President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) 2006 Winners
EPA Region 1
Durham Fair Recycling Project
ECO & Boy Scout Troop 27 of Durham, Connecticut
The Coginchaug High School's Environmental Coginchaug Organization (ECO) recognized that large quantities of recyclable goods were being discarded at the Durham Fair. In an effort to promote recycling at the fair, ECO partnered with Boy Scout Troop 27 to form the ECO Club. The ECO Club's mission is to help the environment through various means and to educate the local communities of Durham and Middlefield, Connecticut, about environmental issues such as recycling.
The ECO Club was successful in removing more than 19,000 bottles -- one-third of the 20-fluid-ounce beverage bottles sold -- from the waste stream at the Durham Fair by initiating a recycling program. In addition, the ECO Club educated participants at the fair about recycling.
The ECO Club built its own recycling containers and located them throughout the fairgrounds to promote recycling. Boy Scouts made lids that fit specifically on the receptacles dedicated to recycling and stenciled the lids with the recycling symbol. Throughout the 3-day fair, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, ECO Club volunteers walked around and collected recyclables in the containers. The ECO Club also maintained a sorting station on the fairgrounds. Recyclable containers were delivered to recycling organizations that converted the recyclable goods into packaging for the company's products. The ECO Club marketed the recycling effort to visitors at the fair and informed newspapers about the project. The community and press supported this program and helped make this first-time recycling effort a big success.
EPA Region 2
The Birds of Eastern Puerto Rico
Gabriela McCall, Senior Girl Scout -- Troop 236
Gabriela McCall, a 12th grade student, initiated a project to raise public awareness about birds and the importance of preserving their habitat in Puerto Rico. She started the project after she became concerned about a decrease in the population of birds in her neighborhood. The decrease seemed linked to the increase in real estate development in the community that was occurring at the same time. Because of Gabriela's love and respect for nature, she began to conduct research by taking photographs and identifying bird species. She used the photographs to develop and implement a community outreach project on the importance of preserving the birds' habitat. Gabriela's research serves as a reference to birds in the local community.
The primary goal of Gabriela's outreach project was to inform members of the community in the eastern part of Puerto Rico about the birds so that they could understand their importance to the environment. She also introduced children to the beauty of nature by teaching them how to observe and enjoy the birds. Gabriela encouraged the community to help protect species such as the West Indian whistling duck in hopes that it would survive for future generations to enjoy.
Gabriela also wanted to increase public awareness about the destructive effect of unplanned development on native bird populations by documenting the need to preserve the natural habitat. Concerned about what she perceived as a lack of attention to environmental needs and a situation that did not adequately consider the input of the community, Gabriela worked hard to raise awareness about birds and their habitat. Her project has helped to educate the community and increase interest in protecting the birds' habitat. Gabriela was especially interested in raising the awareness of children in the community so they will grow to treat the environment with respect, ultimately ensuring a healthy island for future generations.
EPA Region 3
Crellin Environmental Education Lab
5th Grade Class, Crellin Elementary School
The Crellin Environmental Education Lab (EEL), an outdoor classroom at Crellin Elementary School, was created in conjunction with the restoration of Snowy Creek which runs adjacent to the school. Restoration of the stream has been used as an educational tool to engage students in meaningful, hands-on learning opportunities that benefit the entire community and enhance the students' knowledge of Maryland's watersheds.
Students at Crellin Elementary School participated in developing the EEL. They have taken part in cleanup of the stream, planted native trees and shrubs, constructed a native butterfly garden, assembled and erected bat boxes and birdhouses, and provided content for a history-themed recreation area. Fifth-grade students have collected baseline data on newly planted native trees using grade-appropriate math and measurement skills. These data, to be collected annually, help monitor the progress of the restoration project. Throughout the project, the students documented their experiences in journals and developed presentations about their projects.
In the fall of 2006, an interpretive nature trail complete with a boardwalk was constructed through the wetlands. The students worked with local botanists and environmental educators to prepare the content of and identify photographs for field guides. Students from Crellin Elementary and other schools will use the field guides. The students assisted geographers in using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to develop a site map of the EEL and stream restoration site. The students also observed wetland wildlife and participated in Project Wild.
