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Newtown resident Laura Poidomani, a middle school teacher in New Canaan, was one of 12 education professionals honored at an August 28 award ceremony by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The EPA award ceremony also honored more than 75 students for their exceptional contributions to environmental education and stewardship.
Ms Poidomani, a teacher at Saxe Middle School, was awarded a Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) at a ceremony in Washington, DC. The event featured speakers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Toyota’s North American Environmental Sustainability Programs, and the North American Association for Environmental Education, according to the EPA.
The PIAEE awards recognize innovative educators who bring environmental education into their classrooms through hands-on, experiential approaches. Winning teachers led unique projects such as Student Watershed Awareness Taskforce, a school farmers’ market and food-sharing program, interactive blogs for students to connect with scientists and other professionals, campuswide recycling programs, and outdoor learning areas.
“Through their work, these impressive educators and students demonstrate how community partnerships — between schools, business, and government — can build and sustain environmental change,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in a release. “Together, EPA and our partners are working to improve environmental literacy across the nation.”
“The educators being honored provide the foundation from which the next generation of environmental leaders will grow,” said acting NOAA Administrator Ben Friedman in a release. “It is also heartening to recognize the achievements of the student winners, who will undoubtedly unleash more innovation in the future and serve as role models to their peers.”
According to the EPA, Ms Poidomani has 18 years of experience teaching students. She currently teaches sixth grade students, and her classroom reflects how she integrates direct experiences with textbook learning. A trout tank is carefully monitored and maintained by the student Trout Club.
This experience helps students to better understand the human role impacting trout populations in the wild, as well as how people can positively affect the environment. The classroom includes model aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems that students observe and query. She uses model septic systems to help students understand how septic systems work and their role in the ecosystem. Ms Poidomani’s students take their knowledge and learning into the surrounding community. A Student Watershed Awareness Taskforce allows students to follow text and hands-on studies of watersheds, including septic and sewage treatment, movement of water through watersheds, and visible and invisible components of those waters.
Earlier this summer EPA also recognized students who were selected for a Presidential Environmental Youth Award, a program that recognizes outstanding environmental stewardship projects by kindergarten to twelfth grade youth.
Following the event, Ms Poidomani said she was “so excited about the day.”
Roughly 100 to 200 people attended the award ceremony. Ms Poidomani said she applied for the award through the EPA’s website, and she first learned she had earned the award in July.
“We have to empower the community to control themselves with being more conservative and preservative of the environment,” said Ms Poidomani.
She explained that she started her programs roughly five years ago. At first she completed the program with her sixth graders, but it eventually expanded to include other science classes.
“The kids really have a tremendous sense of accomplishment after they are done and presented with the project,” said Ms Poidomani.
A full list of the 2017 PIAEE winners is available online at epa.gov/education/presidential-innovation-award-environmental-educators-piaee-winners.