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Credit: EPA

Kacy M. Hermans, a high school student in Midland, Mich., received a 2005 President's Environmental Youth Award from the EPA for creating a rain garden at the Chippewa Nature Center.

Succession planning is a huge concern for public works agencies across the country. Where are the engineers of tomorrow going to come from if we're already so short on talented candidates today—and all signs indicate the problem will only worsen in years to come?

One way to deal with the problem is to think ahead—way ahead—and encourage young minds to craft creative solutions to challenges that public works officials commonly face, and reward them for their efforts. The idea is to foster children's interest in science, so that they will be more likely to pursue a career in the field in the future. The President's Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) seeks to do just that.

The PEYAprogram—established by the White House in 1971—is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and it salutes up to 10 winning projects each year, one in each of the agency's regional offices. The 2005 recipients represent a diverse range of projects, including rain gardens, wetlands preservation, and promotion of composting and recycling.

Several award-winning projects involved the creation of rain gardens. The sophomore honors biology class at Marshfield High School in Marshfield, Mass., built a bioretention system at the town hall to catch runoff from a parking lot and prevent it from running into the polluted South River. Students met with town engineers and consultants to design and construct the project, and in August 2005—thanks to the students' work to secure donations of labor, goods, and supplies to move the $20,000 project along—the rain garden was completed, and it serves as a model for other sites along the river.

Some of the young scientists honored in this year's PEYA program are barely old enough to tie their own shoes. A team of second graders from Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Palm Desert, Calif., took home the Region 9 award for their Wonderful Weird World of Worms project. The 20 eight-year-olds partnered with the city, foundations, and government agencies on their effort to promote awareness of the benefits of recycling and vermicomposting, which included an interactive CD-ROM and a fiction book, Diary of a Red Worm ... Our Journey to School.

For more information about the winners and how to enter the 2006 awards, visit www.epa.gov/enviroed/awards.html.

This year's PEYA project winners
  • Region 1—Marshfield High School, Marshfield Town Hall Rain Garden; Marshfield, Mass.
  • Region 2—Kerri Anne Orloff, Girl Scout Troop 2179, “Don't Dump-Drains to Creek”; Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Region 3—Souderton Area High School, Students Against Violating the Earth; Souderton, Pa.
  • Region 4—Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy, The Creek Freaks; Augusta, Ga.
  • Region 5—Kacy M. Hermans, Rain Garden at Chippewa Nature Center; Midland, Mich.
  • Region 6—Margaux and Isabella Isaksen, Millie and Madeleine Hogue; Parker Branch Stream Team; Fayetteville, Ark., and Rogers, Ark.
  • Region 7—Brittany Perrin, Megan Sparks, and Dan Marske; Young Park Prairie Restoration Project; Kansas City, Mo.
  • Region 8—Brent Singleton, Pioneering Clean Energy Transportation Projects; Ogden, Utah
  • Region 9—2nd Grade LEAP Class, Abraham Lincoln Elementary School; The Wonderful Weird World of Worms; Palm Desert, Calif.
  • Region 10—Marit Hartvigson, Slikok Creek Stream Keepers Grate Walk, Soldotna, Alaska.
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