Honorees in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island
BOSTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), is pleased to announce the 2021 recipients of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) and the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) in New England.
“This past school year has been one of the most challenging for our nation, yet students and teachers across the country remained dedicated to tackling the most pressing environmental challenges we face – from climate change to environmental justice,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “I’m so proud of the remarkable youth and educators we’re honoring today, and their work to make a difference in their communities. By working hand in hand, we can create a more sustainable, more equitable world.”
“EPA is proud to recognize these students and teachers working to make a difference in our environment and their communities,” said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Szaro. “We thank these individuals for their dedication and creativity in finding solutions for both local and global environmental issues, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The PIAEE award was established by the 1990 National Environmental Education Act and seeks to recognize, support, and bring public attention to the outstanding environmental projects performed by teachers who go beyond textbook instruction to incorporate methods and materials that utilize creative experiences and enrich student learning in K-12 education. CEQ, in partnership with EPA, administers this award.
This year’s PIAEE award winners in New England are Carly Imhoff from the Ashford School in Ashford, Connecticut and Lori LaFrance from Ipswich High School in Ipswich, Massachusetts. An Honorable Mention Award is also given to Gwynne Millar from Exeter-West Greenwich High School in West Greenwich, Rhode Island.
PIAEE award recipient Carly Imhoff is a Science Enrichment teacher at the Ashford School and has created innovative hands-on learning for students from kindergarten through eighth grade for 10 years. Ms. Imhoff creates awareness and connects her students to global environmental challenges by partnering with students from around the world through virtual exchanges. She engages her students in these global issues and prompts her students to look for local solutions. A couple of examples of these interactions include meeting with a Nigerian class to discuss climate change impacts and facilitating a trip to Bermuda for a few of her students to study the DNA of the invasive lionfish. Besides Ms. Imhoff’s innovative approach to teaching, she has advocated for school improvements through multiple roles, such as leading science teachers in developing a plan for implementing the next generation science standards (NGSS) while applying these standards to real world, project-based learning. This resulted in the construction of a greenhouse and designing an NGSS-aligned interdisciplinary curriculum. Imhoff also organized STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) days at school an created an extensive website with useful links for students and parents.
PIAEE recipient Lori LaFrance, an 11th and 12th grade Environmental Science teacher at Ipswich High School, has empowered her students over the last 14 and a half years to take action to preserve their community’s natural resources, both on land and in the ocean, while developing leadership skills and a passion for environmental protection. Ms. LaFrance’s students advocated to install electric vehicle charging stations around their town and educated local government officials about environmental concerns, such as single-use plastic and Styrofoam, at a town meeting. These efforts lead to a ban of the use of these single-use materials in their town, making Ipswich a part of the first wave of towns in Massachusetts to accomplish this. LaFrance’s students have also been active in marine-related projects, including marine debris. Her students built and tracked an oceanic drifter equipped with GPS that stimulates the trajectory of commonly found marine debris. The data collected from this project was later used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to update their marine debris tracking databases. In addition, Ms. LaFrance and her colleague who teaches American government, have combined subjects to create classes that explore both science and climate change policy. The course will have an interactive forum with a Massachusetts state representative, who will answer the students’ questions on a variety of environmental topics, including environmental justice.
Gwynne Millar, a biology teacher at the Exeter-West Greenwich High School, received a PIAEE Honorable Mention for bringing relevant, engaging, project-based opportunities to her students for over 25 years. Ms. Millar was instrumental in bringing a State-approved career and technical education program in the field of agriculture and environmental science to the campus. Through this program, her students are exposed to hands-on learning in a variety of environmental fields. In addition, through the school sustainability club Ms. Millar developed, the students have coordinated successful composting and recycling activities as well as planted 350 trees, offsetting their school district’s paper use during a school year. In January 2020, her students testified for new environmental education standards at the Rhode Island state legislature.
The PEYA was established by the Environmental Education Act of 1970 and recognizes outstanding community-level environmental projects by K-12 youth that promote awareness of natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. Each year, PEYA honors a variety of local projects developed by students, school classes, summer camp attendees and youth organizations to promote engagement in environmental stewardship and protection.
This year’s PEYA winners in New England are Jack Dalton of Manchester, New Hampshire and Keianna Grant, Joanna Casimir, Takhya Rather-Grady of Codman Academy High School in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
This year’s K-5 PEYA winner Jack Dalton is a 10-year-old student from Manchester, New Hampshire. Jack started a YouTube channel called “Kid Conservationist” after learning about palm oil production, deforestation, and the effect those have having on endangered species. He makes entertaining, educational videos to teach people simple ways to be good stewards of the environment. He also conducts interviews with experts in the field, including a National Geographic photographer, to showcase work being done around the globe that helps protect the environment. While his YouTube channel reaches thousands of people itself, Jack has also presented to hundreds of children at zoos, museums, and schools in the United States and around the world. Additionally, Jack designed his own Kid Conservationist recycled, reusable bags to reduce the use of single-use plastic in his community. With the funds that Jack raised from his reusable bag sales, he donated them to pay for orangutan care in Indonesia and planted 6,000 trees in critical rainforests. In 2019, Jack was named Youth Ambassador for Orangutan Alliance, an international non-profit organization.
This year’s PEYA 6-12 winners are Keianna Grant, Joanna Casimir, and Takhya Rather-Grady, Seniors at the Codman Academy High School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. In July 2020, the three students set out to change their urban school’s lack of a school garden. The students, with a teacher sponsor and farm educator, built raised garden beds and worked two to three days a week to plant a variety of vegetables and herbs. Though their school utilized virtual learning throughout last year, the students continued to meet weekly to maintain the garden and share their weekly harvest with the Codman Square Community Health Center staff, most of whom have been on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. This project was created to advocate for healthier, locally grown, accessible food in a community where this is not always an option. The students’ garden produced 73 pounds of organic vegetables, herbs, and flowers last year, all of which was donated to the health center staff, and plan to continue maintaining and growing the garden.
From across the country, 15 educators and 32 students are recognized for their leadership and commitment to environmental education and environmental stewardship. This year, five educators will receive the 2021 PIAEE, and 10 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 climate change, a healthy school environment, environmentally friendly agriculture practices, human contributions to ocean litter, STEM education, and recycling or school gardens.
Additionally, 32 students who worked as a team or individually on 16 projects will receive the President’s Environmental Youth Award; 14 students will receive honorable mentions. Their stewardship projects, conducted in 2020, display a commitment to participating in creative sustainability efforts, restoring native habitats, and installing renewable energy projects.
To read about the winning projects in detail, visit: www.epa.gov/education/presidents-environmental-youth-award-peya-winners and www.epa.gov/education/presidential-innovation-award-environmental-educators
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