Through an integrated environmental education approach, the students are gaining first-hand experience and knowledge about ecological principles such as watersheds, acid mine drainage (AMD), historical uses of natural resources, biological and chemical stream monitoring, riparian buffers, and wetlands. The students are developing a sense of responsibility and stewardship for the watersheds in their home state because Crellin Elementary School has adopted "green" practices, such as water conservation, recycling, and reducing waste.
EPA Region 4
Alexander "Zander" Srodes
Like most teenage boys, Alexander "Zander" Srodes looks forward to high school football games, would rather water ski than talk about his future plans, and drives the family boat a tad too quickly. But the Lemon Bay High School junior stands apart from the crowd as an authority on sea turtles and environmental stewardship. Thanks to Zander, more than 5,000 children have returned home from school with their minds full of facts about sea turtles and a newfound love for the creatures.
In 2001, when Zander was 11, he created an environmental education program called "Turtle Talks." Zander presented "Turtle Talks" to the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and received a youth grant for the program. "Turtles Talks" is an educational program that discusses the life of sea turtles that share our beaches and the marine turtles in our estuaries. Included in the program is a biodegradable chart that teaches students how to take care of fragile shorelines. Zander also created a turtle costume for students to wear. The turtle costume helps the students experience how a turtle feels and what it takes to survive.
Zander has created his own 20-page activity book for kids on sea turtles and persuaded his school's advanced Spanish class to translate it for publication in Spanish. Zander received more than 1,000 requests for the activity book before it was printed. The activity book is currently in its fourth printing, with more than 10,000 booklets in circulation.
Zander has spoken at numerous schools, libraries, special functions, and events. He has received many awards for his outstanding community service work and monetary support from a long list of private groups and supporters. While speaking to his peers, Zander emphasizes how they can make a difference in the environment and encourages them to follow their dreams and ideas. Zander also emphasizes that grownups will listen to them and help them to develop their project. In his own words, Zander states, "We are the next generation to make a difference on the planet."
EPA Region 5
Collecting for a Cause
Tayler M., a 12-year-old Boy Scout from Toluca, Illinois, became a virtual one-person environmental movement 2 years ago when he started an aluminum recycling program in his community. More than 16,000 pounds of aluminum later, Tayler's efforts have raised more than $9,000 for local charities while sweeping area highways clean of discarded cans and area garages clear of junk aluminum.
Two years ago, when Tayler was only 10 years old, he decided to seek the prestigious William T. Hornaday national conservation award from the Boy Scouts. His first goal, which seemed ambitious at the time, was to collect 500 pounds of scrap aluminum. His mother would take him on pre-dawn searches along highways, where he learned it takes about 25 to 35 cans to make a pound and some 17,500 cans to reach 500 pounds. He met his first goal quickly and donated the proceeds to the Marshall County, Illinois, Habitat for Humanity, a charitable group that builds homes for underprivileged families.
Although he became one of the Hornaday Award winners, Tayler did not quit there. He began collecting metal from aluminum swimming pools, decks, satellite dishes, garage doors, window frames, and even a 36-foot-long mobile home and a junked truck trailer. Tayler set up nearly 20 permanent recycling bins in Toluca and surrounding towns and organizes special can drives for conservation projects such as the Toluca Coal Mine Association's campaign to create an historical recreational and preservation area. Tayler branched off from recycling for that project and developed a trail of bluebird houses and worked on tree planting and erosion controls for the historical area.
But Tayler continues to be the scourge of throwaway cans. He estimates that he has walked nearly 200 miles of highways. He now wants to collect 5,000 pounds of aluminum annually. He developed a "Scouts Can" logo for his special can drives, which is featured on an embroidered patch that people can earn when they bring in at least 75 cans.
Tayler is a popular speaker at local service clubs and schools, where he spreads the message about recycling. Local media refer to him affectionately as the "Tin Can Scout" or the "Can Do Scout" for his devotion. Besides his work on the coal mine historical area, Tayler also sees direct benefits from his campaign when Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on another new home for a Marshall County family.
