President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) 2007 Winners
EPA Region 1
Get the Lead Out of Fishing
Michael Browne wanted to tie his favorite hobby, fishing, into his Boy Scout Eagle project. He started thinking about all of the lead fishing weights and sinkers that local fishermen had lost in nearby rivers, lakes, and streams. When Michael read about the harmful effects of lead on the environment, Michael knew he could make a difference-and his project topic was decided.
Lead weights are one source of lead poisoning among our most beloved waterfowl and raptors. When waterfowl scoop up small pebbles from the bottom of ponds that they consume to aid in digestion, they can ingest lead weights that remain in the water. The lead breaks down in their bodies and makes them unable to defend themselves, eat, or care for their young. Raptors such as eagles are poisoned when they eat the dying waterfowl or catch fish that have ingested lead weights. Lead can also be hazardous to people who handle the lead.
Michael applied for grant money and received donations of money and materials from a variety of sources. With the money and materials he received, Michael and his troop assembled more than 700 sample weight packets, which included an insert that outlines the dangers of lead in the environment and safe alternatives. He also created a full-color brochure and a 3-foot by 6-foot banner to educate anglers.
Michael and his troop went to local fishing derbies, where they handed out the brochures, exchanged lead weights for the packets of environmentally safe alternatives, and talked to anglers about the dangers of lead in the environment. He also sent out press releases and called local environmental organizations. He successfully collected 43 pounds of lead weights from various fishing derbies.
Through multiple newspaper and magazine articles, Michael reached thousands of New England anglers. He presented his project at the Massachusetts State House in June, 2007, and was invited to speak before a legislative committee in September, 2007, in support of a Senate bill that would ban lead from fishing. His project was selected by Field and Stream Magazine as its first Boy Scout "Heroes of Conservation" award. Michael's project not only included his favorite hobby, but it also educated his fellow fisherman about using weights and sinkers made of safer alternatives and reducing lead lost in local lakes and streams, which benefits the environment.
EPA Region 2
Several years ago, Raphael Spiro made two important discoveries. While visiting his grandfather in a nursing home, he noticed that good reading materials for the residents were in short supply. Returning home to his neighborhood, Raphael noticed bundles of books and magazines at the curb on recycling day. He realized that people were throwing away what appeared to him to be perfectly good books. He started collecting and donating books to schools, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and wounded soldiers to reduce the volume of books and magazines in garbage dumps and landfills in New York City. Raphael's effort led to the beginning of Bedsidebooks.
Over time, Raphael expanded his local project by creating a Web site to encourage other students to conduct similar programs in their own communities. To date, more than 200 students in 16 states have collected and distributed 44,000 books. The environmental impact of this program can be measured in many ways. Reusing these books has spared 150 trees (a small forest) from being cut down, saved more than 60,000 gallons of water that would be used to produce paper, and prevented more than 5,000 pounds of air pollution.
Education is another important element of the Bedsidebooks program. Raphael continues to inform young people of the need to reduce, reuse, and recycle. For example, he develops and sends informational flyers to youth groups, schools, and libraries to emphasize the impact individuals have on the environment. Raphael makes book donors aware of their important environmental contributions. Devoted to raising awareness about how to reduce the tons of trash created by the average person each year, Raphael encourages colleges to provide electronic copies of their catalogs, and he recommends that phone directories be made available online.
Bedsidebooks has enriched the lives of thousands of people who have received donated books, many of whom do not have access to libraries or may not be able to purchase new books. And, because paper and paperboard make up a large portion of the total amount of solid waste produced, Raphael has improved the environment by reducing the number of books discarded and built awareness of the ease and environmental benefits of reusing books.
EPA Region 3
"We'll Bring It to You" Curbside Electronics Recycling
HB Woodlawn 6th Grade Science Class Group
The inspiration for the "We'll Bring It to You" Curbside Electronics Recycling project came after the HB Woodlawn 6th grade science class participated in a watershed inventory of a local stream. The students found discarded electronic equipment such as hard drives and cell phones in the stream. They started researching local recycling programs, and learned that Arlington County, Virginia, provided drop-off sites for recycling of electronics, but did not offer curbside recycling for these items. They suspected that few residents knew how to recycle these items. As a result, the students were compelled to create a civic action project to address this need.
