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Vol. LIX, No. 10
May 18, 2007

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You Never Outgrow Your Need for Earth
Take Your Child to Work Day Grows Greener

On the front page...

On Apr. 26, under a moody spring sky, NIH dovetailed Take Your Child to Work Day with Earth Day, widening its biomedical focus to include environmental education for children and featuring NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni’s close encounters with Ben Franklin, the Mad Hatter and “IT,” the mystery flower.

“I came to a science place when I was a kid,” Zerhouni told the children thronging the Bldg. 1 lawn, “and I knew about Mr. Franklin. I wanted to be like you; I wanted to contribute something. One of you said you want to be NIH director of the future, and that’s a great dream to have.”


  At NIH’s combined observances of Earth Day and Take Your Child to Work Day, NCI-Frederick’s Dr. David Newman, chief of the Natural Products Branch, explains how protecting endangered species helps us find new plant compounds and new drugs.  
  At NIH’s combined observances of Earth Day and Take Your Child to Work Day, NCI-Frederick’s Dr. David Newman, chief of the Natural Products Branch, explains how protecting endangered species helps us find new plant compounds and new drugs.  
It was a day made for kids to dream green—a day free from school, bright with balloons, Frisbee tosses and cool giveaways. After the nature walks, green roofs and red-eared turtles; after the composting demos and spotted salamanders, Sunshine the Clown and Rocco the Recycling Dog; after browsing displays on watershed protection, forest restoration, radiation safety, waste management and the NIH Bicycle Commuter Club; after scoping out energy conservation, alternative-fuel vehicles, the Mercury-Free NIH campaign and “Pharmacy Island”; after sampling lunch and completing “green” quizzes, it was time—at last—for prizes.

Zerhouni awarded stuffed toy monkeys wearing NIH T-shirts to children whose names were drawn at random from all quiz entries. Lucky winners were Noah Luckenbaugh, Jordyn Parker, Megan McClure, Sierra Cheri and Rachit Agarwal.

“I’m coming to work for NIH when I get out of college. This is where I want to work,” said 9-year-old Sierra Cheri. Her mother, ORF’s Sheila Cheri, who has worked at NIH for 22 years, was not arguing: “I told her, I’m glad you feel that way,” she said, “and I hope you feel that way 10 years from now.”

The grownups’ turn followed as Zerhouni presented awards to those who had identified the mysterious flower “IT” and what “IT” says about protecting our environment (see NIH Record, Apr. 20, 2007). Winners had correctly identified the Sceletium tortuosum, a succulent plant belonging to the ice plant family, or Aizoaceae, native to South Africa and used by Khoisan people as a sedative, mood enhancer and analgesic. Sceletium is becoming increasingly scarce. NIH Record Icon

Right: NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni points to a greener future for one of Earth Day’s quiz winners, 9-year-old Sierra Cheri, as Randy Schools (r), president of the R&W Association, looks on.

Below: Although the spotted salamander is primarily subterranean, this fellow was found beneath surface debris on a cool, damp day in the forest behind NIHAC, NIH’s Poolesville facility. He has been returned to the wild.

Bottom: To help kids see how pollutants contaminate the watershed, DEP Engineer Brian Kim sprinkled grit on the “ground,” then invited children to deploy spray bottles. As the grit turned the stream red, they got the picture.

Capt. Karen Siegel (r) shares information on the corps’ specialties in therapy, including occupational, physical and speech.
Below: Ben Franklin (r), portrayed by actor Barry Stevens, electrifies the audience on the Bldg. 1 lawn.

Below: Capt. Ed Pfister (r) introduces the Red-Eared Slider to Per-Niklas Barth as Green Roofs guru and mom Katrin Scholz-Barth looks on.

Middle: Nicole Huntington of the Transportation Management Branch shows kids energy-saving travel options.

Bottom: Dr. Mike Iadarola (l) of NIDCR assists with sap extraction of the candelabra tree, a.k.a. Naboom. The milky white latex-like sap, which can be collected without hurting the plant, is being tested for potentially useful compounds.

For the 2005 Spanish-language film Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside), Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the Clinical Center’s department of clinical bioethics, led a discussion on “dying with dignity.”
The pharmacists’ table (foreground), as well as the dentists’ corner, welcomes questions.
Above: Zerhouni awards “IT” contest prize—a “Reduce/Reuse/Recycle” T-shirt —to Dr. Rajaram Shantadurga (l) of NINDS and Keith Ball of ORS. As grand prizewinners, they correctly identified the Sceletium tortuosum.

Right: The Mad Hatter, a.k.a. Capt. Ed Rau, passes out stickers for NIH’s mercury-elimination campaign.


“You will find it growing wild out in the Karoo,” NCI-Frederick’s Dr. David Newman told the crowd. “Protecting endangered species is closely related to our mission of finding new plant compounds and new drugs. We look at how it relates to biodiversity.” For example, he said, certain plants produce a fungus that in turn produces taxol, a chemotherapy drug. “The lessons for young people? Make certain you stop clear-cutting forests.”

Grand prize winners Dr. Rajaram Shantadurga, NINDS, and Keith Ball, ORS, received T-shirts and gift certificates. In addition, the Bean Bag, a local eatery, will come to campus and cater lunch for them and their coworkers. The eight runners-up received T-shirts. All prizes were donated by the NIH-NOAA Recreation and Welfare Association.

And about that post-event cleanup? Even our trash is going greener. This Earth Day marked NIH’s first “zero-waste event,” when food scraps, biodegradable plates and utensils were collected and transferred to FDA where, instead of being sorted, they got ground up together and voila!—a new kind of compost is born. Gareth Buckland, the Division of Environmental Protection’s recycling guru, explained: “The idea is to convert all events into zero-waste events” and when the utensils are made of potato starch, not plastic, even these can go into the mix. Buckland was keen to share the good news: NIH is a winner in the 2007 Federal Electronics Reuse and Recycling Campaign. Accepting the award at the Apr. 17 White House Presidential Hall ceremony was the Division of Personal Property Services, which collects and reuses/recycles computers. NIH took the prize in “Large Facilities–Civilian” for the eastern region.

“So it’s nice to have the kids here today,” said Buckland. “[Being green] can be ingrained in their lives.”

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