Building Appreciation for the Environment with the Next Generation

Every year, the Mid-Atlantic Water Protection Division does a few Earth Day presentations at local schools. We have always felt that it’s important to educate young people about protecting the environment.

In certain ways, educating the next generation is one of the most important parts of EPA’s entire mission. This year, we went to a few schools including Julia R. Masterman at 17th & Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia. Masterman is a public magnet school that includes both a middle school and a high school with young enthusiastic teachers, who continually use their science curriculum to talk about environmental issues.

Sometimes a short presentation on the class’s Smartboard about the history of EPA is offered, including old photos of the Cuyahoga River fire which happened way back in 1969. Or we talk about the first Earth Day in 1970, and how it led to the formation of the EPA. Other times, we change speeds a bit and do a simple chemistry experiment using red cabbage juice as a pH indicator. pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity and changes in pH can also affect the aquatic life in a stream.

For an experiment about pH, we use red cabbage juice because it changes colors quite dramatically when mixed with baking soda, vinegar or even tap water. Purple, dark green and light blue…even a bright yellow can easily be created with the right substance. Middle schoolers love looking at the different colors, and some are inspired them to ask us a few questions about the Schuylkill River or other water bodies in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Read about successful restoration of pH-impaired streams in the Mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

What are some of the lessons you’ve shared with young people about protecting the health of our streams and rivers? The future of our environment is in their hands.