SRU receives U.S. EPA grant, Economics PA funding

camper

July 27, 2015

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University has been awarded $91,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency environmental education grants program and will combine it with $30,333 in matching funds from EconomicsPennsylvania to create a weeklong "Healthy Planet, Healthy People" camp for high school students next summer.

"We plan to involve 20 school districts in the region and will be providing participating schools with $1,000-$2000 grants as seed money for a community project created by their students to help solve an environmental problem in their area," said Paul Scanlon, special assistant to the president and head of the grant program.

EcoPA logo

The federal EPA awarded a total of $2,730,000 nationwide, covering some 30 environmental project proposals. EconomicsPennsylvania, SRU's partner in the camp project, was launched as a not-for-profit in 1950. Its board includes representatives from business, education, labor, agriculture and government.

Fritz Heinemann, EconomicsPennsylvania president and CEO, said the partnership between his educational organization and Slippery Rock University was a significant milestone in providing a unique hands-on learning environmental experience for teachers and students. The program, he noted, would have a meaningful impact on the awareness and sensitivity of young people for the need to protect natural resources and identify ways in which to eliminate specific environmental problems in their individual communities.

"Our association with Slippery Rock University strengthens our own ongoing endeavors in promoting positive environmental programs for the young people we already serve and opens new doors of opportunity for meeting an urgent societal issue. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant demonstrates the recognition that two organizations, working together for a noble cause, can jointly pursue a project that will ultimately benefit people and neighborhoods throughout the Commonwealth. We are enormously proud to be part of this very special program," Heinemann said.

The SRU-hosted weeklong camp program is tentatively scheduled for June 14-18, 2016, with sessions at the McKeever Environmental Center at Sandy Lake, the Jennings Environmental Education Center, Moraine State Park, McConnell's Mills and SRU's Robert A. Macoskey Center for Sustainable Systems Education and Research.

paul scanlon

   SCANLON

"SRU's experience in managing the McKeever Center indicates that immersive, multi-day environmental education opportunities for young people greatly diminish after they graduate from elementary school and enter secondary school," Scanlon said. "To address this problem, SRU proposed the 'Healthy Planet, Healthy People' project for high school students as a way of motivating older teens to learn more about environmental issues and how they can help solve them," he said.

He said the overnight camp would not only provide high school students with fun and educational experiences, but also act as a community project incubator by preparing participants to develop and lead environmental education/stewardship projects when they return to their local communities.

"To help others wishing to replicate this type of program, a highlight video of the program activities, including a poster session summarizing students' proposed community projects, will be created and distributed via YouTube as part of the overall project," Scanlon said.

"SRU's experience in hosting McKeever Center camping programs and other high school summer camps will be applied to this program to create a dynamic, fun-filled and affordable environmental education summer camp that includes classroom instruction, leadership training, immersive field experiences and ample opportunities to interact informally with camp program staff and other educators," he said.

Tuition for the weeklong camp will be $100.

School teachers who agree to help recruit students, identify local organizations offering volunteer opportunities for environmental stewardship projects, attend the camp as coaches and guide the students in developing and implementing post-camp local stewardship projects will be offered free camp attendance and a $200 per day stipend.

Each participating school district will receive funding to be used as seed money to kick-start local environmental education/stewardship projects proposed by their students.

"We have outlined a number of goals and objectives, including providing high school students with an immersive, educational and recreational summer camp experience that helps them better understand and enjoy the benefits of our natural environment; increasing awareness of local environmental problems, including those caused directly or indirectly by climate change; increasing awareness of the environmental organizations working within their local communities to solve environmental problems; educating students on the scientific principles of ecological sustainability and uses a combination of formal leadership training and informal mentoring to develop students' critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills; and increasing environmental stewardship through encouraging short-term volunteerism at local environmental organizations and through camp attendees' developing their own environmental education/stewardship projects that can then be implemented when they return to their local communities," Scanlon said.

campers

The initial program hopes to attract 120 student and teacher participants. "And from that, we would like to see implementation of at least one meaningful environmental stewardship project during the following year at each participating local school district/community," he said.

"I think this program could create a ripple effect of environmental awareness, education and action in the students' local communities. In addition to providing students with the tools necessary to carry out local stewardship projects, their teacher/coaches will benefit from the experience; friends and families attending the poster session at the end of camp will become more aware of local environmental issues and solutions; and their local communities will benefit from the educational value of the stewardship projects carried out in their communities," he said.

This program will address the EPA's educational "Community Projects" priority by educating high school students about local environmental issues, solutions, and stewardship opportunities, through both volunteering with local environmental organizations on existing short-term stewardship events and through implementing their own local community projects upon returning to their school districts. The program will also address the "Human Health and the Environment" priority by educating students about how environmental issues can affect local agriculture and therefore their general health/wellbeing.

"The 'Healthy Planet, Healthy People' summer camp also addresses the EPA Environmental 'Addressing Climate Change and Improving Air Quality' priority by educating attendees about climate change and its potential health/environmental impacts and the need to create more resilient, adaptable communities.

In addition to daily classroom instruction, camp activities will include field trips to Lake Wilhelm for a guided canoe tour and a visit to an organic farm. Students will be involved in water testing, lake ecology studies and nature hikes.

Groups of participating students will create posters depicting their specific environmental concern, with all posters displayed at week's end.

For more information on the program, contact Scanlon at 724.738.4268.


MEDIA CONTACT: Rita Abent | 724.738.2091 | rita.abent@sru.edu