President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) 2005 Winners
EPA Region 1
Marshfield Town Hall Rain Garden
Marshfield High School
A bio-retention system, also know as a "rain garden," was built by the sophomore honors biology class at Marshfield High School in Marshfield Center to catch runoff from a parking lot and prevent it from entering the South River. A requirement of the biology class was that the students had to select a project that included an environmental-service component and that benefited the school or the Town of Marshfield, Massachusetts. By conducting research, the students learned that 13 sites in downtown Marshfield required remediation to purify runoff before it reached the South River. The South River is polluted; shell fishing is banned, and limited recreational activities are allowed.
The students chose a site behind the Marshfield Town Hall because of its size and scale (0.8 acres) and because they hoped the rain garden would serve as a model for action at other sites. Beyond the task of planning the bio-retention system, the cost of building the system -- $20,000 -- had to be addressed. The students met with town engineers and consultants to design and construct the rain garden. They also presented information to town officials on the need for the project and the steps to complete it.
The rain garden was built in August 2005 with donations of labor, goods, and supplies secured by the students. Runoff from a parking lot is carried to the rain garden where the water drains through mulch, loam, and gravel before it enters a perforated pipe that is attached to the town drainage system. Because most pollutants are carried in the first inch of storm water, any amount beyond the first inch is allowed to flow into the drainage basin, which is set at a slightly higher elevation in the system. The plants in the garden are indigenous, hearty, and capable of absorbing many of the pollutants as they soak into the soil.
The rain garden functions well and is expected to require minimal maintenance. Although the full benefits of this project for the South River are not yet apparent, they are expected to be considerable. The students hope that this project will inspire others to remediate the remaining 12 sites that were identified. Based on the success of this project, the Marshfield students were invited to make presentations in other towns about the project and on the involvement and impact students can have on their environment and community.
EPA Region 2
Don't Dump, Drains to Creek
Kerri Anne Orloff
Kerri Anne Orloff, a lifelong resident of Gerritsen Beach, wanted to raise community awareness about debris on the streets and its eventual outcome. Gerritsen Beach is a peninsula on the southern end of Brooklyn and is bordered by Gateway National Park and residential and commercial establishments, including a sewer plant, boat yards, and restaurants. The outflow is a combination of residential and commercial sewage. After about an hour or an inch of rainfall, the sewers shut down, and all of the sewage flows directly into waterways used for recreation such as fishing, boating, waterskiing, and swimming. Kerri saw the need for a solution.
Kerri was a member of the 1st National Student Summit on Ocean Issues in Washington, D.C., where she spoke about the effects of the combined sewer outflow and possible solutions. Her team presented the results of water samples from around Gerritsen Beach which were collected to check the pH, salinity, oxygen levels, coliform count, and clarity of the water. Kerri's idea of stenciling "Don't Dump, Drains to Creek" became part of the Declaration of Students pledge at the summit. Once she returned home, she continued to raise community awareness by speaking at local Girl Scout meetings and her high school.
Kerri then began the lengthy process of obtaining permission from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to stencil "Don't Dump, Drains to Creek" in the community. After her idea had been rejected several times, she approached Congressman Anthony Weiner and State Representative Marty Golden's offices seeking support for her idea. Months passed without progress, but she continued to speak at public gatherings to keep the communities informed. She gave presentations at the New York City's Parks Department Environmental Center, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Bronx Zoo, and Central Park Zoo. The Bay News wrote an article about the lack of support for an important environmental issue.
Kerri was finally able to contact Mayor Michael Bloomberg and provided him with information about her project. Mayor Bloomberg promised to convey the information to Iris Wienshall, commissioner of the DOT. Kerri received permission to work on the project the next week. Various organizations and businesses such as VFW, Knights of Columbus, G.B. Cares, Mobil Gas Station, Sign O'Rama, and many others donated supplies for her project.
