President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) 2003 Winners
The Groundwork Providence Environmental Education Team Program
High-school students in Providence, Rhode Island are taking care of their community and teaching others to do the same. Led by educators from Groundwork Providence, a local affiliate of the national nonprofit community and environmental group Groundwork USA, students participate in a program known as the Environmental Education Team or E-Team.
Each year, this team, which is composed of Providence youth between the ages of 14 and 18, runs after-school environmental clubs (E-Clubs) and summer environmental education camps (E-Camps) for students in grades K-6. E-Team youth develop, organize, and implement environmentally based programs and curricula for the younger students. They also train middle school students who volunteer for the Environmental Service Institute, at which both high school and middle school students serve as mentors for elementary school children.
Team members attend regular training sessions and workshops and participate in field trips to learn about environmental issues affecting their community. For example, to learn about proper solid waste management, students explored the issues of brownfields, trash containment, recycling, and household hazardous waste. After their training, team members share their newly acquired knowledge with the E-Club, Environmental Service Institute and E-Camp participants by leading community service projects.
Some of these projects include cleaning up vacant lots, stenciling storm drains, and creating and playing environmentally themed games. Students are also committed to educating community members about recycling and proper trash containment by providing brochures, recycling bins, and trash cans with lids. Together, the E-Team members and the E-Club, Environmental Service Institute, and E-Camp participants produce a newsletter as a record of their achievements and as a community outreach tool.
These Providence high-school students are learning to be stewards of their community by teaching neighbors about local environmental issues and serving as role models for younger children.
Dodge Elementary Scouts for Wetland Habitat Enhancement
Cub Scouts (Pack 279), Boy Scouts (Troop 279) and Girl Scouts (Dodge Service Unit) of Dodge Elementary School
Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts from Dodge Elementary School in East Amherst, NY are now in their third year of a wetland enhancement project in their town. The first phase of the project, which began in 2002, involved planting 400 tree seedlings around a 1-acre pond at the Lou Gehrig Baseball Fields. The pond was built 10 years ago, and since then, very little vegetation has taken root, so this initial phase was intended to encourage more growth along the pond's edge. Bird boxes were also placed around the pond for further wetland habitat enhancement.
The second phase of the project occurred in 2003 with the planting of over 800 trees along the ponds that adjoin the ball fields at the Town of Amherst's compost facility. The goal of this project was to plant wetland shrubs and trees around the pond, which previously had mowed grass up to its edge. The project not only benefits the pond by providing a more diverse habitat, but also benefits the Scouts by teaching them the ideals of conservation and community service.
Prior to the tree planting, the Scouts made bat boxes and tree swallow boxes that were placed around the site and put up several dozen additional boxes donated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They visited the compost facility to learn how it worked, observed the project site, and provided their insights on how best to plan their work.
Planting was done in April 2003 as part of Amherst's Arbor Day celebrations, and over 100 people turned out for the event. The work was hard, but the Scouts took up the challenge and did a wonderful job.
That day, the Scouts planted 780 tree seedlings, consisting mostly of wetland varieties including Streamco willow, green ash, river birch, and white pine. They also planted 50 5- to 8-feet weeping willows, black willows, and green ash trees at the site. In the months that followed, the Scouts went out to the site to care for the trees, making sure they were properly staked and watered and put up additional bird and bat boxes.
The third phase of the project is well under way. In March 2004 the Scouts, with the help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, placed several dozen bird boxes and bat boxes as well as several duck boxes around a 22-acre pond. The pond is on a property that has recently been obtained by the town of Amherst for use as a park. The annual tree-planting event is scheduled for April 25, 2004, when the Scouts will plant approximately 300 trees and place more bird and bat boxes around the pond.
The project has been made possible by a $500 grant awarded for each of the last 3 years by the Air and Waste Management Associations-Niagara Frontier Section. Additional funding in the form of matching grants was obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Town of Amherst.
Helping Hands in the New Millennium
Busy Bison 4-H Club
This community service and conservation project involves many aspects of conservation and environmental studies. Each Busy Bison member has organized, initiated, and participated in environmental projects designed to achieve individual goals. Members come together as a club to help one another achieve these goals to make life in their community better for everyone.
Many of these individual goals are represented by Adopt-A-Highway programs, stream monitoring and cleanup, recycling, local beautification, genealogy and history projects, and wildlife and habitat improvement.
