The Judge

By Shelby Egan

Working as an intern in the environmental field has its perks, like being able to learn about how to protect the earth and gaining insight on how to make a difference in my local community, but this week’s task was different.   I volunteered as a science fair judge for 7th grade students in Chicago.  Although I am not a scientist, I learned many new things from these students that I never knew about in middle school.  Cool projects included testing which type of water (distilled, bottled, or tap) left one’s hair softer after washing it, and learning which type of cat food is easiest for a cat to digest (don’t worry no real cats were involved!).  Other intriguing projects included testing how temperature of water affects the rate at which an Alka Seltzer tablet dissolves. The most interesting thing about hearing about each student’s project was to see how unique each experiment was.  No two projects were the same, and students were able to tap into their creative, scientific interests and learn something new!  So the next time you have a science fair or a school project that involves the environment, explore your favorite interests and create a new experiment!

Shelby Egan is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for protecting natural resources, cities she’s never been to and cooking any recipe by The Pioneer Woman.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Blood, Sweat and Dirty Fingernails

Most middle school students don’t usually spend their time growing their own food.  Green Cove Spring Middle School’s 7th and 8th graders are challenging that perception: they started the BSDF Garden, otherwise known as the Blood, Sweat, and Dirty Fingernails Garden.

The inspiration to grow an edible school garden started with the kids’ desire to learn firsthand about where food comes from and to literally enjoy the fruits – and veggies – of their labor.  At Green Cove Spring middle school, gardening has become a way to encourage students to work together, form a community, and learn.

The 7th and 8th graders began collecting a variety of vegetable seedlings and decided to reuse clean paint buckets as the planters.   By getting involved in gardening at school and creating garden classrooms, they were provided with real experiences on how food grows, where it comes from and how important gardens are for the environment.  For many of the students, it was an experience they will never forget because it introduced them to gardening and cultivating food. It may have been messy but they are already noticing results.   In fact, they have a tomato plant that has grown quickly and is producing several tomatoes already.  Some of the students have really taken an interest in planting and caring for the garden that they are taking some of the stronger plants home to care for after school lets out.

Despite not knowing how to start, these students have been pretty successful.  Can’t wait to find out what the students at Green Cove Spring Middle School come up with next!

Yvonne Gonzalez recently finished an internship  with the Air and Radiation Division in Chicago. She recently moved to Washington, DC to work at EPA permanently.  She received her dual graduate degree from DePaul University.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Lunchroom Battles!

The 7th grade doesn’t know it yet, but we 6th graders are going to win the Going Green competition at school, which also means…….PIZZA PARTY!!  Ok, so the pizza party would be awesome to win and so would rubbing it in to the 7th and 8th graders, but that’s not the point.  We’ve really learned something!

A few weeks ago, you heard from Brandon about how his class is using the 3 R’s to use less paper and make less waste.  Their classroom does look neater, but so does our lunchroom now. Thanks to us!

The 6th grade decided a bigger impact can be made where we eat, in the lunchroom.  Our class pledged to create a waste-free lunchroom.  It took some research, but we created a plan that included using less and reducing waste in the lunchroom. Instead of buying milk or soda cans for lunch, we’re using water bottles with juice or soda from home. If we bring lunch from home, it’s in a reusable container so paper and plastic baggies aren’t used.  There’s also a supply of reusable utensils that everyone has access to instead of using and throwing away plastic forks and knives. We have also taken old plastic barrels and made them recycling containers –one for the aluminum trays that contained our lunch, one for milk cartons, and one for waste.  We even talked our teacher into helping us build a compost bin for any food waste left over from lunch that can be used as compost.  Each week a few students are selected to clean any dirty aluminum trays and put any food waste in the compost bin.  It’s a dirty job, but there’s extra credit for the hard work.  In the last 3 weeks, our lunchroom ladies have reported only having to use 2 trash bags for waste instead of the usual 6 for all three classes.  The aluminum trays and any soda cans have totaled $86.72 in recycling cash too!

When I stop to think about it, it’s not about the competition anymore.  It’s about making our school better.  Our teacher calls it sustainable. I call it GREEN.

How did we come up with the idea? We did some research on the EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/osw/education/toolkit-res.htm

Josh is a middle school student in inner city Chicago. He has played the violin since he was 4 and hopes to someday be part of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.