President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) Winners
Read the press release about this year's PEYA winners. Congratulations!
EPA Region 1:
The Rockport, Massachusetts, Public Schools’ Green Team
Team Members: Joshua, Nathaniel, Sebastian, Caitlin, Patrick, Amanda
The Rockport, Massachusetts, Public Schools’ Green Team—a student run club of sixth through twelfth grade students—initiated the Greenhouse Project. The Green Team wanted to help educate students and community members about environmental concerns and reduce negative environmental impacts in Rockport. The group fundraised, purchased and constructed a greenhouse with participation of community members. Since the greenhouse construction, the project has grown tremendously, engaging students and community members on sustainable agriculture. The team has grown vegetables locally in order to reduce the waste and pollution from transporting food. This project also has given students the opportunity to learn how to plan a garden, plant vegetables, maintain plants, and harvest produce, all while using sustainable practices. NO chemical pesticides have been used on the plants; instead students find environmentally friendly ways to control pests, such as using beneficial insects and hand soap. During the school year, the produce was given to our school's cafeteria and used in school lunches. During the summer, the students sold the produce, as well as starter plants, to the community at the local farmers' market where they engage with community members on a variety of environmental topics and help them start their own gardens. Also, at the farmers' markets, they educated the community about some solutions to the problems facing our environment and how to use sustainable practices to lead by example. They distributed educational materials in order to spread the word about environmental stewardship. The students educated community members on single-use plastics and were involved in the process of the town-wide adoption of a single-use plastics ban. One of the Green Team's primary goals was to help our community learn to become more environmentally conscious by connecting our project to the community, which this project has accomplished.
EPA Region 2:
Bridgewater Raritan High School Green Infrastructure Team
Bridgewater Raritan High School
Team Members: Sujay, Pravar, Amogh, Aneesh, Ritika
Five students from Bridgewater High School discovered a stormwater runoff problem on their school grounds. After extensive research, they concluded that the creation of a rain garden would be an effective way to fix the flooding problem and prevent pollutants from entering the nearby Raritan River. They involved elementary, middle, and high school students in the development of the rain garden, creating an outdoor science laboratory for students in the school district. In 2019, the rain garden treated 3,950 gallons of rainwater. The students are in the process of planting 600 bulbs to keep the rain garden going in 2020. This project significantly improves the environment for students, teachers, and members of the surrounding community.
EPA Region 3:
Effective Repeated Filtration of Amoxicillin from Wastewater Using Activated Charcoal Filters
by Lea W.
Lea is a 10th grade student who during the summer of 2019, was granted the opportunity to conduct research through the Teen Research and Education in Environmental Science (TREES) program on “Effective Repeated Filtration of Amoxicillin from Wastewater Using Activated Charcoal Filters”.
Antibiotics from human and animal consumption have increasingly polluted drinking water, enabling bacteria and fungi to develop resistance and rendering some illnesses increasingly difficult to treat. However, many wastewater treatment facilities do not employ existing remediation technologies because of high costs, so an effective, economical filtration option is needed. This study investigated the efficacy of the repeated use of activated charcoal (an inexpensive, scalable alternative) in filtering a common amoxicillin-class antibiotic from water.
The TREES program is funded by a National Institute of Health grant and run by Dr. Jeffrey Field, a Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Through this program, Lea had an opportunity to work on independent research projects with high school mentors and graduate students; as well as sit in on lectures from esteemed professors regarding human and animal consumption of antibiotics through drinking water.
TREES made it possible for her to visit several local wastewater treatment plants prior to her experimentation to learn about the treatment process. Lea was also fortunate enough to sit in on a meeting of the Chester County Environment Alliance to learn about their different initiatives, which range from implementing new reporting systems, to testing cutting-edge prototypes, to organizing protests. It was on these trips that she learned from professionals in the field about the many shortcomings of the wastewater treatment process, including its inability to filter pharmaceuticals, as well as the high costs of more advanced technology. It was through these interactions that she conceived the idea to research low-cost antibiotic filtration.
