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President Bush presents Helena, Mont., students with environmental award

Release Date: 04/17/2008
Contact Information: Wendy Dew, 303-312-6605

EARTH Action project recognized at White House ceremony

(Denver, Colo. -- April 17, 2008) In a ceremony today at the White House, President Bush presented a group of middle school students from Helena, Mont., with the President's Environmental Youth Award. The sixth, seventh, and eighth graders were recognized for the EARTH Action (Environmental Awareness and Response Through Human Action), a project designed to raise awareness of environmental issues in Montana.

President George W. Bush and EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson presented the award in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House.

"It seems that Helena is a hotbed for young environmental leaders," said EPA's environmental education coordinator, Wendy Dew. "While most students take on one or two topics for environmental projects, these kids took on a whole slate of issues and produced high-quality outreach products and projects that are actually making an impact on the environment. We hope they keep an eye on future careers with EPA."

The EARTH Action project was designed, developed, and delivered by students from Helena Middle School, C.R. Anderson Middle School, and Central Elementary School. The students approached students in other grade levels, brainstormed environmental topics of interest, and organized various teams to develop creative ways to share information about environmental topics at a 2007 EARTH Action event. They designed interactive booths, videos, an art show, and drama vignettes, and field tested them on their peers and experts. The student reviewers also used criteria to evaluate their success, and professionals gave them advice about improving their presentations.

The impact of EARTH Action was significant. Initially, 220 students participated in developing the projects, and information was shared with nearly 1,000 participants at the EARTH Action event. Students worked on a total of 28 environmental issues and topics, including building a model hydrogen car, and developing material on biodiesel fuels, recycling, solar power, and the impact of four-wheelers on the wilderness. The students also developed display booths and presentations on how grazing can affect river banks, bird populations, backyard wildlife, plants on the Missouri River, fire ecology, giardia, and global warming. Due to the overwhelming success of the project, students and educators in other states are interested in adopting the EARTH Action format to showcases the passion and power of young leaders.

Agencies in Montana supported the projects and helped the students with equipment and advice. For example, the U.S. Geological Survey lent global positioning system units for students to use to find noxious weeds, enabling the students to have a direct impact on the environment. The Weed Awareness and Eradication group eliminated noxious weeds in more than 30 acres of forest land in the Helena National Forest.

Students representing the EARTH Action team at the White House ceremony included:

Shannon Thennis
Christine Patten
Jaden Maharg
Joshua Barrows
Jordan Barrows

Project sponsors included:

Jane McDonald
Leslie Trudeau
Jamie Antos

The President's Environmental Youth Awards program was established by the White House in 1971. Up to ten winning projects are selected each year from EPA's 10 regional offices. Young people from around the country and U.S. territories are invited annually to participate in the PEYA program, which is aimed at encouraging individuals, school classes, summer camps, youth organizations and public interest groups to promote environmental awareness and encourage positive community involvement.

Regional EPA panels judge projects on environmental need, accomplishments of goals, long-term environmental benefits and positive impact on local communities. The panels also consider project design, coordination, implementation, innovation and soundness of approach. The winners come from Milton, Mass.; Forest Hills, N.Y.; Arlington, Va.; Huntingdon, Tenn.; Arlington Heights, Ill.; Pasadena, Texas; Reed Spring, Mich.; Helena, Mont.; Riverside, Calif.; and Redmond, Wash.

Projects submitted in the past have covered a wide range of subject areas including recycling programs in schools and communities; construction of nature preserves; major tree planting programs; videos, skits, and newsletters created by students that focused on environmental issues; and environmental science projects. To be eligible to compete, a student or students, sponsored by an adult, must submit to their local EPA regional office evidence of a completed project as defined in the PEYA application, as well as a completed application.

For more information on award winners and project descriptions: http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/peya/peya2007.html