White House, EPA Announce Winners Of Presidential Environmental Education Awards

The White House Council on Environmental Quality, in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Tuesday announced the winners of the annual Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators and President’s Environmental Youth Award, recognizing outstanding student leaders in environmental stewardship and K-12 teachers employing innovative approaches to environmental education in their schools.

In a ceremony at the White House, 17 teachers and 60 students from across the nation are being honored for their contributions to environmental education and stewardship.

“These awards recognize the outstanding contributions of student leaders and exceptional teachers on some of the most pressing issues facing our nation, including combating climate change and instituting sustainability practices,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Environmental education encourages academic achievement, especially in the sciences, and develops the next generation of leaders in environmental stewardship.”‎

Presidential Environmental Educator Award

The Pennsylvania winner of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators is David Andrews from Butler Junior High School.

 David teaches general science, environmental science and chemistry at Butler Junior High School in Butler, Pennsylvania, a suburban/rural area that serves a socially and economically diverse population.

For 6 years, David has used the Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program to provide opportunities to students to raise Brook trout and release them into streams to help the local fish population.

David’s work with TIC helps make habitat improvements to one of the local streams, perform fish population and water quality surveys, and learn how chemical, biological, and human-interaction factors affect the fish population. 

David also has organized student tree-plantings to help rebuild a riparian buffer, student participation in litter cleanups, and opportunities for students to work side by side with professional biologists.

David inspires his students to give back to the community by participating in local projects that not only improve the habitat of local waterways but also environmental conditions in general, e.g., coordinating paper recycling at the school to reduce the amount of garbage being sent to landfills.

Through service-learning projects such as these, as well as challenging curriculum that focuses on local concerns like healthy ecosystems and the Marcellus Shale energy field, David’s students gain a greater awareness of environmental issues and an appreciation for natural resources.

In addition to being an educator, David serves on several committees and works to widen the horizons for his students and the community they live in. David is a member of the XTO Energy Community Advisory Panel, which communicates with natural gas companies and the community to learn about and discuss energy options.

David’s efforts to perform community service by establishing partnerships with local government agencies, state management officials, and corporations have earned him the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.

President’s Youth Award

The Pennsylvania winner of the President’s Environmental Youth Award is May Wang for a project exploring the remediation of bisphenol in water by reusing an activated charcoal filter.

May’s study tested the reuse of activated charcoal as a means of removing Bisphenol A (BPA) from water supplies. She conducted experiments using an activated charcoal solution and varying concentrations of BPA solutions in consecutive rounds of filter use and continuous use.

Efforts have been made to eliminate BPA from the water supply by using new filtration methods in sewage treatment plants.  Activated charcoal is a filtration technique used in other fields on a small scale and is promising for water filtration.  

From her experiments, May concluded that activated charcoal as a filter is effective for removal and is active for a number of times after the initial use, in both methods of filtration.  The percent removal for both consecutive rounds of filtration and continuous use was consistently significant. 

The results are promising for the future of activated charcoal as an effective, economical method to filter BPA from wastewater.  The use of activated charcoal as a filter would improve overall ecological health and significantly decrease risk of exposure to BPA. 

Most importantly, May would like to collaborate with treatment facilities to implement her research findings.

In addition to the PEYA program, May’s research paper was accepted for presentation at the American Water Resource Association 50th Annual Water Resource Conference, and the Association for Environmental Health and Science Foundation, 30th Annual International Conference on Soils, Sediments, Water, and Energy, this Autumn.

For more information, visit the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators and President’s Environmental Youth Award webpages.


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