San Francisco, CA — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that the 2013-14 fifth grade class at Mount Madonna School in Watsonville, Calif. will receive the President’s Environmental Youth Award for their work to fight environmental threats faced by California sea turtles. The awards are presented each year to exceptional students and teachers who demonstrate creativity, innovation, and leadership to address difficult environmental challenges.
‘Through their passion and commitment, these amazing students and teachers are making a difference in their community and across the world to protect sea turtles,’ said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. ‘We are pleased to honor their work and inspired to see this community nurture these young environmental stewards.’
The 18 fifth graders (now sixth graders) at Mount Madonna won the 2014 President’s Environmental Youth Award for their year-long environmental education and stewardship campaign titled ‘Don’t be a Nurdle, Help the Sea Turtle: Poaching, Bycatch & Plastic Pollution, Tell the World About Our Solution.’
Over the 2013-14 school year the students created an educational movie on the threats faced by California sea turtles; raised $4000 to support Indonesian villages education program on sea turtle conservation; presented at a city council meeting to ban single use plastic bags; wrote letters to local and state representatives; cleaned up a beach and school campus; and created fishing line canisters for fisherman to recycle their used line in a local ‘Stow It, Don’t Throw It’ campaign.
The students created the humorous and educational video, ‘Don’t be a Nurdle, Help the Sea Turtle’ to help raise money to support a sea turtle conservation camp for children of impoverished Indonesian villages where Leatherback sea turtles nest. Fifth graders worked with their ninth grade buddies to create environmental curriculum and games about bycatch, poaching, turtles and marine debris that the teachers at sea turtle camp use to educate village children.
‘The first thing that made me feel like we made a lasting difference was speaking in front of City Council,’ shared one of the students. ‘They took us seriously and listened to our reasons.’
‘We are so honored to receive this national award,’ shared fifth grade co-teacher and project mentor, Jessica Cambell. ‘Most amazing to us as teachers is the long- term change these students have made in the lives of impoverished village children in Indonesia. The village children have grown up with little regard for the longevity of Leatherback turtle survival, and thus consume their eggs out of need. Through our class’ postcards, curriculum development, fundraising and supply gathering, the village children will be able to experience the beauty of conservation and work with this class on their shared goal the turtles. These children will grow up with a new perception of the Leatherback and a conservation mindset.’
‘Inspiration gives people a purpose and fuels them to work harder,’ shared another student. ‘I’m hoping our project inspires others to create more turtle camps and teach people about sea turtles. I hope that the children attending the camp fall in love with the sea turtles and don’t want to poach them anymore. And better yet, that they will actually want to protect them.’
‘By helping children in Indonesia we are helping to create a huge change in ocean protection,’ shared another classmate. ‘Even if our change doesn’t seem so big, it will ripple, because it’s changing their thinking and their future actions to save these keystone species.’
Truly, the idea of children empowering children over 3,000 miles away holds the ideal of global citizenship.
Established in 1971, the President’s Environmental Youth Award promotes awareness of our nation’s natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. Focused on environmental stewardship, one outstanding project from each of EPA’s ten regions is selected for national recognition. Projects are developed by young individuals, K-12 school classes, and youth organizations. Learn more at: www.epa.gov/peya.
Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna School is a safe and nurturing college preparatory school where students learn to think, create and succeed. The fully-accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Learn more at www.mountmadonnaschool.org
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