young People: A 2009 PEYA Winner’s Story

By Apoorva Rangan

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions has evolved into a problem on a scale that no nation can afford to fight alone. There are over 190 countries. Their boundaries may be fixed, but their people breathe the same air. No matter which country contributes the most or the least to the carbon dioxide burden, all nations suffer together.

During a time when there are major differences between developed and developing nations as how to mitigate climate change, my brother and I launched Project Jatropha, an international collaboration aimed towards alleviating rural poverty and environmental destruction by promoting the biofuel shrub Jatropha curcas.

Project Jatropha provides poor farmers in southern India with enhanced technical assistance in the utility and productivity of biofuels in ways that are environmentally sustainable and economically rewarding. Additionally, this project provides a successful medium in which young people across the globe can collaborate on the implementation of sound initiatives that provide environmental and monetary benefits to impoverished farmers in need.

In 2009, Project Jatropha was awarded the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Presidential Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). The PEYA program recognizes youth who promote environmentally-conscious awareness of our nation’s natural resources and encourages community involvement in sustainability efforts.

Each year, one outstanding project from each of EPA’s ten regional offices is selected for national recognition. The new projects awarded continue to be impressive. To be one of the lucky recipients of this award is truly one of my biggest accomplishments as an environmentalist. This honor has given Project Jatropha invaluable visibility and exposure. More importantly, the recognition from this award has helped raise awareness about how community action is key to creating essential strategies the benefit our global community and environment.

Since receiving the award, Project Jatropha has launched a variety of sister projects focused on environmental education, solar energy programs and kitchen gardens. My experience as an environmentalist has shown me that climate change is a problem on the scale that no entity can afford to fight alone. Because collective efforts can make a difference, the environmental education and stewardship of young people is undeniably crucial in the fight to combat global warming.

About the author: Apoorva Rangan is studying Science and Management with a biotechnology sequence at Claremont-McKenna College in California. She is currently interning at the Office of Public Engagement.

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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Presidential Environmental Youth Award Alumni Strikes Again

A former PEYA participant is at it again. She’s paving the way as an environmental leader and all at the ripe age of 17.

Wisconsin’s Jordyn Schara, and her team, had an opportunity to present their  P2D2 (Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal) project, that earned them 3rd place in the Presidential Environmental Youth Award, to a group in Sweden.  This June, a panel of international environmental judges, including United Nation representatives, learned more about P2D2’s goals of educating the public about the environmental harm done when drugs and prescriptions are improperly disposed of.

Water contamination has occurred because folks sometimes flush unused prescription drugs down a toilet, triggering a dangerous hazard. Through education and “drug take-back” collection events, P2D2 keeps unused prescription medications out of the waste stream in Illinois and Wisconsin and helps keep drugs out of the hands of teenagers. More than 440 pounds of drugs were collected at the very first event. 

Jordyn’s team is pioneering the way to proper prescription disposal.  They’ve worked with schools in their area, are making their state legislators aware of the issues, and now they are reaching a global audience. 

As for Jordyn, she is carrying the Olympic torch through Ludgershall, UK as an official Olympic torchbearer in July.  Not bad, not bad at all.

Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5.  She recently received a graduate degree from DePaul University

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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PEYA Summit Blog

studentsWe were thrilled to receive an invitation to the White House Summit on Environmental Education on April 16, 2012 to receive the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). This award was created to recognize the outstanding work of young people in their environmental community. We were the winners in Region 8 which consists of CO, ND, SD, WY, MT, and UT.

We came from Colorado and our project was spreading the word in our state about radon and how it can cause lung cancer. It is easy to test for radon in your home with a simple test kit. We spoke to city councils, at community events, and at our State Capitol on the dangers of Radon. We presented at the National Radon Conference and International Radon Symposium in Florida.

The Summit experience was enlightening. It was held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White. We were excited to hear speeches by the Honorable Lisa Jackson, the  Administrator of the EPA, and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. We had a roundtable discussion where we shared our projects with the winners from other regions.  We came home inspired by their ideas.

We encourage other kids in the US to pursue environmental projects to make us safer, to conserve resources, and to make our world a healthier place to live in. Many environmental issues affect our health and that’s important to us as kids. Getting involved in your community is one of the best things you can contribute.

Eric and Christina Bear from Golden, Colorado were a 2011 President’s Environmental Youth Award winner.

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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Reminder….PEYA Applications Due at the End of the Year

peya logoJust a quick reminder to start getting your applications together for the 2011 President’s Environmental Youth Award. All K-12 students in the U.S. and its territories are eligible to apply.

The PEYA program promotes awareness of our nation’s natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. Since 1971, the President of the United States has joined with EPA to recognize young people across the U.S. for protecting our nation’s air, water, land, and ecology. It is one of the most important ways EPA and the Administration demonstrate commitment to environmental stewardship efforts created and conducted by our nation’s young people.

Your project – or one you are sponsoring – could be an award winner.

