ORLANDO, Florida, USA /PRNewswire/ — From coordinating coast-to-coast bake sales to help endangered sea turtles to building a floating classroom, kids and educators across the U.S. are designing creative ways to conserve the world we share. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment awarded eight youth-driven environmental groups with a SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Environmental Excellence Award during a special awards ceremony at SeaWorld Orlando April 29. Each winning group received $10,000 to fund their efforts. Since 1993 the company has awarded $1.8 million to nearly 160 individuals, youth groups and schools.
The 2011 award recipients include:
Cooking Up Ways to Help Endangered Sea Turtles – North Carolina
Casey Sokolovic is using her baking skills to help threatened and endangered sea turtles. Through her awareness program, “Help Them L.A.S.T. – Love a Sea Turtle,” she bakes and sells turtle-shaped sugar cookies and lemonade to raise money in support of turtle conservation efforts. She created the “Great Bake for Oceans’ Sake,” a coast-to-coast bake sale that encourages people to bake and donate the proceeds to an ocean conservation organization.
Amphibians in Crisis – Nebraska
There are close to 6,000 known species of amphibians, almost 2,000 are threatened with extinction. To help researchers better understand the crisis, the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb. created the Amphibian Conservation Education Project. Little was known about amphibian populations in Nebraska. The program gets Omaha-area students involved in conducting statewide amphibian surveys that provide information to state researchers.
Fighting the “Purple Plaque” – Nebraska
Purple Loosestrife, an invasive plant, is a constant threat to the wetlands around the tiny town of Niobrara, Neb. To combat this “purple plaque,” Niobrara High School biology students breed armies of Galerucella beetles, which are placed in areas to feed on Purple Loosestrife. The students’ work has resulted in increased vegetation diversity in wetlands that were once infested.
A Floating Classroom – Virginia
The Elizabeth River is one of the most polluted rivers that terminate in the Chesapeake Bay. The Learning Barge is a “green” vessel created by the University of Virginia School (UVA) of Architecture and The Elizabeth River Project to inform, inspire and engage riders and participants to help make the river safe for swimming and fishing by 2020. The barge’s features include a floating wetland nursery, power systems run by sun and wind, compost toilets, hand-washing stations that use rain water, a seining pool to enclose fish for study, oyster floats, habitat cubes, an underwater camera and enclosed classroom. Since its creation in 2006, more than 10,000 people have been aboard learning what they can do to support the river’s restoration.
Disposing Pills, Disposing Problems – Michigan
Pontiac Township High School students are leading the charge to educate the public on the environmental dangers that improperly disposed prescription and non-prescription pills and drugs have on a community’s water supply. Through their Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program (P2D2), the students not only educate the community but also provide alternative disposal methods, ranging from how to properly throw away controlled substances to how to coordinate drop-off locations. The program has expanded to more than half of the 102 counties in Illinois. The program’s sponsor, Pontiac Township High School teacher Paul Ritter, was named as an Outstanding Environmental Educator by the National Science Teachers Association.
Saving the Creek – West Virginia
The Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is an award-winning, self-driven youth group whose mission is to increase youth participation in helping clean up decades of environmental degradation in Deckers Creek in north central West Virginia. Their efforts include trash cleanups, educational outreach programs and fundraising. Over the past four years, YAB has worked diligently to secure more than $20,000 in funding for their projects.
Keeping Watch Upstream – New York State
The Environmental Study Team (EST) encourages and assists youth people in upstate New York to be active in the monitoring and improvement of their local environment. The students help assess and document the physical, chemical, and biological properties of freshwater streams, particularly along the Schoharie Creek and Mohawk River, and present their findings to the public and local government. The team also has discovered and reported previously unknown sources of pollution.
Green and Growing – Pennsylvania
Inspired by their new LEED-certified building, Green Valley Elementary School faculty and students created the “Green and Growing” program. The program includes green challenges to encourage students and their families to recycle and conserve water and energy at home, the creation of an outside green zone complete with trees, a wetland meadow and grasslands, and an outdoor classroom with amphitheater-style seating overlooking a nature trail.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, a portfolio company of The Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX), operates 10 parks across the U.S. including SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio; Busch Gardens parks in Tampa, Fla. and Williamsburg, Va.; Discovery Cove and Aquatica in Orlando; Sesame Place near Philadelphia, Pa.; and water parks Adventure Island in Tampa and Water Country USA in Williamsburg. The 10 parks play host to 23 million guests each year and employ 20,000 people nationwide.
A global leader in animal care and conservation, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment cares for more than 60,000 animals including 200 endangered or threatened species. This commitment to animals benefits animals around the world. The company has rescued more than 18,000 orphaned, injured or ill animals over the past four decades and contributed more than $50 million to conservation, wildlife rescue and environmental stewardship programs worldwide. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund — a non-profit, 501(c)3 charitable foundation — has granted more than $7 million to support hundreds of projects around the world. For more information, visit www.seaworldcares.com.