On March 24, 2007, the 10 students collected more than 450 pieces of "e-waste" (used electronic equipment such as computer and stereo equipment) from Arlington County homes through an electronics recycling event. With the help of their parents, school faculty, and high school students, the students properly disposed of the items at Arlington County drop-off sites. But their work did not stop there. By engaging community leaders and citizens at every stage, the students sought permanent improvement in the existing Arlington County electronics recycling program.
The goals of the project were to: (1) assess the effectiveness of current electronics recycling programs through a survey of residents; (2) raise awareness of the need to properly dispose of or recycle electronic items; (3) provide curbside pickup of electronic items for recycling in a 1-day recycling event; and (4) provide recommendations to the Arlington County Board to improve the recycling program. The students involved the school government, local residents, and community groups such as Earth Force and the local chapter of the Sierra Club in their effort. They also made two presentations (one during the project and one at the conclusion) to the Arlington County Board.
The students are pleased and proud to see that their project will have an impact beyond the 1-day recycling event. As a direct result of the project, the Arlington County Board approved a resolution to consider the feasibility of curbside recycling for electronics.
EPA Region 4
Wiser Misers Energy Team
The Wiser Misers Energy Team consists of 11 3rd-grade students from Huntingdon Primary School, a small Title I school of 400 students in rural West Tennessee. The team worked together to lead the student body and community in environmental education activities and projects. The team's mission includes promoting environmental awareness and supporting environmental goals of making the nation's air, water, and land cleaner. Their effort intends to increase environmental stewardship and personal responsibility through education and volunteer opportunities. This is the fourth year that the team has been promoting environmental awareness.
This year, the Wiser Misers Energy Team posted an energy saving tip promoting "Change a Light, Change the World Day" on 16,000 Carroll County, Tennessee, electric bills. In return, the team received pledges from 245 community members to change one light from an incandescent bulb to a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). In addition, the team reached more than 12,000 people with an energy saving display at the Carroll County fair.
The team's first annual "Walk to School Day" attracted 500 participants and generated interest by the Town of Huntington to apply for a $250,000 Safe Routes to School grant. The grant was received and will fund 11,000 linear feet of sidewalks, crossings, and ramps for the disabled. Students and parents will be able to save energy and stay healthy by using a safe route to walk or bike to school.
To learn more about energy and conservation, the team went on five energy-related tours, held after-school meetings, invited four energy-related speakers to the school, and used a Tennessee Space Grant to learn about energy from the sun. Students earned money by picking up cans after baseball games and recruited people to save paper, cans, and printer cartridges for recycling. With a portion of the funds received from the recycling efforts, the team bought an energy-efficient water heater and CFL lighting for their school.
The team partnered with a variety of businesses, organizations, and local officials to help achieve their goals. The Carroll County Chamber of Commerce presented the team with the Jessica Andrews Youth Achievement Award for 2007.
EPA Region 5
After she saw the movie "An Inconvenient Truth," 9-year old Kate wondered what she could do to help the environment. Since her school did not have enough recycling bins, she wanted to come up with a way to buy more. As a result, she decided to raise money for the school and the environment by organizing an International Fair.
Twenty-one friends from James Whitcomb Riley Elementary School divided into groups and selected and researched a country of their choice. Each group created a poster about its country to be displayed at the International Fair. Kate worked with the Arlington Heights Park District to rent a neighborhood gym for the event. She made and sold passports to the fair for $5 each. She also sold energy-efficient light bulbs, raffle tickets, and snack tickets. She hung flyers and posters about the fair at the Arlington Heights library, her school, and local businesses. She also submitted articles to her town newspaper as well as her school paper. Her town newspaper ran an article about the fair on the first page of the neighborhood section.
Kate organized the entire event herself. She e-mailed her volunteers and hosted an ice cream party to discuss how the fair would be run. Baird and Warner donated a computer, among other raffle prizes, for the fair. Kate sold a total of 50 energy-saving light bulbs, exceeding her goal by 20. With the money raised from the fair, Kate worked with her principal and the president of operations at her school to purchase recycling bins for the lunch room and classrooms. The new recycling bins will allow for recycling of paper, cans, and bottles. The International Fair was a huge success, as Kate ended up raising $502 for her school and sold 50 energy-efficient light bulbs to members of the community.
Here is the poem she used in the school newspaper to promote the event.
On September 8 we will celebrate
The First International Fair so don't be late!
The fair will be at Camelot,
So bring everybody, even the tots!
We're raising money to environmentally help Riley School,
So please come, it will be cool!
We will start at 2:30 on the dot.
So if you're late you'll lose your spot.
Please come and have loads of fun,
And you'll be sad when it's done.
