April 17, 2008 - Torrance, CA - Student teams in Jersey City, N.J., and Honolulu, Hawaii, will be celebrating this Earth Day. Not only have they done their part to protect the planet, they've also emerged as the two $75,000 grand-prize winners in the Lexus Environmental Challenge, a national competition designed by Lexus and Scholastic to educate and empower teens to think big about possible solutions that could make a positive impact on the environment. Fourteen first-place teams also won $50,000 each. In all, more than $1 million in grants and scholarships have been awarded throughout the seven-month-long environmental education program and contest.
"When we introduced this challenge, we really had no idea what kind of programs the students would dream up," said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager. "Well, now we know they're not afraid to dream big, and act on those dreams. We were amazed at all the teams' innovative ideas, their ingenuity and their pure passion for the topics they chose to address. It's exciting to see these young people discover their voices and learn they have the power to make a difference."
Both winning entries demonstrate how a small group can make a big impact. "The Climate Academy" team, made of five 6th graders from Academy I Middle School in Jersey City, created a campaign called: "Clean Cities Make Clean Oceans." Their program included educating all students in Jersey City public schools about the impact of litter and pollution on the ocean. They also raised awareness by stenciling the words "Dump No Waste: Drains to Ocean" on storm drains near schools throughout the city. "The Dream Team" from W.R. Farrington High School in Honolulu focused on educating people around the world about the benefits of renewable energy sources such as wind turbines, solar panels, fuel cells, and hydropower. The team, comprised of eight high school students, created videos, blogs and a Web site in multiple languages and used social media web sites to help spread the word.
"Winning the Lexus Environmental Challenge renewed exactly that same feeling I had when I received the Milken National Educator Award, but even more heartwarming was the fact that my students were the ones making the big difference in the world," said Bebi Davis, The Dream Team's teacher advisor. "These young people hold in their hands the future of the world for the next generation. I am so proud of their incredible accomplishment."
These two top teams were recognized today in ceremonies at their respective schools. In addition to the scholarship and grant money, each team's school will receive a custom-designed sculptural cistern to promote the idea of water conservation. Made from recycled packing materials, the cisterns, or rain catchers, were created by Florida's renowned environmental artist Jefre. This unique award will serve as a reminder of the team's outstanding accomplishment as well as a sustainable way to collect rain water so it can be reused for watering plants on the school's campus.
The 16 winners were selected from 55 teams that qualified for this Final Challenge by winning in one or more of the four previous Challenges that were held from September to February. These initial Challenges, addressing land, air, water and climate, asked teams to take a stand for the environment in their local community. The Final Challenge required teams to reach beyond the local community and inspire environmental action around the world through innovative ideas that were communicated to a wide audience.
The 14 first-place winning teams are:
- Atlanta, Ga. – "Westminster CCC3" – The Westminster Schools
- Baldwin Park, Calif. – "The Ones Who Care" – Sierra Vista High School
- Bryn Mawr, Penn. – "The Green Gators" – The Shipley School
- Chicago, Ill – "Earth Warriors" - Madero Middle School
- Holladay, Utah – "Radon Awareness Group" - Olympus Junior High
- Holladay, Utah – "Save Our Fresh Water" - Olympus Junior High
- Holladay, Utah – "The Treehuggers" - Olympus Junior High
- La Crescenta, Calif. – "Marine Science Researchers" - Clark Magnet High School
- Lake Charles, La. – "St. Margaret Science Club" – St. Margaret Catholic School
- Newberry, Fla. – "Newberry Environmental Girls" - Newberry High School
- New Hyde Park, NY – "The Elementals" – Herricks High School
- New Hyde Park, NY – "Vampire Exterminators" – Herricks High School
- Torrance, Calif. – "L.I.F.E" - South High School
- Wilmington, NC – "Team Earth" – Lyceum Academy of New Hanover High School
In addition to the contest portion of the Lexus Environmental Challenge, the program also provides standards-based supplementary educational materials to encourage teachers to integrate creative lesson plans into their classrooms to help teach students about the environment. The materials, developed with Scholastic and available at www.scholastic.com/lexus, are designed to align with national teaching standards for science, social studies, civics and language arts. For each of the challenges, the Web site has lesson plans and teacher instructions including questions to help guide a discussion about the challenge topic, facts about the topic, and guidelines for a specific classroom project.
The Lexus Environmental Challenge will enter its second year in fall 2008. Teachers and students are encouraged to visit www.scholastic.com/lexus to view all the winning entries and to learn how they can take part in next year's program. The Challenge is part of The Lexus Pursuit of Potential, a philanthropic initiative that generates $3 million in donations each year for organizations that help build, shape and improve children's lives.
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