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8th Graders Are Learning and Earning at Environmental Camp

Release Date: 07/15/2009
Contact Information: Terri White 215-814-5523

(PHILADELPHIA, July 15, 2009) For some it may be a best-kept secret. But for years, Larry Brown has been spreading the word about a summer program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that pays students to learn. Now in its 16th year, EPA’s Student Environmental Development Program (SEDP) offers a unique opportunity for middle school students to learn life skills and ways to sustain the environment while earning money, too.

The 8th graders, who were recruited from 15 Philadelphia public schools, report to work Monday through Friday at EPA’s office building in downtown Philly. Their schedules include classroom training and outdoor field trips for six weeks, culminating in a graduation ceremony.

“The SEDP program is a great alternative for students who can’t afford to go to camp for the summer or may not like traditional camps,” said Brown, EPA’s environmental education program manager. “By the time these students finish the program, they’ll be good public speakers, leaders in their schools, and informed environmental advocates.”

This occupation-like program challenges students to find innovative ways to educate their community on environmental health issues, such as the dangers of eating contaminated fish, protecting against childhood lead poisoning, asthma, radon hazards and other health concerns. By increasing awareness, the students can empower people in their community to take actions to solve local environmental problems.

“My neighborhood is trashy and I want to know how to make my community help fix it,” said Anthony Abron, a student at St. Martin de Porres School. “I teach my sister about it when I come home and she seems interested.”

When they aren’t sitting in the classroom, the students will be in the field doing hands-on lessons. On a recent tour of EPA’s 224’-long ship, the Bold, they learned how scientists aboard the ship collect and analyze water samples and other data to survey and help protect oceans and U.S. coastal waters. They’ll visit the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, Pa., on July 23. More information on EPA’s summer environmental program