TORRANCE, Calif., Jan. 30, 2009 – To date, nearly 5,000 teens nationwide have taken part in this year’s Lexus Eco Challenge, an educational program and contest that inspires and empowers middle and high school students to learn about the environment and take a stand to improve it. In the second of three initial rounds of competition, 17 teams in 15 states have been awarded $10,000 each for their outstanding entries.
The Challenge #2 winners showed creativity and dedication as they addressed a variety of water-related issues including conservation, pollution and wetland restoration. This win has also secured each team an invitation to participate in the Final Challenge for a chance at $50,000. In all, $1 million in scholarships and grants will be awarded throughout the year.
Third generation oceanographer/environmentalist and Lexus Eco Challenge spokesperson Fabien Cousteau was especially inspired by this set of entries because his family has a history of involvement with environmental issues relating to water. “To know that so many young people now have a better understanding about how pollution and overuse of our natural resources is damaging our environment isan encouraging sign that future generations will be better stewards of our planet than we have been,” he said.“Just think, if everyone took the time to find one small way they could help conserve water or reduce pollution, we’d be well on our way to resolving some of the environmental issues we face today.These students are inspiring others to take action.”
For each of the challenges, teams are required to define an environmental issue that is important to them, develop an action plan to address the issue, implement the plan, and report on the results. The Challenge #2 winning teams that best addressed “Water Works” were:
- California (Vista): “Guajome Girls Preservation Foundation” – Guajome Park Academy – Cleaned up local wetlands while educating the community about restoring the endangered ecosystem. Plans included the “Keepers of the Wetlands” blog and poster contest, letters to the editors of 23 local media outlets, and the creation of a list of rules to help teens remember how best to care for the local wetlands.
- Florida (Newberry): “P.R.I.D.E. – Panthers Researching & Improving Different Environments” – Newberry High School – Removed invasive plants and trash from local water system and wetlands. Educated their community about protecting nearby aquatic habitats via clean-up events, an A-Z coloring book, public service announcements, Web site, MySpace page, and “Don’t Throw That In My Habitat” signs.
- Georgia (Atlanta): “S.W.I.G. – Saving Water in Georgia” – Ben Franklin Academy – Focused on water conservation and the Georgia drought situation. Promoted conservation and the use of eco-friendly landscaping and rain barrels. Tactics included a Web site, brochure, media outreach, and “Green Week” event at the school.
- Hawaii (Honolulu): “The Ripple of Life” - W.R. Farrington High School – Increased knowledge about marine debris, pollution and water conservation by distributing educational flyers, attending community events, and organizing beach and stream clean-ups.
- Missouri (St. Louis): “Ladue Envirothon” – Ladue Horton Watkins High School – Worked with the school and community to generate support and funding to install a rain garden on campus. Encouraged others to plant rain gardens in their yards and neighborhoods, and raised awareness about the impact of the shrinking wetlands.
- Nevada (Las Vegas): “EnvironMENTALISTS” – Bishop Gorman – Promoted the use of pool covers as a means to conserve water. Plans included a Web site, MySpace and Facebook pages, t-shirt design contest, and educational presentations for students and the community. Worked with the water company, pool cover vendors and legislators to alter pool cover rebate programs.
- New York (Setauket): “Operations WM” – Ward Melville High School – Focused on the deteriorating water quality at Setauket Mill and Stony Brook Mill Ponds. Conducted an extensive study of the water quality that confirmed the situation was worsening. Raised awareness in the community via brochures, a blog, news releases, flyers and a Facebook group.
- Ohio (Cincinnati): “Water Warriors AKA Riders of the Storm” – Mariemont High School – Created a rain garden on campus to demonstrate a way to prevent rain water run-off. Engaged local landscapers and a garden club to help educate the community about the benefits of rain gardens. Celebrated completed project with a community reception.
- Pennsylvania (Wellsboro): “Water Cyclers” – Wellsboro Area High School – Helped improve Chesapeake Bay Watershed by educating the community about the impact of storm drain pollution. Worked with the city to gain permission to stencil “”Do not dump, drains to river” on storm drains, installed two rain barrels on campus to conserve water, cleaned up the school’s outdoor classroom stream area, and raised awareness through the school’s Web site and placing news articles.
- Georgia (Milledgeville): “The Green Exstream!” – Oak Hill Middle School – Participated in the Rivers Alive Clean-up, and then created a t-shirts, posters and a puppet show to educate elementary students about keeping the local lakes and rivers clean. Team will participate in the clean-up event again next year to see if raising awareness results in less litter and pollution.
- Indiana (Marshall): “ECO H2O Warriors” – Turkey Run Jr. High School – Conducted a water quality study of nearby Sugar Creek, and then used a Web site, survey and brochures to educate the community about how to improve the Creek’s water quality.
- Iowa (Charles City): “Smarticles” – Charles City Middle School – Researched ways to reduce litter and pollution on the banks of the Cedar River. Presented the city with a plan to install needed trash and recycling bins near the river, and created posters to encourage the community to properly dispose of its trash.
- Montana (Great Falls): “River Runners” – Holy Spirit Catholic School – Led a bank restoration project on the Missouri River, and initiated a state-wide program dedicated to rehabilitation and protection of endangered riparian and wetland areas. Sixteen Riparian Repair Teams with more than 146 students continue to help raise awareness.
- New Jersey (Manahawkin): “Wetlands Youth Brigade” – All Saints Catholic School – Worked to restore and protect the area’s wetlands. Built a hydroponics unit for growing sea grass, adopted ten storm drains for monitoring, constructed a “Drink from the Sink” community sign to discourage use of bottled water, and taught students how test stream water.
- New York (Albany): “Gators Going Green” – St. Teresa of Avila School – Educated their school and community about water conservation through Web sites, video, fliers and book marks that featured water mascot “Nancy Dew.”
- Texas (Lake Jackson): “LJI Mission Possible Environmental Team” – Lake Jackson Intermediate School – Created an “H2O Footprint” exhibit to educate their school community about water conservation. More than 800 students saw the exhibit and signed a water conservation pledge.
- Washington (Monroe): “Water Babies” – Monroe Middle School – Removed 15 bags of trash and recyclable materials from Timber Creek and helped educate the community about the impact of litter and pollution on the area’s waterways and wildlife.
“With so many great entries, it was tough to pick just a handful of winners,” said Lexus Group Vice President Mark Templin. “It’s clear that the teams poured their hearts and souls into their projects, and we’re all impressed with the extraordinary impact of their hard work.”
The Lexus Eco Challenge, now in its second year, launched on Sept. 15, 2008, and concludes with the announcement of the first place and grand-prize-winning teams during Earth Month in April 2009. Challenge #3, “Air/Climate,” started on Dec. 17, 2008 and ends on Feb. 6, 2009.
In addition to the ongoing contest, the Lexus Eco Challenge also includes educational materials designed by Scholastic to encourage teachers to integrate creative lesson plans into their classrooms to help teach students about the environment. For each challenge, the Web site (www.scholastic.com/lexus
) has lesson plans and teacher instructions including questions to help guide a discussion about the current challenge topic, facts about the topic, and guidelines for a specific classroom project.
The Lexus Eco Challenge is part of The Lexus Pursuit of Potential, a philanthropic initiative that generates up to $3 million in donations each year for organizations that help build, shape and improve children’s lives.