Club members have designed and built a pond at a local county camp and set up wetlands and nature trails-the $6,000 cost was raised by the Bisons themselves. Participants have also given educational presentations about environmental and wildlife topics ranging from stream monitoring to bats. As part of its "Partners for Earth" project, the club took rejected plants from nurseries and greenhouses, nurtured them back to health, and planted them throughout the county.
4-H members also volunteer at a local Raptor Center to help care for injured birds, and at the Humane Society to help bathe and walk the animals and participate in animal food drives. The club held a rabies clinic last year and vaccinated more than 315 dogs and cats.
The Busy Bison 4-H Club has adopted more than 20 miles of highway that they clean up every month in addition to setting up and maintaining trash cans. Their "Clean Streams, American Dreams" project consists of two yearly cleanups of Buffalo Creek, a 20-mile river between Mannington and Fairmont, and monthly water aquatic monitoring and chemical monitoring.
Every month, the club recycles items in the Barrackville Community. Last year, the club recycled 610 pounds of aluminum; 4,305 pounds of steel; 6,002 pounds of paper; 27,953 plastic bags; 1,080 pounds of plastic; 2,929 pounds of glass; 690 tires; and much, much more as part of their "Waste Not Want Not" and "Guardian for Earth" projects.
Bison members have rebuilt and reprogrammed more than 500 donated computers, distributing many of them to local students and organizations in need, and shipping more than 300 of them to students in Nigeria.
These are just some of the many projects and events in which members of the Busy Bison 4-H Club participate. The need for their projects and enthusiasm is perhaps best demonstrated by the surprising tally of objects removed from local roads as part of a Bison project. These items include: shingles, metal, carpet, oil drums, various lengths of pipe and fencing, 310 bags of garbage, 338 tires, 8 televisions, 7 couches, 18 paint cans, 18 home appliances, a table and 8 chairs, 3 toxic Freon containers, 3 gallons of oil, a plastic pool and line, 3 commodes, 11 beds, 3 mufflers, 2 car fenders, 3 bags of newspaper, and 1 dishwasher. These helping hands are clearly a gift to their community.
Coweta 4-H Adopt-A-Stream
Coweta 4-H Adopt-A-Stream Club
Coweta 4-H Adopt-A-Stream was born 3 years ago when two 4-H members attended an Adopt-A-Stream workshop conducted by the Department of Natural Resources. Driven by their love of nature, the teens, who became certified in biological and chemical monitoring, decided that this program was a must for their county.
As the students began their search for streams to monitor, the need for the program became more apparent. Many streams were in very poor condition: hazardous waste filled Wahoo Creek, located beside a recreation area; a stream running beside the C.J. Smith Baseball Park was littered with beer cans and drug paraphernalia. A mechanic, operating illegally from a local apartment complex, was dumping oil into a nearby creek. Discarded tires also seemed to be a major problem.
The young people, inspired by the Adopt-A-Stream workshop, worked hard to educate themselves and recruit others, attending more conservation workshops and the Environmental Educators Alliance Conference. They sat in on Regional Development meetings and meetings of the Source Water Assessment Project. Membership in the State Wildlife Habitat Evaluation team and the Forestry Team was also a great resource for the students in locating others with similar interests.
With their numbers increasing, the next step was educating the public. The teens wrote newspaper articles, spoke to civic groups, and designed fliers. Local businesses were contacted for support, and Yamaha Motor Division donated all the monitoring equipment the group needed. As word of the project spread, the group was asked to teach classes to fifth- and sixth-grade 4-H clubs-some members also helped teach water pollution classes to over 1,500 fifth-graders in the school system.
Word about the Coweta 4-H Adopt-A-Stream Club got out and their planning session for the first Rivers Alive cleanup drew a large crowd. Supportive local businesses donated food and supplies to the project.
To date, four annual Rivers Alive Clean-up efforts and Two Great American Cleanups have involved more than 600 volunteers donating more than 2,400 hours of community service work. Tons of trash, furniture and debris, and more than 500 tires, have been pulled from local waterways and watersheds.
In addition, the group has organized training sessions and has many certified data collectors monitoring streams throughout the county and sharing data with the Source Water Assessment Project. Coweta 4-H Adopt-A-Stream attends county fairs to raise awareness on non-point source pollution and storm water runoff and is currently working with the engineering department on a storm drain stenciling project.