EPA Region 6
Girl Scout Troop 222
Girl Scout Troop 222 stepped outside its comfort zone to give bats a home and teach others about them. "Going Batty" was developed to educate children and adults on the importance of these misunderstood creatures as pollinators. Jessica Mackiewicz and Alex Bryan from Edmond, Oklahoma, and Teresa Ezersky and Cristina Navarro from Guthrie, Oklahoma, are members of Girl Scout Troop 222.
The scouts researched, interviewed educators, and met with wildlife conservation biologists. They learned that pollinators -- including bats -- are responsible for bringing us an estimated one out of every third bite of food and assist 90 percent of the world's flowering plants to reproduce. Selecting bats as pollinators for their project, they focused on four main goals: develop an educator's check-out crate; build, assemble and install bat houses at Deer Creek Prairie Vale Elementary; build a human bat house to help children understand how bats live; and participate in the 2005 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo to teach a wide range of visitors about bats.
The Girl Scout Troop 222 educator's crate includes the following learning tools: a bat skeleton; 21 units of bat study; posters and hand-outs on pollinators; bat puppets; bat, butterfly, and dragonfly field guides; bat, bee, and butterfly crafts; bat house construction pamphlets with an assembled bat house; an activity guide; videos; and books. This extensive collection of materials is free for use and does not require previous knowledge.
Building, assembling, and installing the bat houses at the elementary school was challenging, yet exciting, for the girls. In fact, they learned as much about carpentry as they did about bats. It also afforded them an opportunity to give bat presentations on site and to use the bat house locations as an outdoor classroom. Building the bat houses helped them learn to design and build the human bat house, a 4 foot by 8 foot by 6 foot structure with four steel bars inside at varying heights that allowed human visitors to hang like a bat. The girls took this structure and the educator's crate to the 2005 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo, where 45,000 visitors had fun being "batty" while learning about bats as pollinators.
The patience, long hours, and hard work the girls put in were the real force behind "Going Batty." Now, teachers, master naturalists, students, Girl Scouts and their leaders are reaping the benefits. These four young women will have a long-term environmental effect on the community and throughout their state for years to come.
EPA Region 7
Jami Harper, a student from Grand Island Northwest High School in Grand Island, Nebraska, created a project to teach water protection called H2Owood Squares. In the fall of 2003, industrial solvents were found in the wells of residences in Grand Island, Nebraska. The solvents were so toxic that the vapors made even doing laundry and flushing toilets hazardous to people's health. Jamie wanted to keep this kind of contamination from happening again, so she started the H2Owood Squares project to teach safe water practices.
H2Owood Squares is based on the famous television game, Hollywood Squares. The interactive H2Owood Squares game is an innovative way to teach water protection. In H2Owood Squares, all questions are related to facts about water. The set for the game was constructed from sections and fittings of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe that can be easily assembled and disassembled. It is lightweight, so it can be easily transported and inexpensive to construct and can be easily duplicated for others to use.
This educational game was designed to be presented to youth and adults from more than 150 communities in Nebraska. Jamie recruited 34 volunteers from 9 high schools to present this program to several hundred 4th and 5th graders, as well as parents and teachers across the state. H2Owood Squares has been presented at workshops at the children's groundwater festival and at county and state fairs. The contestants in the game are grade-school youth attending the workshops. Local teens were recruited to be the celebrities in the squares, chosen because they serve as role models to 4th and 5th graders.
To reach more people, Jami designed a Water Wizard Web site to post a different question about water each weekday and tips on how to use water wisely. The questions on the Web site are the same as are used in the H2Owood Squares game.
Jami has worked with several community groups, such as presenters at the Groundwater Foundation's annual water festival, members of Youth Leadership Tomorrow, Earth Force, the United Methodist Church, and students at the Grand Island Central Catholic High School to obtain volunteers to assist with the game. Students at the University of Nebraska Extension were contacted for questions.
In partnership with the Groundwater Foundation, Jami will continue to present H2Owood Squares at fairs and festivals to encourage youth to get and stay involved. In addition, the Water Wizard Web site reaches thousands of people every day, giving visitors tips on how to use water wisely. By protecting the water today, the benefits will be seen far into the future.
EPA Region 8
Get Really Energy Efficient Now! (GREEN)
Morningside Elementary, GREEN Team
The GREEN team project made many positive environmental impacts in the local community and society. The main goal of the team members was to decide how they could educate members of the Salt Lake community about how to use energy resources more efficiently to improve the quality of air in the future.