There will be snacks, games and toys for you,
At the end there will be a raffle too!
When the party's over at 4:30 or 5,
I'm sorry you will have to leave to say your goodbyes.
You will need to buy a passport to visit the stations,
They are five dollars each to visit each nation.
EPA Region 6
Public Environmental Awareness Program
Bianca Locke, a 12th grade student from Pasadena, Texas, has worked for the environment for most of her life, mainly focusing on teaching younger children about ways they can help the environment. She served her community as a Girl Scout for 10 years, as a volunteer in her church for 2 years, for 3 years as a volunteer for the City of Pasadena, and for 3 years helping Boy Scouts. She became a recognized environmental leader in her community in May, 2006, when her water conservation campaign at the city's first Environmental Fair won first prize for the "Most Educational Booth."
Bianca subsequently decided to develop a whole Environmental Education Program. She wrote two books for all ages, including one about storm water and one about recycling. In addition, she developed computer presentations, activities, and posters, and even designed her own mascot and costumes to enhance the messages in her books. Bianca crafted her presentations for audiences of all ages and backgrounds, breaking language barriers with skits, pictures, and scale models to get her messages across. She recruited other students and city staff to help with her work. The 12th grader took her program to more than 30 schools, day care centers, community events, youth organizations, environmental workshops, churches, local libraries, and summer camps. Each time, between 5 and 150 people would attend her events, particularly the children she has sought most of her life to reach.
She also designed an innovative and successful method to measure her program's effectiveness. Whether her audience includes Boy Scouts, children of National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) employees, or science teachers at an environmental teachers' workshop, Bianca does not waste any opportunity to pass along her environmental message. She plans to attend college to become a better, more effective environmentalist and is ready for any challenge.
EPA Region 7
Stream Team #432 Water Quality Monitoring
Reeds Spring High School
Reeds Spring High School Stream Team #432 was formed in 1993. During 2007, 11th and 12th grade students monitored water quality in streams each month after school and on weekends. The Stream Team became involved in this water stewardship project after its members studied environmental issues that affect streams in their community.
In the spring, members of the Stream Team researched and designed a project on water monitoring. In September 2007, the Stream Team collected and analyzed water samples at specific sites along a local stream. Students conducted tests at the streamside, including pH, dissolved oxygen, ammonia, nitrates, phosphates, conductivity, turbidity, and Macroinvertebrate sampling. The data they gathered was analyzed and sent to the Department of Natural Resources to be included in a state-wide water quality database. The team also floated the James River to pick up litter, sample stream invertebrates, test water acidity, and take water samples back to the laboratory to measure fecal coliform counts.
They prepared maps, graphs, and spreadsheets of data to illustrate the results of water testing. Stream Team members also gave presentations to school staff and organizations to inform the community about protecting its streams and how individuals can become involved in improving the quality of Missouri's streams. Team members researched environmental regulations and the impact on stream quality. They traveled to Jefferson City, Missouri, to discuss local water quality issues with the Missouri legislature.
Stream Team #432 has successfully established partnerships with universities, state agencies, and local organizations to work on sustainable solutions for environmental problems. Students have worked with staff of the University of Missouri at Columbia to organize stream teams to work on its volunteer lake testing project. The Missouri Department of Conservation provides training to the team on stream monitoring. The team also has worked on a water quality grant with Table Rock Lake Water Quality, Inc.
Stream Team #432 is a group of well-informed students who are actively engaged in protecting the environment. Their dedication and hard work to teach the public about environmental issues and how individuals can become involved in this project are making a difference in their community.
EPA Region 8
EARTH Action Montana
10 -- 6, 7, and 8th graders
The Environmental Awareness and Response Through Human (EARTH) Action Montana project was designed, developed, and delivered by middle school students in Helena, Montana. The middle school students approached students in other grade levels, brainstormed environmental topics of interest, and organized various teams. The teams in turn developed creative ways to share information about environmental topics at the EARTH Action community event, which was organized through the Helena Public Schools Promoting Enrichment Activities for Kids (PEAK) program. They designed interactive booths, videos, an art show, and drama vignettes, and then field tested them on their peers and experts on environmental subjects before the EARTH Action event. The student reviewers also used a student-designed criteria rubric to evaluate their success, and professionals gave them advice about improving their presentations.