EPA Region 4:
Go Green - Holiday Action
We Sense Youth Team
Team Members: Bo, Yichen, Ayden, Savannah
Four high school students, Bo, Yichen, Ayden, and Savannah from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, started their journey on raising environmental awareness in the community two years ago. After succeeding in a variety of community learning projects such as e-cycling and upcycling programs, they decided to engage the community with “Go Green - Holiday Action” year-end project. Aiming to solving the problem that public knowledge and actual practice about recycling was limited, the team set out to spread awareness and promote actionable solutions through a series of community-engaging holiday-themed events incorporating technology and interactive activities. The project impacted more than 700 participants with fun curbside recycling quizzes, creative applications of over 100 pounds of recycled materials in artistic exhibits and crafts, and a homemade app, EcoEye, which utilizes AI-Vision to classify various wastes and their recyclability. These activities helped respond to the increased production of waste in the holidays and the urgency to reduce waste at source, reuse and recycle when possible. Participants were encouraged to reflect on the effects small choices had on their lifestyles. By holding these events at three prominent locations, the team successfully implemented the project with the support of more than 10 community partners and a team of more than 20 volunteers. More than 1000 holiday recycling crafts were made and taken home by the participants to continue the inspiration and impact. The various components of the project helped make recycling more attractive to the community. The team is planning on hosting similar events in future seasons on different themes.
by Zach H.
Zach, age 9, launched Zach's Planet, in hopes of promoting reuse and upcycling in his community and helping kids and homeless pets in need. In the past two years, he's run numerous book drives in schools, organizations and sports clubs and collected more than 20,000 used books and donated them to Title 1 Schools and Little Free Libraries in 12 states. Zach also partnered with a non-profit organization, Glad Dogs Nation, who upcycles used stuffed animals and creates pet toys for shelter pets. Zach collected over 800 unwanted stuffed animals and transformed them into lovable squeaker toys. He donated them to many shelters in 3 states. On top of that, Zach also ran uniform drives within his Cub Scout Pack and donated dozens of clothing items to the local council so other kids can enjoy them. Zach got the idea to create Zach's Planet when he was asked to take out the trash as a 7-year-old. He saw many items in the trash can that could be used again. He began collecting books, stuffed animals and toys and getting his Cub Scout Pack, Humane Society Kids Club and Martial Arts Studio involved along with some of his teachers and the local library. His efforts of kindness were featured in Woman's Day Magazine and recognized by his district Boy Scout office. Zach has saved over two tons of reusable items from going into landfills, saved over 800 trees by promoting reuse and encouraged over 100 people to help him in his efforts to save the planet. Each year, he's dedicated over 100 hours to community service. He spreads his message on his website, ZachsPlanet.com, and through his Facebook page and YouTube channel where he highlights his efforts and promotes ways everyone can help the environment though small acts of kindness.
EPA Region 5:
Pop Tab Pandemonium
by Brayden C.
Brayden is a 10th grader from Minooka, Illinois. When his sister was in a serious bike accident 14 years ago, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) provided support to Brayden and his family. To thank RMHC and to give back, he decided to participate in their long-running Pop Tab program. In 2015 he launched Pop Tab Pandemonium with the help of local sponsors. This annual event gives the local community an opportunity to recycle their cans and have some fun.
In addition to recruiting volunteers among students and his 4-H Club to place recycling receptacles around the community, he assists his local school district with a competition to see which grade can collect the most pop tabs. Brayden has gone beyond the idea of only recycling pop tabs to include aluminum can recycling more broadly. Because of his project Brayden is on the lookout for aluminum cans and pop tabs wherever he goes. Through his efforts he has raised more than $20,000 for RMHC and recycled over 15 tons of aluminum. The funds he raises help RMHC pay the bills so moms and dads don’t need to worry about where they will stay while their children are in the hospital.
