Lance Powell, who teaches environmental chemistry and advanced-placement environmental science at Menlo-Atherton High School, has won a Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Education.
Mr. Powell, who said his environmental science class teaches chemistry "through the lens of the environment," was among 27 teachers and 44 students recognized at a White House ceremony July 17.
He aims to makes chemistry relevant for students by relating lessons to the everyday world. Every point in a class is consciously related to real life, he said in an interview.
The award recognizes a teacher's "innovative, hands-on, experiential approaches" to teaching students about the environment, according to an announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA notes in particular Mr. Powell's use of the outdoors as a means of spreading environmental literacy.
During his 10 years teaching at M-A, Mr. Powell has led more than 200 field trips, including camping and backpacking trips and visits to creeks and wetlands, waste-water treatment facilities, recycling centers and a power plant, the EPA notes.
He regularly has students collect water from storm water drains -- when it rains -- for an analysis that includes detecting pollutants, determining whether they are within acceptable limits, and determining their sources and their environmental impacts.
With the award, he receives $2,500 for professional training, and M-A receives $2,500 to support its environmental education program.