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Lexus Eco Challenge Makes International Impact

Lexus and Scholastic launch fourth annual environmental contest with $500,000 in grants and scholarships to be awarded.

by on Aug.31, 2010

With the majority of kids about to head back to school, Lexus is again issuing an environmental challenge to win thousands of dollars in grants and scholarships.

The fourth annual Lexus Eco Challenge calls on students to identify an environmental issue, develop an action plan to address the issue, implement the plan, and report the results. Groups of 5-10 students, with the help of a teacher advisor, can compete in two categories: Land/Water and Air/Climate.

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Sixteen teams – eight from high schools and eight from middle schools – will be chosen as winners in each category. Those teams will have the opportunity compete in the Final Challenge, with eight winning grants of $15,000 and two grand prize winners taking home $30,000. Lexus partners with Scholastic, the global children’s publishing company, to run the contest.

“The Lexus Eco Challenge has helped change the way I teach,” said Debbie Viertel, a teacher from Lawton Chiles Middle School in Lakeland, Fla. “By giving my students a real-world challenge, they come up with something they care about. Then they learn all the things I want them to learn in math and science, but the difference is that now they care. It’s a wonderful program.”

Last year’s grand-prize-winning high school team reached beyond the border and focused their project on helping Haiti. The group from Mother McAuley High School in Chicago built a solar-powered biodiesel production system and they worked with representatives from a school in Haiti to plant a farm to grow seeds that generate oil for the biodiesel system. In addition to giving the biodiesel system to the Haitian school, they also arranged for solar panels to be donated and installed at the school.

“The students at Mother McAuley High School really captured the spirit of the Lexus Eco Challenge,” said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager.  “When we launched this initiative in 2007, we wanted to see it grow and expand to make a positive impact all around the world.  Every year, we see more innovation, more creativity and more passion from the students and their teachers.”

Throughout the challenges, students and teachers can ask questions and compare notes through a new blog featured on the Lexus Eco Challenge Web site (www.scholastic.com/lexus).

All entries will be judged on a variety of criteria, including the overall action plan and team effort, the quality of writing, and supporting materials. A select panel of judges will consider questions such as: does the action plan show the team’s clear understanding of the environmental issue; does the action plan clearly describe the results; does the action plan communicate a persuasive argument; and does the action plan communicate team effort.

In addition to providing teachers with the information necessary to participate in the challenges, the Web site also has extensive tools for them to use in their classrooms. For each challenge, the Web site 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.

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