The project date was set for September 25, 2004. Kerri prepared fliers and visited various schools in the area to promote the event. She walked through the neighborhood to locate all the sewers and made "assignments" for the participants. She designed and distributed an informative pamphlet using graphics to explain the issue faced and how residents could help. About 100 volunteers came to support the event. Public outreach was in the thousands and was achieved through public speaking coverage by media such as Channel 7 news and newspaper articles. The feedback received at the event was great, the public had fun, residents commended her efforts, and more importantly, the neighborhood was cleaned. It also was a great lesson on the bureaucracy of the city and the drive required to get things done.
Kerri has since started an environmental club in her high school and has publicly spoken out against development of waterfront and salt water marshes in Sheepshead Bay. She remains committed to making a difference and protecting the environment through the efforts of the Kingsborough Community College environmental club.
EPA Region 3
Students Against Violating the Earth (SAVE)
Souderton Area High School
The Student Environmental Education Center (SEE) is a unique and visionary environmental program that embraces environmental preservation through demonstration and implementation. Founded in 1992, SEE strives to promote environmental stewardship in every aspect of living. This program was created by the Students Against Violating the Earth (SAVE), a high school environmental group from the Souderton School District in Souderton, Pennsylvania. SAVE maintains a membership of more than 300 high school students, grades 10 though 12. Its goal is reflected in the mission statement: "To promote the preservation of our natural world by encouraging appreciation, understanding, and responsible use of the environment. Our goal is to create a sustainable world by spreading information about environmental problems and encouraging appropriate public involvement in the solutions to those problems."
SAVE has received national recognition for its numerous achievements through a multitude of awards and grants. Among the most notable endeavor was Project EFFECT: Environmental Friendly Facility Exploring Conservation Technology. Inspired during a tour of an environmental demonstration house at Slippery Rock College, Project EFFECT is a 34-foot by 22-foot environmentally friendly facility completely planned, designed, and built by SAVE students on 8 acres of land adjacent to an elementary school. The entire project was conceived and executed by SAVE members who worked with architects and 47 businesses while managing to raise all the funds necessary for the project themselves.
This facility is used for the following three main purposes: for practical demonstration of environmental products and technologies in a home setting; to serve as a community meeting place to promote community awareness through education; and to serve as a classroom for teaching the concepts of environmental science. Project EFFECT allows for self-guided tours through trails constructed throughout the premises for environmental education. Wetlands were created when the school district planned to construct a retention basin to collect run-off water. Members of SAVE worked with local officials, soil scientists, engineers, and the district to redesign the retention basin to include three small ponds, one dedicated as a nature memorial for a past SAVE member killed in a car accident. A pavilion was constructed to include picnic tables made from recycled milk jugs. The students and their advisor, Ken Hamilton, received national recognition for this achievement during an award ceremony held in Orlando, Florida, by the Anheuser-Busch Entertainment Corporation. They were honored by receiving the $20,000 grand prize, "A Pledge and a Promise Environmental Award Program.
Mr. Hamilton has referred to SAVE as "trailblazers who have proven themselves worthy of leading the future." What is most impressive about SAVE's achievements is that they have been accomplished by applying a variety of strategies.
EPA Region 4
The Creek Freaks
Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy
Named by its enthusiastic members, the "Creek Freaks" is a Georgia Adopt-A-Stream (AAS) science club formed in 2003 by a group of teens interested in taking action to save local wetlands. Once a month, they conduct chemical monitoring on Butler Creek in Phinizy Swamp Nature Park in Augusta, Georgia. The Creek Freaks test water and air temperature, dissolved oxygen levels, pH, settleable solids, turbidity, conductivity, nitrogen, orthophosphate, ammonia, and alkalinity. Once a quarter, the Creek Freaks return to the creek for comprehensive biological monitoring. With dip nets, they sample the water, vegetated banks, woody debris, leaf packs, and stream bed for macroinvertebrates (small spineless organisms that are an important indicator of the creek's health). All data are sent to Georgia AAS, a division of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. Aside from the regular monitoring, the Creek Freaks have been involved with stream restoration projects, visual and watershed surveys, River's Alive Cleanup Days, Earth Day presentations, as well as other volunteer cleanup efforts.
