“Clean Veggie Challenge” at EPA Science Day

Bryan Luukinen discusses soil with students at Y.E. Smith Elementary

On Thursday, December 15, 2016, staff from the SRC’s Research Translation Core participated in the U.S. EPA’s 13th Annual Science Day at YE Smith Elementary School in Durham, North Carolina.


A variety of EPA and community representatives led lessons during Science Day for students from kindergarten through fifth grade, focusing on environmental topics such as climate change, water, wildlife protection, and air pollution.


RTC staffers Bryan Luukinen and Catherine Kastleman led an activity for 2nd grade students called the “Clean Veggie Challenge.” The purpose of the activity was to teach students about soil – where it comes from, why it’s important, and how to promote healthy vegetable consumption that limits the amount of contaminants from soil and pesticide residues that may be found in produce from the garden or the grocery store.


To reinforce the lesson with an activity, we divided students into teams to wash and scrub sweet potatoes donated by the Duke Campus Farm along with carrots in a “competition” to clean off the excess soil. In the end, all the student groups “won” and received a snack of pre-washed and cut carrot sticks as a reward! Many of the students asked for seconds and thirds on carrot sticks.


We shared this activity with the students based on the SRC’s current community engagement efforts around soil contaminants and pesticides in North Carolina community gardens.


Environmental Engineer Kelly Witter of the U.S. EPA invited the SRC staff to join in the fun after the success of a prior environmental education activity at Durham’s Hub Farm, where the SRC staffers led a similar activity adapted for a middle-school level. The SRC is looking forward to future collaborations with EPA to bring the science of Superfund projects into K12 settings.

Y.E. Smith Science Day volunteers, including Lauren Bamford, Catherine Kastleman, Kelly Witter, and Bryan Luukinen.