The attention raised by these students has been put to good use-the group feels that it has a voice and is being heard. The EPA has investigated the oil being dumped at the apartment complex, and the group has been asked by the county engineering department to suggest sites that need to be posted and monitored for dumping. Police Patrols have stepped up and cut brush from C.J. Smith Park, making it a safer place to play.
A handful of teen leaders opened their eyes and saw an environmental problem that was being ignored. They possessed the character to care and the courage to make a difference. They have taught the community how powerful the enthusiasm of youth can be, and what remarkable tasks young people are capable of accomplishing.
Jackson Park Adopt-A-Park Project
Benjamin Jacob Ulrich Banwart
The Jackson Park Adopt-A-Park effort began in May of 2000 when Benjamin Banwart made a request to the township board to personally adopt Jackson Park, becoming the official Jackson Park Adopt-A-Park Sponsor. The project was the culmination of a 4-year involvement that encompassed a Wood Duck Habitat Eagle Scout Leadership Project and numerous environmental restorations and litter pick-up campaigns.
Benjamin saw amazing potential in the park and viewed his task as a conservation challenge. Jackson Park is situated on 87 acres containing two lakes, a township hall, tennis courts, play areas, a ball field, and undeveloped environmental areas.
In October 2001 the seed of a truly ambitious conservation effort took hold when Benjamin recruited the services of fellow members from the local chapter of the Order of the Arrow, the Boy Scouts' national camping honor organization. Benjamin initiated, planned, developed, coordinated, and supervised the Jackson Park Adopt-A-Park Project, which included three specifically targeted and designed efforts: Forestry Management, Invasive Species Control, and Erosion Control.
The Forestry effort included identification, removal and utilization/disposal of unhealthy, diseased, damaged and unsafe trees and brush. The Invasive Species Control effort included setting in motion a program of continual suppression of invasive, non-native buckthorn. Erosion Control included the planting of hundreds of trees-dogwoods, maple and ash-to provide stability to slopes, slow water runoff, and provide wildlife habitat. The project also installed more than 1,000 feet of trails and removed debris and litter. The impact of these efforts will be seen and felt for years by the environment and by this community.
Successful completion of this project represents an American ideal: people from many different organizations working together, directed toward a single purpose. The project came together with support from the Township Board of Supervisors; park maintenance staff labor; U.S.D.A. expertise; Agriculture Extension Service plant donation; manpower from eight Boy Scout troops and the Dan Patch chapter of the Order of the Arrow; local media coverage; financial donations from a local wildlife conservation group; food prepared by local volunteers; and equipment provided by neighbors. Labor and resources were also provided by many other people. The project united community members and inspired them to make our world a better place through their determination and commitment.
Scott County is one of the nation's most rapidly growing counties, and its need for open space, recreational parks and environmental areas is paramount to its sense of community and to the well being of its citizens. The Jackson Park Adopt-A-Park Project created a better environment that stands as an example to others and, most significantly, introduced scores of young people to the importance of conservation and community service, teaching lessons that will help them to lead great lives and serve our country well.
Birds of Feather: Working for Avian Conservation
Seventeen-year-old birder Andrew Rominger put his skills to work for conservation through a one-year project of his own design. To this passionate young man, successful bird identification is more than accumulating an impressive life list-it is a means to an end.
Andrew began his bird survey work through his involvement with the New Mexico non-profit youth development and environmental education organization Talking Talons Youth Leadership (TTYL). As a participant in TTYL's Youth Conservation Corps, Andrew coordinated a survey of a unique bird habitat on a Bernalillo County Open Space that began in the autumn of 2000 and continues to the present. In the course of this work, Andrew recruited and trained a field team to expand the work of the surveys. This model of citizen involvement proved successful, and by the summer of 2003 the survey expanded to include nine Open Spaces within Bernalillo County.
Last summer Andrew took on the job of organizing and compiling data for the annual Magdalena Mountain Summer Bird Count, a citizen science venture. To add further to knowledge of avian ecology in the Magdalena Mountains, he volunteered to conduct a breeding bird survey for the Cibola National Forest Service. There is potential, with the completion of future surveys, to analyze what impact the construction of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory will have on breeding and migratory bird populations.