The Creek Freaks describe themselves in their own words:
"Through our dedicated involvement in the Creek Freaks, we demonstrate that teens are interested in preserving the fragile habitats and ecosystems that are so critical to the health of the environment and our long-term future. The Creek Freaks offers an outlet for us to actively participate in making the world a better place in the future while helping each of us develop the skills that we will need to become well informed citizens. We feel that what we do is important because our club leaders teach us what to look for so we can teach others and make others, especially the youth, aware how important it is to keep this creek and other creeks healthy for our future depends on it. Without clean creeks, rivers, lakes, and oceans, we will not last long on this planet. So we know we are making a difference one creek at a time. The Creek Freaks group has assisted with many local projects, some benefiting the environment in the short term, others in the long term. We have cleaned up trash-polluted creeks, planted trees to prevent bank erosion, established habitats for research, and educated others in our effort to protect the environment."
EPA Region 5
Rain Garden at Chippewa Nature Center
Kacy M. Hermans
A relatively simple but cutting-edge environmental technology known as a "rain garden" became a labor of love for high school senior Kacy Hermans in Midland, Michigan. Starting as a 4H project, the rain garden idea blossomed under Kacy, becoming a full-blown environmental demonstration that will educate thousands of people who visit the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland every year.
Environmentalists from around the country are beginning to experiment with rain gardens, which in their simplest form are plots of soil planted with native vegetation that absorb storm water runoff from manmade structures. Some large urban areas have planted rain gardens as a way to limit sewer overflows caused by excess runoff after heavy rains and to modify the urban heat island effect. Kacy, a senior at H.H. Dow High School, proved that rain gardens can help the environment anywhere buildings interrupt the natural flow of rainwater.
Searching for ideas for a 4H project, Kacy was led to the Chippewa Nature Center, where a 1960s-style, flat-roofed building served as the visitor area. All storm water from the expansive roof and parking lot flushed directly into the nearby Pine River. Nature center officials were concerned about the runoff because the water was warm and raised the river temperature, depleting oxygen. When Kacy sought a place to build a rain garden, the Chippewa Nature Center readily volunteered.
Kacy marshaled local donations of money, labor, equipment, and supplies. Local landscaping and excavating companies supported the ground work because they wanted to learn about the rain garden to serve their customers. A 20- by 10-foot plot, 3 feet deep, was dug along the sidewalk that leads to the visitor's center. The hole was filled with a mix of sand, topsoil, and compost and was planted with Michigan wild flowers and plants such as Joe Pye weed, swamp milkweed, and strawberries. A rock-lined trench was dug from the building's downspout to the garden, and glass sidewalk panels were installed so that visitors could view the water flow from above.
In addition to cooling the runoff from the roof, the rain garden filters out pollutants and percolates water into groundwater. Kacy's rain garden has become a centerpiece of the nature center's environmental education. Visitors are taught about the concept and shown how they can set up simple rain gardens at home.
EPA Region 6
Parker Branch Stream Team
Margaux and Isabella I., Millie and Madeleine H.
Traveling along a scenic country roadway, catching glimpses of a clear, flowing stream, one might wonder how the Parker Branch Stream Team saw a need for environmental action. What the students saw, and that a casual observer might miss, is a decline in stream flow that has occurred over several years. They saw their "crawdad catchin' holes" filling up with gravel and their hiding spots among the willow banks disappearing. The scenic country byway that they traveled on by bicycle, horseback, and car was becoming a road that needed constant maintenance by county road crews as spring and fall rains eroded the road and stream banks. Residents along the roadway seemed increasingly focused on speedy travel rather than enjoying the beautiful scenery. In an attempt to make a difference four young women -- Margaux I. and Millie H., eighth graders, and their sisters, Madeleine H. and Isabella I., sixth graders -- founded the Parker Branch Stream Team, believing that they could affect the stream and the community before the natural beauty was lost.
