EPA Invites RTC Staff to Lead Science Outreach Activity



On November 15th, Research Translation Core staff members Bryan Luukinen and Catherine Kastleman, along with second year Duke Master’s of Environmental Management (MEM) student Elissa Tikalsky, traveled to the Durham Hub Farm to lead an educational workshop with 7th graders from Carrington Middle School for an EPA Science Outreach Day event.


Duke SRC staff were invited to participate by Kelly Witter, Director of STEM Outreach for the U.S. EPA in Research Triangle Park. The workshops conducted on the 15th included Healthy Soil Healthy Food (led by the SRC team), The Ecological Impacts of Climate Change, and All the Benefits of Trees.




The Duke workshop was based on a project that RTC staff initiated this summer at the Superfund Research Center to help community gardeners in North Carolina to understand and reduce exposures to soil contaminants and pesticides at community garden sites by understanding their behaviors and land management choices.






The activity started with the question, “Where does soil come from?” Students discussed the components of soil along with possible sources of pollution in the environment and different contaminants that can be present in soil. This led to a discussion about the importance of washing both produce and hands before consuming it.




Then, a final challenge was given to students: they were allotted five minutes to clean some produce with brushes and a bucket of water. Many of the kids were excited to “compete” and even more thrilled when they learned they would get to eat some of the turnips and carrots that they had just washed. This activity underscored the idea that thoroughly cleaning produce can take a little work, but the work is worth it to avoid potential health risks from contamination in food.


In all, the RTC reached around 80 students in morning and afternoon sessions. The activity was so successful that the EPA team asked to repeat the activity with students on November 21.


RTC staff and Superfund trainees plan to participate in another upcoming EPA Science Day at Y.E. Smith Elementary School in Durham on December 15.