Andrew understood that research was not enough and that when people have a relationship with both science and nature the effect is most powerful. He decided to turn his experiences into an environmental education curriculum. Developing this curriculum was an integral part of Andrew's independent study in Art and Conservation at Valley High School in Albuquerque. He partnered with Stephanie Kasprzak, a teacher at neighboring Lew Wallace Elementary School, to turn his curriculum into a class entitled The New Mexico/Mexico Connection: A Study of Twelve Migratory Birds. Andrew taught fourth-grade students about the impressive biodiversity of the Southwest and the environmental issues facing birds that breed in New Mexico and winter south of the border. He facilitated a variety of learning experiences for the students and, to enhance their relationship with their subjects, added an artwork component.
A watercolorist himself, Andrew guided his class to develop a series of paintings of the birds they studied. Their interpretive research and artwork was exhibited at the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. Andrew's young students were proud of their work, empowered by their capacity to educate their community and inspired by their ability to help make a difference.
Andrew's approach to conservation is mindful of perhaps the most important factor-that crucial habitat in the United States today is governed by various political entities and decision makers that must be included in the conservation process. With this in mind, Andrew utilized his findings to educate land management agencies, local conservation groups and others. New Mexico Representative Tom Udall took interest in Andrew's conservation efforts and commended him in an address to Congress. Andrew nominated a large swath of land that covers three East Mountain Open Spaces for designation as an Audubon/Partners in Flight "Important Bird Area." He awaits response, but hopes the designation may lead to other, more rigorous types of protection.
Andrew's ability to use the scientific method to determine bird species occurrence and frequency and assess habitat condition is only the first step in his conservation efforts. His approach embodies an emerging paradigm shift in the sciences. He emphasizes not just ecology as a science, or the intrinsic value of species, but also the relationship that birds and habitat have with their human neighbors. He integrates science, hands-on learning and public awareness in a way that maximizes the impact of his work.
Partners in Promoting Hazardous Awareness in Used Oil Filters
West Branch Middle School Science Club
Partners in Promoting Hazardous Awareness in Used Oil Filters is a simple science project that can be replicated in any community.
Twenty-three Science Club members in grades six through eight researched problems associated with used oil filter disposal in landfills. They then collected and crushed over 500 oil filters.
Students recorded the brand, the mass of the filter before crushing, the mass of the filter after crushing, and drained filters at 45, 60 and 90 degrees. After several days of draining, a significant amount of oil remained trapped in the filters.
Students also punctured the dome to release the vacuum (this method proved to be rather messy.) The students learned that 88% of the residual oil contained in used filters is extractable by using a hydraulic press to compress the oil filter and collect the used oil. "Research" filters used by the students were then recycled by a local service station.
It was estimated that 351,000 gallons of used oil could be recovered in Iowa and prevented from possibly leaching from filters and into ground and surface water supplies. Students learned that only five states prohibit the disposal of used oil filters in their landfills. Approximately 85% of used oil filters in the United States are disposed of in landfills, and because of this practice 17.8 million gallons of oil and 161,000 tons of steel are going to waste.
Approximately 84% of an oil filter is steel. Students learned that steel is the number-one recycled material in the United States-enough steel to make 16 new stadiums the size of Atlanta=s Turner Stadium. They developed a four-by-six-foot poster display and a PowerPoint presentation to educate the public about the benefits of crushing used oil filters and recycling the oil.
Members of the West Branch Science Club learned environmental lessons that will remain with them for a lifetime. They also learned they can have a positive impact on the environment and make an important difference in their community.
Learn and Serve
In the spring of 2003, fifth-graders from Swansea and Whittier Elementary Schools, in inner-city Denver, led a habitat restoration project and created a new pedestrian and bike trail at the City of Cuernavaca Park on the South Platte River in Denver.
For six months, these Earth Walkers studied the local river ecosystem and conducted an investigative inquiry on the South Platte River. They found a site that was negatively affected by heavy pedestrian use, was full of non-native vegetation, and had trash everywhere. The students set a goal: to restore the area to its natural state and find a solution to the pedestrian issue.
Students addressed the problem of pedestrian use by constructing a new pedestrian and bike trail. They dedicated a Saturday in April to grading the earth, anchoring railroad ties with rebar to create steps and shoveling and hauling crusher fine to fill in the trail. They also painted trees along the river near the trail site, to prevent beavers from over-consuming them without interrupting or destroying beaver habitats. In May, they returned to weed out non-native plant species and replace them with drought-tolerant plants and add more crusher fine to the trail.
Earth Walkers received support from local businesses and the city government to successfully execute their project. They also earned the respect of many people in their community and increased community awareness of important environmental issues.