The girls began with a quest for knowledge. They did research, attended community meetings, and learned to collect water samples to evaluate water quality. They became involved with the Arkansas Stream Team Division of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). Through the state's program, the students applied for a grant to purchase water testing equipment. The team received instruction in physical and biological assessment of the watershed from the AGFC Stream Team coordinator. Biological monitoring involved looking for macroinvertebrates in the stream bed and learning about the microscopic life in the stream as well. By mapping the watershed boundary of Parker Branch and comparing the historical and present-day maps, the students were able to visually and mathematically compare the changes in land use that had occurred over the past 30 years.
The girls used their knowledge to create a partnership with county and state officials. They cleared trash and developed projects to stabilize the banks of the stream. Furthermore, they encouraged county officials to develop guidelines for mowing and grading the road and riparian areas that border Parker Branch. They also worked with the adjoining landowners to discuss animal access issues, funding programs for riparian area protection, and how the stream needs community participation to maintain its contribution to the quality of life in the area.
The team held a 1-day summer camp, Bug Kick Summer Camp, to educate residents about their project and how to protect the stream. Residents and their friends and families attended a hands-on workshop conducted at the Parker Branch Stream. Students ranging in age from 4 to 66 attended the camp. The Stream Team members acted as small-group leaders and taught techniques for capture, identification, and release of aquatic life.
As a result of the accomplishments, enthusiasm, and outreach of these students, the Parker Branch Stream Team was invited to make a presentation on their work to the Board of Directors of the AGFC, a nine-member panel appointed by the Governor of Arkansas. In a conference room occupied by powerful business leaders, state officials, reporters, and concerned citizens, four young ladies held their audience of 80 people spellbound. They presented with intelligence and passion and showed how perseverance and concern can combine to make good things happen. Their quest continues, as they plan to grow the organization with new, enthusiastic members and community leaders.
EPA Region 7
Young Park Prairie Restoration Project
Brittany Perrin, Megan Sparks, and Dan Marske
Four years ago, students at Blue Springs South High School started the Young Park Prairie Restoration Project. After the students had identified invasive plants and researched species native to that part of Missouri, they decided to restore a portion of Young Park adjacent to the school to native Missouri prairie. With the help of the director of parks and recreation and the City of Blue Springs, a portion of the park was transferred to the students to begin a long-term research project.
The students worked in partnership with the Missouri Prairie Foundation, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Project, the Audubon Society, and the National Wildlife Federation on the Young Park Prairie Restoration Project. Blue Springs South Groups, Jaguars against Waste, and the environmental science classes began this restoration project with the support of the Blue Springs School District and members of the school board. Students began recycling programs and a beautification project on school grounds. These environmental improvements have made an impact on the restoration project at the park.
As part of a quail project, native bobwhite quail have been hatched and released in the park in an effort to produce sustainable coveys. A woodland planting area also has been started and includes native Missouri orchids and shade plants. Students have harvested persimmons from trees planted in the park and use them for recipes originally written by westward-bound settlers.
Students participated in water quality studies on the park grounds. The results were provided to the City of Blue Springs to monitor the park's water quality. Bird feeders have been installed, and each winter students care for the feeders and send bird counts to Cornell University's Project Feeder Watch.
Young Park has been certified as a National School Yard Habitat and has received Missouri Department of Conservation designation as an outdoor classroom. The park is now used for physical education and for outdoor projects such as art classes, Earth Day poster contests, science classes, foreign language, and nature diaries. The Young Park Prairie Restoration Project has become an interdisciplinary, learning experience for the students of Blue Springs South and a nature experience for the citizens of Blue Springs. The project is planned as a long-term effort. Future park enhancements include building a new interpretive nature trail, planting native Missouri flowering dogwoods, and expanding the prairie area and woodland areas.
EPA Region 8
Pioneering Clean Energy Transportation Projects
Brent Singleton is an emerging leader in electric vehicle design. A 17-year-old junior at Bonneville High School, he was featured in the February 2005 issue of Car and Driver magazine's "Got Hybrid?" issue. He purchased a dismantled hybrid vehicle from Weber State University for his science fair and Eagle Scout project and modified it to become the first hybrid land speed racer. He has raced his unique vehicle in hybrid and zero-emissions mode at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah. To help with his daily drive to school, he added solar panels (Tribrid) and wind generators (Quadbrid) to recharge his 96-volt electric motor system while he is in class.
