Houghton Middle School has done it again for the third time. Their team of eight students has won the 2017 Lexus Eco Challenge. Their project titled “Backyard Backlash” investigates how to prevent nitrate-laden water from reaching Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes by surface area.
Much of the surface and groundwater contamination comes from nitrate-rich fertilizers and topsoils (due to lawn and garden care, roadside grass seeding projects, and agricultural practices) and will eventually reach Lake Superior.
In the Lexus Eco Challenge, student teams tackle environmental issues related to land, water, air, and climate, and create practical solutions while competing for amazing prizes. The Lexus Eco Challenge gets students involved in project-based learning, teamwork, and skill building as they identify an environmental issue that affects their community, use their critical-thinking and research skills to come up with a solution, and report on the results by way of an Action Plan. Teams of 5-10 students are led by one or two Teacher Advisors—who are full-time teachers employed at the school.
Houghton Middle School won in 2014 with their invasive species education project, and again in 2015 with their project to identify a grass species that could grow on copper-laden stamp sands.
Teacher Advisor Sarah Geborkoff has participated in the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI) since 2014. She receives biannual grants to support projects that incorporate environmental monitoring and stewardship in the Huron River watershed. “LSSI has been critical to helping me prepare my students to compete in the Lexus Eco Challenge.”
Joan Chadde, Geborkoff’s mentor for the LSSI project, is equally elated at HMS’ success. “Sarah Geborkoff is a phenomenal teacher who continually goes above and beyond for her students. They start these projects during the summer. These are truly student-led projects. Sarah is an excellent teacher and student mentor.”
Learn more about their project here.