21st Century Skills
Middle School Finalists Named in STEM Challenge
Twenty-five middle school finalists have been named in the second-annual We Can Change the World Challenge, which challenges teams of students in grades K through 8 from throughout the United States to develop STEM-based plans to help the environment through local community action. The Siemens Foundation hosts the competition in partnership with Discovery Education and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).
This year's challenge attracted more than 6,500 middle school teams, each working to devise a new, practical way to help improve the world by an examining environmental issue affecting its community, from climate change to energy consumption to pollution. A finalist team in Connecticut developed a program for recycling electronic waste, such as non-working computers and iPods, while students in Montana worked to encourage native tree conservation, which is essential for reducing air pollution and maintaining an ecological balance.
Entrants submitted their projects to a panel of environmentalists and science educators, which selected the finalists based on creativity and a project's potential to engage the community. From the 25 state finalists, a national grand prize-winning team, which will win a $10,000 U.S. savings bond, a trip to Yellowstone National Park, and an appearance on national television. Two first-place teams will be chosen May 24.
"These 25 teams have shown that they can truly impact their communities and drive positive environmental change," said Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation. "The Siemens Foundation and its partners are proud to honor the students and their mentors for their innovation and dedication in helping to usher in a new era of sustainability."
The 25 state finalists are:
Fire Defense Team
Big Park Community School, Sedona
Teacher/Mentor Bonny Smith
Develop defensible spaces to prevent the spread of forest fires.
Abraham Joshua Heschel School, Northridge
Teacher/Mentor Kathy Reynolds
Clean polluted area of Los Angeles River.
Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich
Teacher/Mentor Carol Vergilis
Recycle electronic waste, such as laptops and iPods.
Loggers Run Community Middle School, Boca Raton
Teacher/Mentor Julie Gates
Educate other students about switching from disposable to reusable water bottles.
Greenfield Hebrew Academy-Atlanta, Atlanta
Teacher/Mentor Sarah Topper
Raise awareness about food waste.
The Pizza Patrol
Sandpoint Middle School, Sandpoint
Teacher/Mentor Perky Smith-Hagadone
Utilize wax paper in pizza boxes to prevent grease contamination.
Emmons Elementary School, Antioch
Teacher/Mentor Melonnie Hartl
Reducing algae blooms in local lakes.
Airs to the Future
Doe Creek Middle School, New Palestine
Raymond Park Middle School, Indianapolis
Stonybrook Middle School, Indianapolis
Teacher/Mentor Tonya Martin
Improve air quality in schools utilizing plants as natural air filters.
West Branch Middle School, West Branch
Teacher/Mentor Hector Ibarra
Reduce pharmaceutical pollution through education about safe medicine disposal.
Green Bag Girls
St. Gregory Elementary School, Marysville
Teacher/Mentor Mary Richardson
Reduce use of plastic by using old t-shirts as bags.
Scapa at Bluegrass Middle School, Lexington
Teacher/Mentor Ashlie Beals
Increase awareness about using cold water to wash clothes and save energy.
Lex Green Clean
Jonas Clarke Middle School, Lexington
Teacher/Mentor Vidhya Iyer
Eliminate use of harmful dry cleaning chemicals.
Novi Middle School, Novi
Teacher/Mentor Abhinav Raina
Reduce the amount of vehicle idling.
Willow Creek Middle School, Rochester
Teacher/Mentor Mark Ryan
Inform community how to produce less food waste.
Morgan Selvidge Middle School, Ballwin
Teacher/Mentor Sally Blackburn
Control invasive bush honeysuckle plants that endanger woodlands.
Backyard Conservation Group
Our Lady of Lourdes School, Great Falls
Teacher/Mentor Kerry VanderKolk
Encourage native tree conservation.
All Saints Regional Catholic School, Manahawkin
Teacher/Mentor Stephen Kubricki
Control gypsy moth infestation in the community.
Zia Middle School, Las Cruces
Camino Real Middle School, Las Cruces
Teacher/Mentor Gloria Holzhausen
Restore endangered Mexican gray wolves.
The Laurel Hill School, East Setauket
The Stony Brook School, Stony Brook
P.J. Gelinas Jr. High School, Setauket
Teacher/Mentor Ana Topolovec
Increase recycling among local small businesses.
Carnage Middle School, Raleigh
Teacher/Mentor Jodi Knapp
Educate the community about growing native plants in backyard gardens.
Turn It Down
Brandywine Heights Middle School, Topton
Teacher/Mentor Kelly Smith
Reduce energy by turning down thermostats.
Freedom Intermediate School, Franklin
Teacher/Mentor Barbara Orr
Implement convenient recycling program to save community time and money.
Aledo Middle School, Aledo
Teacher/Mentor Terry Snow
Reseed prairie to restore vegetation and water quality.
Think Before You Trash It!
Wasatch Jr. High, Salt Lake City
Teacher/Mentor Sam Dunham
Develop and implement a school recycling program.
St. Agnes School, Arlington
Teacher/Mentor Elizabeth Burris
Renovate school courtyard for educational/environmental purposes.
Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.