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New! Missouri Green Schools Program

Earth Quest: A game of Environmental Literacy

earth quest gameboard

Environmental Quizzes

K-2 biodiversity quiz

Coloring Sheets

channel catfish coloring sheet

Green Holidays Calendar

Missouri Environmental Education News
July 2018

Table of Contents: Feature:Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Kudos!, Call for Presenters, Things to Look Out for in July, MEEA News, Grants, Contests and Awards, Conferences, Workshops, Jobs, Teaching and Learning Resources

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Scientists who help uncover things threatening life, liberty and happiness

Three of the scientists who have helped preserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Francesca Dominici, Herbert Needleman, and Tyrone Hayes.

by: Jan Weaver

Jan at Asilomar

On the 4th of July we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence by men who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred Honor in support of the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We also honor those who over the course of our country’s history have fought and sacrificed to preserve those rights. But it is not just foreign enemies that can steal away life, liberty and a chance at happiness, and it is not just soldiers who have protected these rights. This month, I would like to share the stories of three people who have worked to raise awareness of environmental problems that shorten lives, steal the freedom to learn and grow, and threaten things essential to our happiness. In their way, the scientists, doctors, public health specialists and conservationists who have studied the environment, and gone on to raise the alarm as it was contaminated, used up or altered in ways that made it impossible to support life, are as deeply patriotic as the bravest soldier.

Since the 1993 “Six Cities” study we have known that particulate matter from diesel emissions (PM2.5) could reduce life expectancy by 2 or 3 years where its concentrations were high. Regulating diesel emissions could prevent thousands of early deaths. However, the Six Cities data were “secret” to protect patient privacy. This opened up diesel emission rules to reversal under guidelines currently being considered by the EPA. Enter Biostatistician Francesca Dominici and her fellow researchers. They redid the study in 2017 using publicly available Medicare data that allowed them to pair individuals who were similar in every relevant area except their exposure to PM2.5. Not only did the public data strengthen the justification for current regulations, it showed they needed to be even stronger to protect the lives and well-being of racial minorities and low-income Americans.

Until the 1960’s levels of lead less than 10 ug/l were assumed harmless to children. Then Pediatrician Herbert Needleman noticed troubling symptoms in kids from a low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia. He suspected lead, and started collecting shed baby teeth to measure accumulated lead.  In a landmark 1979 paper he and his co-authors showed kids with the most lead lost four points on the IQ scale. They had more behavioral problems, were more irritable, and had more reading delays. Despite a relentless (and personal) campaign by the lead industry, regulations eventually passed removing lead from gas, tin cans, and paint. Thanks to Needleman, lead is now considered unsafe at any level in kids, and generations have now had the freedom to grow and learn without lead holding them down.

Pursuit of Happiness
Tyrone Hayes’ childhood passion for amphibians took him all the way to a professorship at Berkeley. In the 1990s, he was selected to evaluate the safety of the herbicide atrazine by its maker, Novartis (now Syngenta). While atrazine is considered non-toxic at the usual exposure levels, his research revealed that low doses of atrazine could cause male frogs to become feminized and sterile. This possible effect of low levels of a pesticide on vertebrate endocrine systems was a bombshell, and stoked a whole new field of study. The idea of low level effects was concerning because the EPA allows low levels of atrazine in public drinking water systems. And later research has connected atrazine exposure to reproductive changes in humans. As with Needleman, industry pushed back by attacking the science and scientists doing work that threatened their product. While other factors in the environment, like diet or other contaminants, may also affect endocrine systems, evidence against atrazine is accumulating. So while atrazine is still widely used in the US, it is banned in the European Union. Hopefully the question will be settled before the songs of frogs, or our hopes for children disappear.

By uncovering the connection between air pollution and death, people’s lives were saved. By uncovering the connection between lead exposure and learning and behavioral difficulties, children were freed from a future of poverty and even prison. By uncovering the connection between pesticide use and endocrine disruption, we may still have a chance to pursue the things that make us happy, from the cheerful chorus of frogs to raising a family of our own. As you celebrate the 4th, be sure to include those who serve on the front lines of our environment.

Learn More
Particulate Matter -
Lead -
Atrazine -


Kudos to MEEA and MELAB Members!




Missouri Green Schools and Environmental Education Conference
November 2-3, Columbia MO

Four Formats - Hands On, Bright Spots*, Table Talks and Posters

Three Strands - PreK-5 Curriculum, 6-12 Curriculum, Nuts and Bolts

*We are seeking youth as well as adult presenters for the 10 minute Bright Spots. If you work with a youth or a youth group 12 to 23 that carried out a project they identified and selected, we would love to hear about it.

Deadline August 4, 2018

Things to Look for (or Look Out for) in July

Check out all the 2018 Green Holidays.

What to Look for Right Now - MDC's list of What's Out There in June!


Back to Table of Contents

Coming Up in the Next Two Months

(These count for Environmental Educator Certification categories 1, 2 or 3. Visit the EE Certification page here)

EE Jobs details here

Teaching and Learning

Air Pollution

Air Quality Index (AQI) Toolkit for Teachers K-2 Students learn about the role of air in health, the difference between gases and particles, how breathing changes with activity, how to test for air pollution, how to use the index and steps they can take to protect their health. 3-5 lessons cover ground level ozone, role-play the effects of particle pollution, conduct a traffic study to understand its role in pollution, learn how temperature inversions can affect pollution, and how air pollution affects life and what people can do about it. 6-8 lessons cover symptoms of air pollution, the impact of weather on air pollution, create smog in a jar, use data to determine whether a temperature inversion has occurred, and identify sources of pollution in their communities. AirNow.Gov


Lead Blockers K-8 Students learn which foods can block lead absorption and help prevent lead poisoning. K-4 uses a relay race, 5-8 uses a game of tag. Includes background on how lead became widespread in the environment. EPA

Reducing lead in drinking water in schools and childcare facilities webinar -

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week -

Endocrine Disruptors

Endocrine Disruptors 9-12 Students learn how the public has been "surprised" by the unintended effects of some environmental contaminants and how scientific uncertainty makes it difficult to address the issues of endocrine disruptors. AAAS

The Frog Scientist 1: The Mystery of the Disappearing Frogs 6-8 Using the book "The Frog Scientist" and the PBS video "Frogs: The Thin Green Line" students learn to think more deeply about scientific inquiry and environmental conservation. AAAS (the book is ~ $10 in paperback at Amazon)

The Frog Scientist 2: Schoolyard Field Investigation 6-8 Students will study the school yard, develop scientific questions to guide their discovery and share their results. Based on the previous lesson and includes tips on setting students up for a field investigation and journaling. AAAS



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