Approximately 500 school-age youth from Northern Virginia attended NoVA Outside’s sixth annual School Environmental Action Showcase at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts, along with several hundred teachers, chaperones, and event volunteers. Thirty-four schools from Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax City and County, Falls Church, and Loudoun County were represented, each sharing the environmental work students have been doing in our region. Projects included schoolyard gardening, stormwater practices, recycling programs, invasive species control, and environmental research. 
The event is held each year in partnership with Earth Force and George Mason University’s Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center. “The event is a fun and educational way to develop budding engineers and future scientists that could help solve our environmental problems,” said Dr. Cynthia Smith, PEREC’s K12 education director. SEAS co-chair Kurt Moser added, “Not only do they develop problem-solving and scientific skills, but they also gain skills in communication and presentation. SEAS is a venue where they voice their views in important community issues, and inspire one another to positive action.” Art is also a regular part of the event, and this year, more than 90 students made musical instruments from recycled materials and performed together in the SEAS Music Festival.
At the opening ceremony, keynote speaker Ana Humphrey, now a student at T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, shared her experience co-developing the Watershed Warriors Initiative from a class project in seventh grade. Ana and her classmates have developed curriculum and led elementary school lessons on wetland ecology and restoration in several Alexandria City Public Schools.
State Delegates Mark Keam (35th House District) and David Bulova (37th House District) were in attendance, and they heard from students about the environmental projects youth are doing to improve their schools and communities. They also observed hands-on student activities led by SEAS partners at the open-air Eco-Partner area by Mason Pond. Activities included examining aquatic insects as indicators of environmental health, exploring the radiant heat transfer of different window types, and observing an active honey bee hive. In addition, teen-age participants learned how to tackle environmental problems using programming and sensors with Thinkabit Lab, a project of Qualcomm and Virginia Tech; students created, coded, and collaborated to build a “Robo Craft” with electronic equipment.
Several awards were presented. Co-host Earth Force hosted the Virginia Caring for Our Watersheds finalist presentations, where ten student groups presented their projects to peers and competition judges in the concert hall. The Going Green Club at Rachel Carson Middle School won top honors for their Food Sharing project. They are planning to divert unopened/uneaten food from the cafeteria waste stream to donate to a local food shelter. The Caring for Our Watersheds program, sponsored by Agrium, has been a key feature of SEAS every year. The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, a lead sponsor for the event, awarded Belvedere Elementary School the Dynamic Young Visionary Award for their work in waste reduction on their campus and the adjacent park, development of bird habitat, a seed sale program to promote vegetable gardening in the broader community and a bird feeder design and construction STEAM project.
SEAS and NoVA Outside were supported this year through funding from Transurban’s 395 Express Lanes Community Grant program. “As the Virginia Department of Transportation’s partner on the 395 Express Lanes project, Transurban is committed to the environment, safety and well being of the communities along the 395 Express Lanes project corridor. We are pleased to support the efforts of NoVA Outside in educating the next generation about the environment,” said Transurban spokesman Mike McGurk.
SEAS is an annual event that takes place close to Earth Day.