Getting Green at Central
Central Elementary School
In 2003, Central Elementary School in the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District started "Getting Green at Central," an extensive recycling and environmental education campaign. The program is intended to teach the next generation about the importance of recycling and how their efforts can positively affect the community. It includes a variety of activities, such as the "Kids and Cans" program, assemblies, field trips, Discovery Day and outreach education. The centerpiece of the program is the new, environmentally friendly playground made from recycled materials-the first "green" school playground in the area.
The impetus for Getting Green at Central was a lunchtime recycling program started by one student to divert recyclable materials from the trash. From this individual effort, the "Kids and Cans" project was born. Every Friday when the students come to school, not only do they bring their homework and books, they also bring aluminum cans. Within the first few weeks of the program, the students saw firsthand how working together could make a huge difference. Many began asking their neighbors to save cans. Some students went to their parents' workplaces to set up recycling boxes for employees, and a local newspaper article about the campaign brought many residents to the campus on Friday mornings to help. So far, students have collected over a ton of aluminum cans.
Central students are learning the importance of recycling. As a secondary benefit, the money the school receives for the recycled aluminum has helped fund the building of the new playground. The students embraced the "Kids and Cans" program so fully that other recycling efforts have been implemented. For Earth Day, the students partnered with a local group called Recycleworks to collect sneakers for the Nike "New Life for Old Soles" campaign. The students collected 286 pairs of sneakers, more than any other school. They are now collecting used printer cartridges for recycling and using the proceeds to buy new cartridges.
This year the school's Discovery Day classes included several recycling-themed activities: "The Ways of Worm Composting," "Papermaking with Recyclable Materials," "Recycled Art" and "Making Paint with Rocks, Dirt and Plants." Recycled art pieces that the students made with a local artist were auctioned off at the school's annual dinner dance auction to help fund the playground project. On America Recycles Day, a winning poster by Central Elementary students will be displayed on 450 public transit buses.
The Getting Green at Central campaign has had such a positive impact on the students, teachers, parents, administrators, community and school district that the school plans to continue it for years to come. The campaign has taken on a life of its own and has empowered many people beyond Central School.
Central parent volunteers have extended the "Kids and Cans" program to include a recycling program at Ralston Middle School and are also helping the school district to work toward implementing environmental education standards at the school. An integral part of the middle school program will include community outreach and service projects. The momentum keeps building, and it is evolving into a community program of environmental stewardship.
Belmont now has one of the highest rates of waste reduction in the county, in part due to the wonderful recycling-minded students at Central Elementary. The efforts of one young person to instill recycling practices at the school have blossomed into a successful program that all the students have embraced.
Eatonville High School Salmon Enhancement Group
Eatonville High School
The Eatonville High School Salmon Enhancement Group is made up of seven motivated young people. These students totally immersed themselves in the water quality monitoring and watershed stewardship projects sponsored by Eatonville High School and the Washington Virtual Classroom.
The students conducted comprehensive water quality studies on five streams that are tributaries of the Nisqually River. They published their findings in written and digital formats and entered the data into the Washington Virtual Classroom water quality database so that it could be used for further analysis.
After completing two online classes, The Science of Northwest Salmon and Salmon Ecosystems Management, the students worked with the Nisqually Indian Tribe in their efforts to restore salmon runs in a number of the tributaries in the Nisqually River watershed. They also worked with the Nisqually Stream Stewards to restore riparian habitat by planting stream bank vegetation along streams that have been affected by agricultural activities, forest harvesting and poor land management practices.
Last spring the Salmon Enhancement Group planned a "Stewardship of My Watershed" summit to bring the Eatonville community together to share knowledge and experiences. The seven students moderated a videoconference panel discussion on "Important Issues Concerning Wild and Native Salmon Recovery" with students from other consortium school districts. They published a written and digital report that outlines water quality trends in the Nisqually watershed over the last ten years. The Group has also made PowerPoint presentations on the watershed stewardship projects sponsored by local schools and worked with elementary students to demonstrate water quality studies and watershed conservation activities.
The young people of the Eatonville High School Salmon Enhancement Group have shown exceptional motivation and outstanding commitment through their participation in the curriculum and the application of their knowledge to environmentally based projects that benefit the community.
The students want to recognize Mr. James Clague, their sponsor and science teacher, who could not attend this ceremony. He has been a tremendous help to them.