The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), has announced the recipients of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) and the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). In EPA Region 5, the PIAEE winners are a fifth-grade science teacher in Warren, Ohio, and an honorable mention for an elementary-school teacher in Mishawaka, Ind., and the PEYA winner is a high-school student in Minooka, Ill.
“As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we are also celebrating nearly 50 years of environmental education that fosters awareness about conservation issues, and helps communities make informed, responsible decisions about their environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We are also honoring dedicated educators who spark enthusiasm in our youth to develop a love and respect for the environment and find solutions for issues that impact our air, water and land.”
“I am proud of the award recipients for their actions to protect the environment and for teaching others to do the same,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede. “Inspiring others to appreciate the environment is essential to protecting our planet.”
“Every one of us can make a difference whether it be picking up trash, recycling, feeding the birds, planting a flower garden, or restoring a habitat,” said Dave Murduck, PIAEE winner from Champion Middle School in Warren, Ohio. “As the excited recipient of this award, I will continue to bring awareness about the environment to children as well as adults.”
Mr. Murdock’s accomplishments include initiating recycling programs within Champion Middle School, fostering “Green Weeks” school activities, taking students on sustainability trips around the country, starting a beekeeping club, and designing wetlands projects to restore flora and fauna after construction projects. By incorporating place-based learning strategies that expose students to experiential learning opportunities, his students practice math and other subjects while developing an understanding of the importance of stewardship and the environment.
“I have the awesome opportunity in my profession to open the eyes and minds of young students to the differences they can make in the environment for the better,” said Shelly Sparrow, PIAEE award winner, honorable mention, a teacher at Twin Branch Elementary School in Mishawaka, Ind. “I want to fill their buckets with empowerment to identify and change things with a negative impact on our environment or continue their path and work toward a better future for all.”
Brayden Caraynoff-Huber, a high-school student in Minooka, Ill., participates in Ronald McDonald House Charities’ long-running Pop Tab program and 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. Brayden Caraynoff-Huber has gone beyond the idea of only recycling pop tabs to include aluminum can recycling more broadly. Through his efforts he has raised more than $20,000 for RHMC and recycled more than 15 tons of aluminum.
“One person, one tab, one aluminum can doesn’t seem like much, but put enough of them together and you can make a difference in the world,” said Brayden Caraynoff-Huber.
From across the country, 10 educators and 35 students are being recognized for their leadership and commitment to environmental education and environmental stewardship. This year, 7 educators will receive the 2020 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, and 3 educators will be recognized with an honorable mention distinction. Winning educators demonstrated leadership by integrating environmental education into multiple subjects and using topics such as healthy school environments, environmentally friendly agricultural practices, reducing ocean litter, gardening, recycling, or STEM to teach sustainability to K-12 students.
Additionally, 35 students who worked as a team or individually on 13 projects will receive the President’s Environmental Youth Award. Their stewardship projects, conducted in 2019, display a commitment to learning, to protecting natural resources, and to engaging their communities in environmental protection.
The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators
Established by the 1990 National Environmental Education Act, the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators seeks to recognize, support, and bring public attention to the outstanding environmental projects performed by innovative teachers who go beyond textbook instruction to incorporate methods and materials that utilize creative experiences and enrich student learning. CEQ, in partnership with EPA, administers this award to encourage and nationally honor outstanding elementary and secondary (K-12) education teachers who integrate environmental and place-based, experiential learning into school curricula. The program provides funding to help support educator awardee schools in their environmental education work and provides funding for the teacher’s professional development.
The President’s Environmental Youth Award
Since the establishment of the original Environmental Education Act of 1970, The President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) Program has recognized outstanding community-level environmental projects by K-12 youth for almost 50 years. Today, as part of the National Environmental Education Act of 1990, PEYA continues to promote awareness of natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. Each year, PEYA honors a wide-variety of local-level projects developed by students, school classes, summer camp attendees and youth organizations to promote engagement in environmental stewardship and protection. Students in all 50 states and U.S. territories are invited to participate in the program.