When Brett travels to various racing venues, his Quadbrid tows his other race car, the National Hot Rod Association's first electric powered junior dragster. Brett's Quadbrid tow-car and electro-dragster is the world's first fully sustainable race outfit. His Web site, International Alternatives Fuels Racing Association (www.iafra.com), promotes the latest in alternative fuels racing records and raises a challenge to be more "environmentally friendly and fast!"
Brett races for education and public awareness about alternative fuel vehicles and to help preserve the Bonneville Salt Flats. His science project monitored the salt crust and brine evaporation at the flats to better understand its complexity and the possible causes of its thinning crust. His research project also required coordination with U.S. Bureau of Land Management scientists and officials from the salt extraction company to help find solutions to reduce shrinkage and improve the salt-making conditions to this unique environment.
EPA Region 9
The Wonderful Weird World of Worms (WWWW)
2nd Grade LEAP Class Project Abraham Lincoln Elementary School
A group of 20 8-year-old students from Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Palm Desert, California, met daily to participate in the Language Enrichment Academic Program (LEAP). Students in this program chose an environmental awareness theme and developed the "WWWW" project, a vermicomposting and recycling effort. In partnership with various foundations, the City of Palm Desert, and other government agencies, the class developed an interactive multimedia CD that describes a variety of projects they accomplished throughout the year to educate their peers, parents, and the community. Their projects have included a fiction book written by the students titled "Diary of a Red Worm...Our Journey to School," a musical slide show of great worm art that features creative masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and American Gothic with worms as the central figures, and a puppet show that includes the song, "The Worms Crawl In," with original lyrics that describe vermicomposting.
The students also wrote, directed, performed, and produced a training video for the school lunch recycling project and a public service announcement that was shown throughout southern California, emphasizing the importance of recycling and the impact on the community. The ultimate goal for the students was to design a project to heighten awareness of, and involvement in, environmental issues.
EPA Region 10
Slikok Creek Stream Keepers Grate Walk
The Slikok Creek Stream Keepers Grate Walk was developed by Marit Hartvigson, a sophomore at Soldotna High School. She raised the funds and organized the labor to build a grated walk that provides access to the Slikok Creek in Soldotna and prevents bank erosion caused when students collect water samples.
When Marit was in the 6th grade, she participated in an Adopt-a-Stream program and learned how to monitor the creek. She noticed that the Stream Keepers were eroding the banks and bruising vegetation when they collected water samples. She wanted to develop a solution back then, but was not ready for the responsibility of a large project. Marit also was inspired by her brother who won the Care for Kenai contest that year. Once in high school, however, Marit gained the confidence to design and manage the project. In 2004, Marit won the Care for the Kenai contest for the design of her project to build a grate walk. With the help of several government agencies along with Mike's Welding, and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, Marit engineered, applied for a permit, funded, and coordinated a volunteer effort to construct a platform for access to the creek. She raised more than $14,000 to build the project.
Her original project was to replace the existing boardwalk along the bank of the creek with an elevated 16-foot by 15-foot aluminum walk built of grating that would allow light to penetrate. Grate walks used in other parts of the Kenai River watershed have rescued banks that were in poor condition. Attached to the platform would be two sets of stairs with handrails leading into the water. The stairs would be removable from the water to avoid winter freezing and serious damage, and also hinged so that they could be lowered and lifted easily. Farther downstream, a 4-foot by 5-foot platform with a set of stairs for additional accessibility and testing would be built.
When the landowner was not willing to renew the land use agreement, Marit had to identify a new location to build the Stream Keepers grate walk platform. The new location, downstream on state parks land, required that she modify the original design to fit the dimensions of the new site. These changes included building a grate walk to connect the platforms, eliminating one set of stairs from the large platform, and adding handrails around the entire structure. Marit's efforts to find a new location saved the Adopt-A-Stream program from being terminated, and it is now available for future generations of Stream Keepers on Slikok Creek. She and others in the community have already seen signs that the bank is mending and the students are happy that their program was not terminated.