EPA Region 6:
Team Members: Shirley Z. and Annie Z.
In April 2018, with the goal of reducing food waste and eliminating food deserts, Shirley Z. and Annie Z. co-founded Project Fresh Hub. After five months of hard work on planning and preparations, they established collaborations with Second Serving of Houston, Trader Joe’s, Slow Dough, Breadman, and the Houston Health Department. In November 2018, the Fresh Hub market made its debut at Sunnyside Multi-service Center. Ninety volunteers from three local schools picked up excess food from grocery stores and bakeries, sorted them out, and re-distributed them in the food desert regions in Houston. As of December 2019, thirteen Fresh Hub market events have been held; 8000 lbs of food (worth $8000) were saved from dumpsters and almost 1100 community members received food and services at no charge. As more than 90% of the food distributed at Fresh Hub markets are perishable produce and bread, a quick turn-around is the key to reducing food waste. To address this challenge, Fresh Hub mobile app was developed to announce Fresh Hub food distribution events and promote healthy eating habits. Fresh Hub won first place in Human Services at the Future Problem-Solving International Conference, the app won the 2019 Congressional App Challenge and received a Special Congressional Recognition from TX-09 District.
The 3R Project
by Prince N.
Prince is ten years old and has been actively involved in environmental projects since he was seven. He understands the importance of waste management and how it impacts our planet. After conducting a community survey in Frisco, Texas, Prince was shocked to learn that only 27% of the population recycle and that 68% are confused about what to recycle. He also learned that the United States was shipping millions of tons of waste to China and that, starting 2018, China would no longer accept shipments of waste. With this awareness, Prince decided to find a way to make recycling easier to help solve the waste management challenge. He developed a mobile application called “3RApp”. Using this mobile application, not only can citizens find recyclability of a product using QR code/barcode scanning, but they will also be able to learn ways to reuse the products and methods to reduce waste. The app can also be linked to smart devices, like dust bins, to open the right compartment based on recyclability of the item. City officials and the University of North Texas (UNT) have recognized the efforts of and great potential in this young man through a city declaration and a full scholarship to University of North Texas.
EPA Region 7:
See a Bloom, Give it Room
Kickapoo Nation School Environmental Club
Team Members: Nash, Natasha, Sophia, Gabriel, Adriana, Vincente, Kismet, Caitlin, Savannah
Kansas Students from the Kickapoo Nation School’s Environmental Club conducted a program that began with researching and responding to the questions “How is climate change affecting the Kickapoo Nation?,” and “How they could meet the needs of people and wildlife” The students specifically looked at the environment in and around the Delaware River (their drinking water source). Students conducted an impressive list of activities in response to this question, which included:
- Made 5 short films discussing what to do if you encounter an algal bloom,
- Planted 160 trees to stabilize the bank and reduce soil run-off into the river,
- Planted native milkweed in order to become a migratory butterfly weighing station,
- Educated their community regarding water quality, including restoring a trail and an awareness walk.
These students have been recognized for their work by the Native Youth Adaptation Leadership Congress and attended a training in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
EPA Region 8:
Bigfork High School Cave Club
Team Members: Ryan C. and Colten W.
Montana Student members of the Bigfork High School Cave Club decided that they wanted to create a system of recording bat populations for the entire state of Montana's caves. The reason for creating this online recording system was so that cave managers and agencies will know how bat roosts have been affected after White Nose Syndrome (WNS) makes it to Montana. White Nose Syndrome (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) is a disease that affects hibernating bats by increasing their levels of energy usage throughout winter hibernation. Therefore, it exhausts the bat and kills it. Normally the nose of a bat will be tinted with a white fuzz. WNS has been confirmed in 33 states and is quickly spreading closer to Montana. The website Ryan and Colten created, eBatsMT, uses web applications from ArcGIS online that are editable by approved cavers who gather data while visiting caves and upload their information to the website. It serves as a connection between cavers and cave managers who need this valuable data. Their website also includes information on cave stewardship as well as a "How-to" form on collecting data. Right now, the website has 10 web apps uploaded and the future goal is to include most every cave that serves as a bat hibernaculum in Montana. The purpose of this project was to unite the caving community around bat conservation as well as to encourage stewardship in caves. It has been successful so far, but Ryan and Colten hope to further grow the site and number of users by giving a presentation at a caving convention later this year.
