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March 16. 2014 3:34PM

Wheelabrator Symposium celebrates 20-year mark

HAMPTON — About 150 middle school students from along the East Coast may be the greatest beneficiaries of the 20th anniversary of Wheelabrator Technologies' Symposium for Environment and Education.

This year, the Hampton-based clean energy company is partnering with famed environmentalist and third-generation ocean explorer Fabien Cousteau for the environmental stewardship and community engagement program, which involves 150 students from 15 middle schools across the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Florida regions.

"The 20th anniversary of the Wheelabrator Symposium is a milestone that is truly worth commemorating, and I am thrilled to be a part of a program that recognizes the importance of environmental stewardship and encourages innovative thinking among young people," Cousteau said in a statement released by Wheelabrator.

Cousteau is the first grandson of legendary explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and he first learned about the ocean aboard his grandfather's boats.

The theme of the 2014 Wheelabrator Symposium is "Connecting to the Oceans" and is designed to engage students in research, scientific study and community projects linking the quality of the local environment to the health of the seas around them.

Wheelabrator will provide resources and support to the student teams. Under educators' guidance, the teams will be tasked with identifying an environmental issue in their respective communities and then developing and implementing long-term solutions.

Past student projects have covered a variety of environmental issues including air quality, the impact of climate change and wildlife habitat preservation.

As part of the program, students will follow Cousteau and his team during Mission 31, a month-long research mission in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary aboard Aquarius, the only underwater marine habitat and lab in the world. Students will also be able to participate in online science sessions on ocean conservation led by renowned scientists.

In May, the teams will travel to South Florida to present their projects to a panel of Wheelabrator employees, educators and environmental experts at the four-day symposium. Cousteau will serve as a guest speaker at the 20th anniversary celebration.

Over the past 20 years, more than 3,000 middle school students have been involved in the symposium and a number have gone on to pursue environmental-related degrees and careers.

"Our commitment to sustainability goes beyond our day-to-day operations and includes corporate responsibility programs designed to foster environmental awareness, education and active community engagement," Mark Weidman, president of Wheelabrator Technologies, said in a statement.

The symposium is being held in Broward County, Fla. the week of May 5. No New Hampshire schools are participating this year.


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