To find out how to apply visit:  http://www.epa.gov/peya/index.html

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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Well Done, Boston Latin School Youth Can!

By Quynh-Nhu Le

For about the past five years, Boston Latin School Youth CAN has engaged students both in school and in the community in environmental stewardship projects.

Five years! That’s a long time to have been doing this. I joined BLS Youth CAN about three years ago. I have seen it grow tremendously over that time. Our Education for Sustainability campaign, which aims to get sustainability integrated into BLS’s curriculum, has taken off. We just held our second Summer Institute for teachers interested in developing curriculum for the campaign.

We’ve also worked to improve the school facilities, started a school garden and introduced Zero-Sort Recycling to the school. Honestly, Youth CAN has worked so hard these past years in order to improve youth awareness and school facilities that sometimes it’s very tiring, especially when you hit roadblocks on your project. Of course, the project itself is fun and rewarding. BUT, there are times when you really wonder how much what you’re doing really impacts others.

That’s where the PEYA award came in. I think my group collectively screamed when we found out we had won the PEYA Region 1 Award. The EPA is, of course, known for its mission to protect human health and the environment (since of course the two are inextricably tied together). It awards the President’s Environmental Youth Award to regional youths for outstanding environmental projects. This year, one of the ten awards was given to BLS Youth CAN.

We got to go to the award ceremony at Faneuil Hall in Boston, and even did a short skit about the importance of recycling that we developed when rolling out our Zero-Sort Recycling program at BLS.

The fact that the hard work we had done was recognized is immensely satisfying. I mean, some of our student leaders spend nearly every afternoon planning the next steps BLS Youth CAN will take. The PEYA award makes us feel all the work is worth it, because it is impacting places beyond the boundaries of our school.

I hope other youth groups and individuals out there are inspired to pursue their own projects by the work we have done, by the importance the EPA has placed on recognizing youth engagement in environmental stewardship, and by the dedication of all the PEYA winners.

Trust me. The personal satisfaction at making a positive impact on the community is worth it.

About the author: Quynh-Nhu Le is a Boston Latin School student & member of BLS Youth Can.

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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Blue and Gold Make Green: A High School Recycling Success Story

By Tess Clinkingbeard

I was always interested in the environment, but I never imagined that this curiosity would result in my being a student intern at the EPA!

It all started when my high school’s Green Team won the President’s Environmental Youth Award and two representatives, from the EPA office in Seattle, came to our school to present our award.

Out of all the PEYA contestants last year in Region 10, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, Tahoma’s Green Team was selected to have done the best job of improving our community’s environment.

From September 2009 to December 2010, Tahoma High School began five specialized recycling programs, for everything from Styrofoam to batteries—but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Led by Green Team President, Cort Hammond, Tahoma’s Green Team was able to do two adopt-a-road events, initiate food waste recycling at our school and become a Level One Green School. We were able to save the school district $24,000 through lunchroom recycling.

Tahoma’s Green Team Motto, “Blue and Gold Make Green!” after the school’s colors, is a perfect summation of the transformation that has occurred. As you approach the school, there are five solar panels on the front, which generate some of the energy we use every day. There are recycling bins in every classroom, posters about how to sort waste in the lunchroom and every light switch has a reminder sticker about turning off the lights when leaving the room. The student store and coffee stand have compostable cups. Green Team is working on extending that to utensils and reusable dishes.

All of our hard work paid off in the form of a National PEYA Award. When we received our award, we were also notified about summer internships, and, after an interview and a lot of paperwork, I was working at the EPA! I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work so closely with those on the frontlines of the battle for environmental justice. The EPA’s summer internship program is an amazing opportunity to gain real life experience.

About the author: Tess Clinkingbeard is a Senior at Tahoma High School, and is now a Co-President, along with Cassandra Houghton, of the Green Team. She is currently interning at the EPA’s office in Seattle and aspires to go into environmental studies and Spanish.

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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D.R.O.P. Bags

I am known as a “pageant girl” in my small town of Delanco, New Jersey.  While many people can’t see past the word “pageant”, the pageant I participate in is nothing like what you have seen on T.V.  America’s National Teenager is a pageant system is based on leadership, academic achievement, and community service.  If it were not for this program, I may have never started my recycling program.

BLOG-Miranda-picture-summer-I had already begun doing community service prior to doing pageants.  My greatest passion, D.R.O.P. (Delanco Recycles Our Plastic) Bags, began in 5th grade.  I realized that people were not recycling those plastic shopping bags that we see all around us and I knew that they were a huge problem for our community.  They could be seen floating down the river, caught up in the trees or drifting around the streets.

D.R.O.P. works like this: I set up locations throughout my community in the schools, town hall and library.  Then, through the township web site, communication with school kids and their families, and posters, I ask the townspeople to bring their plastic bags to my containers.  Then, with my family’s help, I bring the bags to the recycling location at my local grocery store.  The store staff, with the help of the great people at Goodwill, makes sure the bags get to a recycling facility that turns them into eco-friendly lumber.

