- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2000

Lead-based paints, car exhaust, pesticides, aerosol cans and refining oil are among the contaminants contributing to humankind's destruction of itself and the surrounding environment.

Our salvation will not come from older generations set in their ways, but through children who have energy, desire and the realization that they must preserve their planet. The Academy for Educational Development has set up a Web site to enable youngsters to make a difference with a wide variety of projects to make the world a much healthier place in which to live.

PlanetRepair.org

Site address: www.planetrepair.org

Creator:

PlanetRepair.org was created through a cooperative agreement between the Academy for Educational Development (AED) and the Office of Children's Health Protection at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Founded in 1961, the AED is an independent, nonprofit organization committed to solving critical problems involving health, education, youth development and the environment.

Creator quotable:

"PlanetRepair.org was created to help youth groups tackle environmental health issues," says Amy Lane, marketing and communications specialist for PlanetRepair.org.

"We believe that youth-driven initiatives can often lead to the greatest change in our communities. With this site, youth leaders can find activities that will empower young people to do something about environmental issues that have a direct impact on kids' lives."

Word from the Webwise:

PlanetRepair.org exists to inspire activism in healing Earth's wounded ecosystems. Through 21 activities, students in elementary grades through high school can tackle problems ranging from lead-paint dangers in homes to contamination of a beach.

The site has four main sections: "Saving Water Resources," "Beach, Sun and Sand," "Attacking Air Pollution" and "Chemical Exposure." Each leads to a list of activities, success stories and helpful tools to complete a project. Each undertaking lays out precisely "The Basic Plan," "Age Group," "Number of Participants," "Time," "Resources," "Cost" and links to "More Information."

For example, students starting in "Saving Water Resources" will find ways to conserve life's precious fluid with strategies such as using runoff-resistant landscaping. Considering that melted snow and rain runoff, taken together, are the single largest cause of water pollution in the United States, this project could provide a real impact.

The page shows students in middle and high school grades ways to curb this problem with some donated resources. Step-by-step instructions explain how shrubs or trees planted in runoff zones not only will act as sponges in absorbing some of the contaminants, but also will create an attractive environment for others to enjoy.

Additional information can be found through links to the EPA site "Green Landscaping Through Native Plants" and the resource page "Minnesota's School Nature Area Projects."

Also under "Saving Water Resources," look for the "Dos and Don'ts of Plant Care," five ways to conserve water and the story of children in Sharon, Mass., who cleaned up the legendary Lake Massapoag. This body of water was said to have been created when Paul Revere's horse's hoofs struck a spring on his midnight ride in 1775.

Ease of use:

PlanetRepair.org's goal of building a network of youths working to improve environmental health in their communities has a great chance of succeeding with the help of its nicely designed site. I would like to see even more content within the pages, and the site administrators say they will add up to 15 new projects in the next year.

Visitors will appreciate the consistent layout, quick-loading pages and nice selection of activities. Be prepared to have the Adobe Acrobat reader plug-in available to view various printable checklists and forms.

Don't miss:

After learning that if I eat an apple a day, over a one year period I will have ingested 32 different types of pest-killing chemicals, I thought the "Making Safer Pesticides" area seemed like a good place to explore. Found under the "Chemical Exposure" section, this area suggests ways to keep insects away from plants using salt and water to turn off red spider mites, spiders, cabbage worms and weeds.

Family activity:

The site provides the ultimate opportunity for the entire clan to spend a productive weekend away from the television and computers. Why not make sure the neighborhood understands the toxicity of carbon monoxide with a survey of surrounding families. A handy questionnaire can be downloaded and circulated within the community. Tally the answers and have the fire department check up on households that might be in danger.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

Each page of this cyber-stop demands that children get involved in taking care of their surroundings, so as soon as junior finds a project, expect him to begin saving the world and lecturing on a variety of ecological topics.

Family fun factor: 95 percent

Overall grade: B

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (joseph@twtmail.com).

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