Turn On The Night project takes top prize
By Ken DeLaat
In the Lexus Eco Challenge, student teams tackle environmental issues related to land, water, air, and climate, and create practical solutions while competing for prizes for eligible teachers, students, and schools.
Seven students from Sherry Claflin’s 6th and 7th grade science class took part in the challenge submitting their entry before the December deadline.
And last Friday came some pretty big news.
They won a prize.
Not just any prize, mind you but the $10,000 first prize.
And each of the students will be getting $1000 from the Lexus Eco Challenge for their efforts. Ms. Claflin will also receive a similar award and the school will be given $2000.
‘What do you plan on doing with the money?’ the group was asked and replied with answers that varied from starting a savings account to a getting new wardrobe to putting it toward the future purchase of a truck.
But mostly they shrugged and said they weren’t sure.
After all they barely had time to let it sink in.
How did this come about?
Students chose a topic from the Lexus Eco Challenge Air and Climate list and were put into groups based on the topic of their choice. This group of seven chose greenhouse gases. They looked at several aspects of contributing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, studied the history of climate change due to excess greenhouse gases, and decided on their target areas.
The next 6 weeks proved busy as the students ironed out the details.
Working with the Newaygo County Dark Sky Astronomers the seven set out to reduce the lights at night. They were trying to find a way to continue to allow for industry, safety, and necessary electricity uses, while trying to bring attention to the fact that the $2 billion is wasted in this country every year on lights on at night.
Research was done on the environmental, health, safety, biologic and economic costs of the lights used at night.
They met with the White Cloud police liaison to discuss the amount of light needed at night for public safety, created a poster on their topic and one student presented the information at the White Cloud City Council meeting.
As part of their efforts "Turn on the Night" was planned and the community was asked to turn off their outside lights. Communications were put out in the school announcements, local media and several facebook pages asking for help in the kids’ idea to turn on the night. From facebook it was shared as far away as Australia. The students shared this by word of mouth with family members near and far, asking for everyone to turn off their lights.
As a result over 400 houses in the city were reported to have flipped the outdoor switch to off that evening.
But most impressive of all was how this group came together to pull this off. Middle school is oftentimes a period when social groups are formed. Groups that can be exclusionary at best. To work together these young folks needed to get past that dynamic. To step outside of their social comfort zone.
I asked them what they found to be the biggest challenge in doing this project?
‘Working together’ they replied unanimously and nearly simultaneously.
And what was the best part?
“That we were able to pull together” was heard from a couple of them while the others nodded in agreement. “We worked as a team.”
An admirable task with a fitting reward.
While the students are to be applauded for their achievement Ms. Claflin is to be commended for facilitating the effort. A first year teacher with White Cloud Ms. Claflin is no newcomer to the education field. She also teaches at Muskegon Community College and spent 18 years a few miles down M20 in the Hesperia system.
White Cloud MS HS Principal Ed Canning:
"Ms. Claflin has been a great addition to the White Cloud team and her passion for science is undeniable, She has brought that passion and enthusiasm into the lives of our students through a variety of activities. Congratulations to Ms. Claflin and her students for winning the Lexus Eco Challenge."
Well done Henry, Caelan, Eli and Torin and the same goes for Kaileigh, Kevin and Emma.
And well done to you as well Sherry Claflin.
These students may have learned a lot about climate change and greenhouse gases but they learned something that in the long run might prove even more rewarding than the money.
They learned the power of collaboration.