D.R.O.P. Bags gave me opportunities to begin working with the Burlington County Clean Communities Council.  I began making presentations at their events to encourage recycling and make sure that people knew how important it was to keep our communities clean. My recycling program was nominated the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award, and I was so thankful to receive the Honorable Mention.  D.R.O.P. Bags provided additional opportunities: being a NJ Clean Communities Council Environmental Ambassador, participating in seminars and special events, and meeting amazing people who champion the environment every day.

This year, I received the Presidential Environmental Youth Award!  Only ten of these awards are made each year. I feel so honored and really blessed.  I hope that D.R.O.P. Bags continues to make a difference in the world because it sure has made a difference in mine!

About the author: Miranda Pawline is a sophomore attending Holy Cross High School in Delanco, New Jersey where she is an honor roll student, Interact Club member and Varsity Softball player. She is the 2011 America’s Junior National Sweetheart. The ball gown she appears with in the picture is made from plastic bags!

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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FAST Autistic High School Students: Solar Power Ambassadors

By Karen Mark

As a former mentor for autistic high school students during my college years, I was thrilled to learn about the EPA’s President’s Environmental Youth Award winners from California. Independence High School teachers Tom Horton and Kevin Crosby decided to take six high functioning autistic students and apply their enthusiasm for green science and technology to good use. Being located in the sun abundant region of Bakersfield, California these students and teachers created the Falcon Autistic Solar Team (FAST).

The FAST students each built and operated a solar powered machine. The projects include models such as cars, a Lego Ferris wheel, a house with solar powered fans and light bulbs, and a cooking oven. These models are connected to solar panel arrays and are completely powered by solar or radiant energy. Autistic students learn best from visuals and performing tasks physically. By physically building the models, the FAST students gained a greater understanding of science and energy topics.

In addition to building the models, FAST students shared their science knowledge by educating elementary students and adults in Kern County, CA about solar power, photovoltaic systems, electricity, forms of energy usage, and energy conservation. These presentations did more than simply increase environmental awareness. Challenges for those with autism include social interactions and communicating with others. By presenting and answering questions, the students developed and improved their socialization and public speaking skills.

The students also appeared in local television public service announcements about energy conservation. After receiving the President’s Environmental Youth Award, they were featured in the New York Times’ Green Blog on energy and the environment highlighting their solar presentations and how they advanced environmental awareness and conservation.

I admire the commitment of the special education teachers, Tom and Kevin, to inspire and create the Falcon Autistic Solar Team. By recognizing these students’ interests and building a program to educate others, they are improving their socialization skills and preparing them for the next chapters in their lives. I can’t wait to see what they develop next!

About the author: Karen Mark is a Student Temporary Employment Program intern in the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Environmental Management and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Public Service Management.

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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Local Kids Make a Global Difference

By Ameshia Cross

One of the great things about my internship with EPA is that I get to continue working with youth and youth related issues.  Recently I was lucky enough to serve as one of the judges for the President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) in EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago.

PEYA was created by EPA and the President of the United States to recognize the ideas and innovations of youth working on environmental issues. PEYA is a competition open to youth around the country and students can participate by themselves or in a group project.  Serving as a judge, I was immediately wowed by the applicants. Projects ranged from outreach efforts with state legislatures and communities about water issues and recycling to wetlands and conservationism.   The winning applicant from Region 5 was a group from Chicago – the EcoMacs.

The EcoMacs are a group of teenage women who attend Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School. The Operation Haiti project they designed is simply phenomenal. These young women studied the region and its people; they learned about its economy and its environmental resources and decided to do something to help.  The group devised a plan to bring economic stability to the village of Pichon by using untapped natural resources.  As desolate as the village seemed, the Eco-Macs saw that Haiti had two major eco-friendly resources, the Jathropha plant and extensive sun exposure. The students built a solar-powered biodiesel processor for a school in Pichon. They worked with farmers to plant Jathropa whose seed oil can be converted to marketable products. Additionally, the students advised the school in Pichon on the process of making soap out of a glycerin by-product as well as using the biodiesel for use in oil lamps and much more.

Unfortunately, the processor has not made it to its final destination due to logistical issues in Port-au-Prince. In the meantime, the EcoMacs have continued to educate the local community about the project through appearances and Power Point presentations at elementary schools and Earth Day programs.

These young ladies are making a difference globally. They thought beyond the borders of the United States and created something for a region that many people forgot about after the earthquake headlines stopped running. The EcoMacs saw a problem and an environmental asset that could alleviate it. This is the kind of thinking and inspiration that deserves recognition…CONGRATULATIONS LADIES!

About the author:  Ameshia Cross joined the EPA in December as a STEP intern in the Air and Radiation Division in Chicago. She has worked for numerous community organizations and holds seats on youth education boards. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration with an emphasis on environmental policy and legislation.

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.