EPA Region 9:
Sustainable Food Systems
by Nikita B.
As a volunteer with the nonprofit Arizona Sustainability Initiative, Nikita Bharati leads two projects involving Arizona students in learning about regenerative local food systems by creating and using high-tech gardens in their classrooms.
Nikita’s innovative projects have reached more than 2,000 Arizona students, who are learning about environmental sciences and sustainable food systems by using technology to grow healthy foods, harvest and eat them, all in the classroom.
Food Tech for the Future: Growing Digital Farmers introduces high schoolers to “food computers” by building a chamber with robotics to control climate, energy and plant growth to raise vegetables. Nikita has successfully piloted this at Glendale High School. Students learn about biology, water efficiency, genetics, and technology. They are encouraged to study food technology and global food needs.
Nikita’s Vertical Garden, for middle and elementary grades, takes a similar approach in 16 schools located predominantly in Maricopa County’s “food deserts,” where fresh produce is lacking. The Vertical Garden mimics ground-breaking methods used by pioneering urban agri-tech startups.
These hands-on projects combine STEM and environmental education. For Nikita, they are part of her leadership in the local chapter of Girl STEMpowerment, helping bridge the gender gap in tech by inspiring girls to study STEM.
For the Love of Frogs - The Parallel Projects
by Justin S.
When Los Angeles third-grader, Justin, learned about declining frog populations, he was inspired to create a youth initiative program called “For the Love of Frogs.” Justin raised money for frog conservation organizations, organized cleanups at a local wetland preserve and raised awareness through art and community outreach.
On Earth Day 2019, an African environmental science student, Perise, contacted Justin to ask what he could do with thousands of plastic bottles he had collected. Justin reached out to his network for ideas and received dozens of upcycling suggestions from around the world. Justin shared his network’s suggestions with Perise and then put these ideas to work himself in California. Perise did the same in Cameroon, and, in the end, they transformed nearly 8,000 bottles into works of art, planters, and other items.
These ideas, known as the “Parallel Projects," became a daily and weekly collaboration. Justin continued this work to initiate an intercontinental collaboration of students in a series of projects involving plastic waste. Participants work in parallel, in their own countries, sharing methods and results with the goal of inspiring others and raising awareness of worldwide plastic pollution.
EPA Region 10:
P.O.P. – Promote Our Pollinators
by Anna D.
The Promote Our Pollinators (P.O.P.) program was designed by Anna, a 9th grader with the Connections Homeschool Program in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Alaska, to educate her community about the importance of pollinators and why their numbers are declining. She shared ways to promote pollinator population growth and inspire the next generation to be good stewards of their natural resources. She created a flier, activity book, website, Facebook page and Twitter account to educate the community. Anna has held P.O.P. “make and take presentations” in schools, libraries and other community venues; and she distributed P.O.P. promotional items, such as reusable tote bags and plant stakes, around the community.
Anna has designed Pollinator Packs containing six different pollinator friendly seedlings to encourage population growth. The packs provide “rest stops” and food sources for pollinators, so they can travel across large urban areas to expand their colonies. She is in the process of creating online and in-class educational curricula based on the P.O.P. concept for elementary students. All these activities have increased her community’s awareness of pollinators.
Anna received a grant from the Alaska Chapter of the Awesome Foundation to help with expenses. She won 3rd place in the Caring for the Kenai competition and has been recognized as a State Merit winner for the annual 3M Young Scientist Challenge.