This week, we welcomed outstanding students and teachers from across the country to the White House for the Presidential Environmental Education Awards National Recognition Ceremony. We were wowed by their smarts, their ingenuity, and their commitment to environmental issues.
Climate change and environmental problems are some of the greatest challenges of our time. Climate impacts threaten lives and livelihoods — from more frequent and intense drought, storms, fires, and floods to higher insurance premiums, property taxes, and food prices. Current and future generations of public servants, scientists, educators, and entrepreneurs will have to work together to solve these problems.
Fortunately for all of us, these impressive students and teachers are doing great work, and the President’s Environmental Education Awards honor that spirit. Since 1971, the President has joined with EPA to recognize the importance of environmental education in protecting our nation’s air, water, land, and ecology. One outstanding student project and up to two outstanding teachers can be selected from each EPA region for national recognition.
When Deepika Kurup of New Hampshire came face-to-face with a lack of access to clean drinking water in India, she took action, building water purifiers that use a chemical reaction catalyzed by sunlight to kill common bacteria. Meanwhile, students in California created “Donate, Don’t Dump,” a campaign to get surplus and short-dated food from grocers, growers, and food companies to the hungry rather than sent to landfills. The campaign has grown into a teen-run nonprofit with 20 chapters in 4 states and 4,000 members.
Teaching efforts to inspire our nation’s students have been just as impressive. Charlene Mauro of Gulf Breeze, Florida founded the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station to educate the community about ocean issues and teach students how to collect data and specimens, keep lab journals, and collaborate with professionals on their research. Gerard Reymore of Randolph, Vermont connects students to the natural world with field-based experience, partnerships with local experts and business leaders, and community service. His students learned how to participate in stream cleanup efforts following Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy. They also manage their own maple tree forest and donate the syrup to the community and to school cafeterias.
These are just a few of the honorees — and they represent thousands of teachers and students across the country committed to environmental education. Their efforts inspire us and remind us that the future is hopeful and bright.
As parents, we have a moral obligation to leave our children a clean, healthy planet. As teachers and role models, we need to help them learn critical thinking skills grounded in real-world problem solving. The students and teachers honored with these awards are making a difference. They are taking charge of their futures and using their creativity, energy, and curiosity to better the world. Please join us in congratulating this year’s honorees.
Watch the full video of the award ceremony below: