Green Initiatives

Environmental Challenge Winners Tackle Pollution, Waste

The Siemens Foundation, in partnership with Discovery Education and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), has announced the winners of the 2010 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.

With projects ranging from forest fire prevention to electronics recycling to food waste reduction, this year's finalists demonstrated ways in which students can lead the way in making their communities and, over time, perhaps the entire country, more environmentally savvy and compassionate. In addition, several of those recognized showed how, in many ways, becoming more attuned to one's environment can make good economic sense.

More than 13,000 elementary and middle school students from throughout the United States and Canada participated in this year's challenge, with a mentor, usually a teacher or community educator, leading each team of two to four students at the middle school level or an entire class at the elementary school levels. From the 25 finalists in each of three categories--Grade 6-8, Grade 3-5, and Grade K-2--announced last month, first through third place winners were announced this week.

They are:

Middle School (Grades 6-8)

Grand Prize: Team "No1Idling" from Novi, MI
Novi Middle School students Raj Raina and Yash Sathe, along with mentor Abhinav Raina, focused on reducing community pollution by raising awareness about the environmental impact of vehicle idling among area drivers.

Second Place: Team "Drug Disposal Informants" from West Branch, IA
West Branch Middle School students Kara Fountain, Allison Kusick, Gabby Salemink, and Megan Tadlock, along with mentor Hector Ibarra, focused on reducing the amount of pharmaceuticals polluting local water by encouraging the proper disposal of medications.

Third Place: Team "Lex Green Clean" from Lexington, MA
Jonas Clarke Middle School students Rani Iyer and Isha Laad, along with mentor Vidhya Iyer, encouraged their community to adopt a more eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning, called wet cleaning, to reduce the use of toxic chemicals.

Elementary School (Grades 3-5)

Grand Prize: Team "Planet Blue and Green" from Watsonville, CA
Mount Madonna School's fifth grade class and their teacher, Jessica Cambell, limited the consumption of non-biodegradable materials as a means to reduce marine debris.

Second Place: Team "Joberts5" from Bloomfield Township, MI
Birmingham Covington School's fifth grade class and their teacher, Pauline Roberts, focused on reducing the amount of trash generated during school lunch.

Third Place Winners: Team "Green Allowance" from Glendale, CA
Mark Keppel Elementary School's fifth grade class and their teacher, April Faieta, taught other students how to save as much energy and water as possible by using an interactive Web site.

Elementary School: (Grades K-2)

Grand Prize: Team "Zero Waste Lunch Experts" from Addison, IL
St. Philip the Apostle School's second grade class and their teacher, Amanda Wallace, focused on reducing the amount of waste created each day during school lunches.

Second Place: Team "Hunter EcoHeroes" from Raleigh, NC
Representatives from Hunter Elementary School's kindergarten and first and second grade classes and their teacher, Smith Raynor, helped reduce waste in the cafeteria and make recycling a habit in their school.

Third Place: Team "LAA2" from Lakeland, FL
Lincoln Avenue Academy's second grade class and their teacher, Mijana Lockard, decreased the amount of water waste created by students at their school.

Siemens and its partners will expand the Challenge in fall 2010 to include high school teams. Applications for all grade categories for next year's challenge will be available beginning Aug. 17 at the competition Web site.

About the Author

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.