The GREEN Team delivered to 500 homes compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs with an educational message about their energy benefits to increase energy efficiency. In recognition of this event, Governor Huntsman signed the "Change a Light, Change the World Proclamation," honoring the students.
The students distributed "stop idling" stickers at 15 community council meetings while singing their own "Stop Idling" song to encourage people to turn off their vehicles while waiting instead of idling. In addition, they mailed out more than 50 survey letters about idling vehicles to the education and transportation departments in Utah, and gave 15 presentations to community councils, PTAs, womens'clubs, and other organizations about the need to stop and turn off vehicles when idling. The GREEN Team's logo is "Stop Turn-Off and Save." In addition, the GREEN Team has been hailed by the community, speaking at the request of the director of Utah Clean Cities at its "Billionth Celebration," presenting mock debates for the State Debate Conference and at a Roots and Shoots Earth Day Celebration and for the city at the Earth Day Festival. The GREEN Team even affected policy decisions through the bus survey sent to the district's transportation departments. Many districts have now implemented idling policies, including the local Granite School District transportation department.
The environmental need for the GREEN Team was apparent in the community, as the Wasatch Front suffers some of the worse air pollution problems in Utah. In the Salt Lake City area during the winter, atmospheric inversions trap pollutants such as ozone and carbon monoxide near ground level, producing dense smog. Nearly 200 dangerous pollutants have been found in the air people breathe. They come from many sources: industrial smokestacks, car and truck exhaust, wood stoves, and even household products. A large amount of pollution comes from automobiles and idling vehicles.
Some significant long-term environmental benefits have resulted from the project. For example, Utah Clean Cities has announced that it has recognized a need to educate transportation systems more about idling because of the research and survey information about school buses gathered by the team. In addition, Beverly Miller from Utah Clean Cities was able to use the valuable information gathered to speak to the state superintendent. Many people in the community are driving their vehicles with the team's "Stop Turn Off and Save" stickers.
The students have written scripts for speaking engagements, designed surveys and logos, made posters, handed out light bulbs, manned booths, composed and sang the "Stop Idling Song," written stories, did science fair projects, and met many hours after school to educate the public about the importance of conserving our national resources.
The team has many community partnerships, and the students created innovative approaches to deliver their messages. Feedback from a variety of sources has convinced the team of the success of the project. Granite School District published an article about the team's success with the "Change the Light, Change the World" light bulb campaign. Many organizations requested a copy of the creative speeches.
EPA Region 9
Arizona Water Activists Karing for the Environment (AWAKE)
Smitha R., Pooja R., Amol L., and Akash K.
Three years ago in Arizona, four students were inspired to raise money for underprivileged children in India. The driving force for this project began when one of the students visited India and saw children living in slums who had no drinking water. The students -- Smitha Ramakrishna, Pooja Ramesh, Amol Lingnurkar, and Akash Khare -- formed their own Asha Kid's Chapter in Arizona in conjunction with Asha for Education, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in India. With Mahatma Gandhi as their role model, they adapted the famous motto, "Think Globally, Act Locally" into "Think and Act Locally and Globally." In honor of Gandhi, the students organized three walk-a-thons, which together raised $5,400. This money was donated to three projects in India for promoting basic education for underprivileged children and buying and building reverse osmosis systems for schools and neighborhoods. These systems collect and purify rainwater; as a result, more than 3,000 children have been given clean, potable water to drink and use.
Because they live in Arizona, the students were more than aware of the arid climate and of the need to raise the water conservation consciousness of the population. They therefore began a new project, the Arizona Water Activists Karing for the Environment (AWAKE). Adding to the goal of helping children in India, AWAKE also aids the efforts of the Save the Peaks Coalition and raises local awareness on pressing local water issues in the communities.
