Students Improve the Environment Through EPA-Funded Projects

Students Improve the Environment Through EPA-Funded Projects

Posted on May 18, 2015

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S.I.T.E. Grant Produces 17 Successful Projects

Last year, we received an excited email from Mary Beth Tilson, biology teacher at Delta High School in Pasco, Washington. She wrote to tell us that she had just been selected to present at the Sustaining the Blue Planet: Global Water Education Conference in Big Sky, Montana. That email confirmed that the S.I.T.E. program was doing something really great.

What is S.I.T.E.?

Students Involved with Their Environment (S.I.T.E.) was an Environmental Protection Agency-funded program for students in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, grades 4-12. The funds supported the creation of student-run projects that focused on climate change or protecting America’s waters. The program ended January 31, 2015, but not before creating 17 engaging, fun, and life-changing projects. 

Flood waters over a rural roadTRI's S.I.T.E. Grant Coordinator, Bonnie Morihara, praised the wide variety of funded projects and their results.  “Real-world, field-based activities make science meaningful to the students. Activities that engage them in locally based environmental issues lead students to a life-long commitment to environmental stewardship, citizen science, and community activism.”

Ms. Tilson's Biology class

Ms. Tilson's presentation in Big Sky, Montana, focused on the experiences of her students:

  1. forming and sustaining community partnerships;
  2. ongoing project based learning;  
  3. real-world problem solving through application of environmental standards and practice and
  4. implementing field work with high school sophomores.”

Graphic images of invertebrates

        Slide from Field Survey and Cleanup of Hip Deep Creek, Delta High School

Promoting student engagement in water education with community members

In her presentation, Promoting student engagement in water education with community members, Tilson wrote, “Some of the activities included meeting and learning from local biologists, cleaning a creek, collecting water quality data from the creek and analyzing how individuals and businesses can affect the quality of the water near their businesses.


Seventeen schools created programs

Seventeen schools were selected to receive up to $5,000 each to spend on environmental education projects through the SITE Grants.

Project activities varied widely

dead trees, standing and fallenThe 17 projects focused on water quality, stream and beach clean-up, sustainable energy, recycling, composting, forestry/agricultural impact, and community awareness of environmental issues. Among the various activities that students completed were:

  • stream restoration;
  • removal of invasive species and noxious weeds;
  • planting native plants;
  • habitat surveys;
  • inventories of macroinvertebrates and fish species;
  • analysis of water and soil chemistry and temperature; analysis of stream flows, turbidity, and bank erosion;
  • trash and debris removal from streams, stream banks, and beaches;
  • building of water and wind turbines and solar ovens;
  • measuring energy consumed by common household appliances;
  • experience using GPS and GIS; composting, recycling, and trail improvement.

1,750 students from Grade 4 to Grade 12 and 75 teachers and administrators participated in the SITE projects

Students participated in local, regional, and state science and energy fairs as well as a state forestry competition. Students created informational flyers that were distributed to their communities, created PowerPoint presentations and other final reports that were presented to other students, adults in the community, and a variety of organizations such as the local watershed council, city council, and local businesses.

In all, 1,750 students from Grade 4 to Grade 12 and 75 teachers and administrators participated in the SITE projects. In addition, nearly 200 community members directly participated in project activities and an estimated 5,000+ family and community members were impacted by the students’ work.

People in a training session

Presenting results of watershed activities, aspen clone protection, and reforestation efforts to community. Long Creek, Oregon.


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