Agencies in Montana were supportive of the projects and helped the students with equipment and advice. For example, the U.S. Geological Survey lent and showed a group of students how to use global positioning system (GPS) units to find previously mapped noxious weeds, enabling the students to have a direct impact on the environment. The Weed Awareness and Eradication groups eliminated noxious weeds in more than 30 acres of forest land in the Helena National Forest.
The impact of EARTH Action was exponential. Initially, 220 students participated in developing the projects, and the information was shared with nearly 1,000 participants during the EARTH Action event. The projects were as diverse as the students. The projects addressed a total of 28 environmental concerns, including building a model hydrogen car, as well as studying biodiesels, recycling, solar power, and the impact of four-wheelers on the wilderness.
Students and communities are interested in taking this event to the next level to engage students across the state, nation, and world in an initiative designed, developed, and delivered by students that showcases the passion and power of young leaders. The 2007 EARTH Action PEAK event was televised by Beartooth NBC.
EPA Region 9
Indoor Air Pollution: The Pulmonary Effects of Ozone-Generating Air Purifiers
Most people automatically associate ozone or smog with outdoor air pollution; however, ozone can be a major component of indoor air pollution as well. Even though air purifiers are advertised to improve breathing, some emit harmful ozone. For a science project, Otana Jakpor decided to test the pulmonary effects of ozone-generating air purifiers after she read a Consumer Reports article titled "New Concerns about Ionizing Air Cleaners." The article reported that certain models of ionizing air cleaners emit high amounts of ozone, but it did not include any research data.
Otana designed, coordinated, and implemented three experiments using a pulse oximeter and microspirometer, which she borrowed from her mother-who happens to be asthmatic. She also used an ozone sensor. Her original research included testing subjects with and without asthma on various time exposures to air purifiers, personal air purifiers around their necks, and the concentration of ozone produced by five ionizing devices at various distances. One result was 15 times higher than the level of a Stage 3 Smog Alert.
She sent a copy of her research paper to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency, while it was drafting a proposed regulation for limiting ozone emissions from ozone-generating air purifiers. On September 27, 2007, Otana was asked to present her research data at the CARB public hearing and it was officially submitted into evidence, as it provided strong support for the proposed regulation. CARB voted to adopt a regulation to limit ozone emissions from air purifiers to less than 0.050 parts per million (ppm), and now California is the first state in the nation to regulate ozone generators.
Otana has received several medals, certificates, and awards, including the Outstanding Environmental Science Project at the RIMS Inland Science and Engineering Fair in 2007. As an honorary member of the educational team at CARB, she has been educating people at schools, science fairs, and symposiums about the potential hazards of air purifiers, and has received invitations to speak at the Inland Empire American Lung Association Air Quality Committee Meeting and the Riverside City Council. She hopes to publish this research and is preparing a manuscript to submit to a scientific journal.
Otana hopes to continue her educational efforts to encourage regulations similar to California's across the country.
EPA Region 10
Cool School Campaign
Redmond High School
In response to a question posed by one of their teachers, five energetic students from Redmond High School developed a program that challenges teachers to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide generated in the classroom through transportation, recycling, electricity, and heating. In its first year, the Cool School Campaign reduced 72 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2); now in its second year, the campaign is expecting an even greater reduction in energy usage.
The students began the project by asking each teacher in the school to complete a pre-survey that introduced the "Cool School Campaign" and provided simple tips on how to reduce energy usage. The students asked teachers to sign a pledge to reduce 1,000 pounds of CO2 during the year in their classrooms. (In 2008, the goal will be increased to 2,000 pounds.) Once the teachers signed the pledge, the students provided a poster for the classroom and a ream of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper. The posters added a competitive spirit to the challenge and helped "pressure" other teachers to sign the pledge. The students educated and encouraged teachers to take simple steps to reduce energy usage. Small changes, like turning the temperature down a few degrees, using only two of the four sets of ceiling lights, car pooling, turning off DVD players at the power strip, and drinking coffee out of reusable mugs, meant a big reduction in the CO2 emissions. In the first year, the teachers' actions saved the school district $7,500.
The Cool School Campaign has generated interest district wide and has produced measurable environmental results. For example, over the past two and a half years, the district has saved $550,000 by recycling more, watering less, reducing waste, and generally using less energy. The Cool School Campaign, which is interactive and involves the entire student population, not just the staff, has been adopted by 17 other schools and in the district administrative offices, and students continue to offer training to support the cause. The success of the students' efforts prompted the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and Puget Sound Energy to provide financial assistance to train additional teachers. The students also had a chance to present their results to the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Los Angeles, California.