The Save the Peaks Coalition is an organization formed by 14 Native American tribes who are against the creation of machine-made snow, made from recycled sewage water, on the San Francisco Peaks, a mountain range considered sacred by the native people. Because of Arizona's dry climate, ski resorts in Flagstaff use this reclaimed water to make snow. To support the coalition, the students took four water samples for testing from more than 30 lakes and ponds in the range and its drainage area. They repeated this sampling three times over a 1-year period. Their data indicated that the reclaimed water contained high levels of many contaminants, especially coliform. The students wrote letters to the governor and other state and local officials to publicize their findings. They also amassed some 300 signatures on a petition against this machine-made snow. The issue is now the subject of an ongoing court case. And, as reclaimed water in Arizona is used to irrigate many lawns in parks, the students feel that periodic testing of this kind of water is of immense value to the public.
AWAKE was able to spread the message of water conservation, preservation, and restoration to various communities by participating in many environmental events and festivals. The students used many resources, including the EPA's Kids Club Web site, to make word and board games, crossword puzzles, mazes, and hands-on activities about water, so people of all ages could have a fun and memorable learning experience. They also created special activities such as the "AWAKE Challenge" and the Eco-Hero game. The "AWAKE Challenge" models real-life situations that occur between people working in various fields and how they affect today's main water supply. The goal of the Eco-Hero game is educating people through brainstorming sessions and discussion of the causes and effect of humans on the environment.
The students of AWAKE believe that, by increasing the public's awareness about water conservation and pollution, adults and children will start using water responsibly and make lifestyle changes to help benefit themselves and the environment. They try to follow this quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "Be the change you wish to see."
EPA Region 10
AYEA Global Warming Outreach and Education Project
Alaska Youth for Environment Action
The Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA), a group of committed teens, is making a notable impact through a statewide global warming outreach and education project. AYEA is a high school program of the National Wildlife Federation. During a "Summer Get Together" training, AYEA teens gathered in Homer, Alaska, to learn about the impacts of global warming in Alaska, the science behind the greenhouse effect, and how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the end of this event, AYEA graduate Verner Wilson wrote a "Letter to Our Leaders" describing the devastating impacts of global warming on Alaska and requesting national action through legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in renewable energy.
Other AYEA members turned Verner's letter into a statewide youth petition and developed an educational presentation on global warming. AYEA chapter youth leaders gave the presentation to more than 300 science and social studies classrooms and received an endorsement from the Spirit of Youth Foundation, affording the petition even more statewide representation. AYEA students collected 5,000 teen signatures from 105 communities in Alaska, which represents more than 10 percent of the enrolled high school population.
During April 2006, teens from Dillingham, St. Michael, Anchorage, and Yakutat traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional leaders to discuss global warming. They presented their petition to Senator Lisa Murkowski, who requested that AYEA members meet with climate change specialists in Fairbanks to bridge the "science and public awareness" divide. A group of the teens then traveled to Fairbanks and worked with scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks to educate 25 rural Alaska Native college students about global warming.
AYEA teens also worked locally to raise awareness about global warming. During the 2006 Civics and Conservation Summit, 15 AYEA teen leaders promoted legislation to create an Alaska Climate Change Impact Commission. The teens successfully lobbied for a youth seat on the commission and met with 20 legislators to promote other bills supporting alternative energy projects.
AYEA teens introduced a Climate Change Resolution at the Alaska Association of Student Governments Conference in April 2006. Four hundred teens from 20 communities unanimously adopted the resolution, demanding action at the state legislative level. AYEA members hope to push this resolution forward during the 2007 Civics and Conservation Summit. A team of AYEA members held a press event with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich to announce initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the city. AYEA members also presented the petition to the Juneau Assembly and asked for a local model of emissions reduction within the next year.
Through this project, AYEA was able to engage 500 percent more young people in 1 year with environmental issues and five times as many youth than have been engaged in the program's history.
The project has already sparked some 15 media stories on statewide television, national public radio, and national and local newspapers. Teachers throughout the state continue to ask for the youth global warming presentation. Teens who have received the presentation have since started two new AYEA chapters, motivating even more young people to become involved with health and environmental issues.
Two mayors have now signed the Mayor's Climate Change Protection Agreement, both referring to the student drive on this issue as a motivating factor in their decision. Anchorage Mayor Begich, who hosted a climate change conference for 33 mayors from all over the nation, asked AYEA member Megan Waggoner to deliver a keynote address. The response was overwhelming. Several mayors inquired whether they could learn about AYEA and how the youth in Alaska are making such an impact.