HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- To celebrate this year's 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acting Secretary John Quigley is encouraging middle and junior high schools across the state to take the Earth Day 40 Challenge.
"The original intent of Earth Day, which is April 22, was to call attention to modern challenges impacting our planet and the environment, and inspire people to take action to improve the place we call home," Quigley said. "That's why our challenges for the 40th anniversary are action oriented.
"The Earth Day 40 School Challenge is meant to encourage lasting changes that improve the environment and conserve natural resources by the student body inside schools, on school grounds, or in communities next to schools," Quigley said. "Whether led by a club or a class, the project should involve lots of students and if local people, organizations and businesses can be involved too, that's even better."
Schools must register to participate in the Earth Day 40 challenge by Jan. 29. A detailed final plan for the project must be submitted by March 30.
Each project should be related to one of five outlined themes outlined below, as well as examples of projects that would apply to each theme:
- Super Sustainable Foods: Plant a garden to supply your cafeteria with fresh, organic vegetables, or begin a cafeteria composting program and use, sell or give away the finished compost to help something grow.
- Big on Biodiversity: Landscape your school campus with a native plant garden, or create or designate special habitat areas on school grounds, adding signs, feeders and nesting structures to make it attractive to animals.
- Transportation that Treads Lightly: Plan a bike-to-school day, week or month, or build a trail that helps students more easily walk to school or better connect to other places in the community.
- Reduce that Carbon Footprint: Orchestrate an innovative fundraiser to pay for a detailed energy audit of your school that will identify specific ways to save energy or plant a carbon-offset grove of trees at your school.
- Wild about Water: Build a rain garden or install rain barrels on the school grounds to reduce runoff and protect water quality, or plant a buffer of trees or other vegetation along streams that flow along or near school grounds.
The Earth Day 40 celebration is a cooperative effort of DCNR and the departments of Agriculture, Education, Environmental Protection and Transportation, as well as the Fish and Boat and Game commissions. Outside partners include the Philadelphia Zoo, Waste Management and World Environment Day 2010 to be hosted by Pittsburgh.
"We hope all middle schools will consider participating in the Earth Day Challenge," said Department of Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak. "It's a great way to help our schools become green and sustainable places to learn, and we're excited to be a part of this effort."
Projects will be carefully evaluated by a special panel of judges. Judging will be done based on the final plan, but all project tasks should then be completed by May 28. The winners will be announced on Earth Day.
One grand prize package will be awarded to the winning school and three schools will receive honorable mention prizes. Each school that participates will be acknowledged on the Earth Day 40 Web site.
The grand prize will turn the winning school into a park for a day with classes like Frisbee golf, fishing skills practice, geology programs and nature walks, and include a $1,000 gift certificate to WARDS Scientific provided by Waste Management; 10 fishing rods and tackle provided by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission; a framed wildlife print provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission; Illuminating Education program materials, including a classroom supply of compact fluorescent light bulbs provided by DEP; and a plaque and a native tree for planting at the school provided by DCNR.
The honorable mention prizes are the plaque and native tree; a series of four Our Changing Climate provided by the DEP; and 10 wall charts and the book A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America provided by the Fish and Boat Commission.
There will be similar Earth Day 40 challenges for groups and individuals. Registration for those challenges will begin the week of April 19.
For more information and to register, visit www.iconservepa.org/earthday40 or call (717) 772-9101.
Media contact: Christina Novak, 717-772-9101
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources