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March 19, 2008

Teens Work to Change the World in the Lexus Environmental Challenge

Home_lexuslogo We’re all concerned about the environment and wonder how we can make things better. And we need to pass that concern on to our children so they’ll know how to care for this earth. One way they can learn more is through the Lexus Environmental Challenge, created by Lexus and Scholastic.

Since September 2007, hundreds of teams of 5-10 middle and high school students have participated in one or more challenges addressing environmental issues related to land, water, air, and climate. Teams are required to manage the entire project from defining the issue, making a plan to address the issue, implement the plan, and report on the results.

Sixty-two entries each won $3,000 in grants and scholarships to be shared by the students, supervising teacher, and school. Some of the winners included:

  • A PSA about ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, reaching 70,000 people
  • Distribution of 15,000 compact fluorescent bulbs to low-income families
  • Collection of six 10-gallon buckets of used batteries for recycling
  • Education of 450 families on mold’s impact of indoor air quality
  • Creating green roof boxes on the school campus

You can see all the winning action plans at Scholastic’s web site.

These winners are qualified to participate in the Final Challenge for part of $850,000. Two grand prizes of $75,000 in grants and scholarships will be given. In addition, 14 teams will win a first prize of $50,000 each. The total prizes equal $1 million.

It’s so nice to see companies help educate kids on environmental issues and provide money for them and their schools. I wish we could do this for all schools. And the students are learning. Their action plans had to include what they learned through implementing the plans. Some of their comments:

  • We learned that even making small changes in our daily behavior can have a huge impact on our environment.
  • We learned the importance of raising awareness. One person cannot move the world, but as each person does one thing, the cumulative effort begins to add up to something big.
  • We learned how hard it is for actual scientists to have to work on this pollution problem day after day and still have to watch people ignore all the warning signs and continue to pollute.

The first challenges were locally centered. The Final Challenge requires teams to go worldwide with their plans. Teams are hard at work and must submit their final entries by March 24. Winners will be announced in April in conjunction with Earth Day.

Our environment needs a lot of help and a lot of work. Inspiring students to come up with solutions to environmental issues may just help us find long-term solutions to world problems. And that’s a very good thing.

Becky_headshot_2 By Becky Scott
Contributing Editor

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