Washington Middle School students won $10,000 for their water-saving plans in a contest sponsored by Lexus and Scholastic.
The group of six eighth-graders are among 16 winners – eight groups in middle school, eight groups in high school – in the Lexus Eco Challenge’s first round.
The all-girl group, competing with schools from across the United States, were tasked in identifying an environmental issue and coming up with an action plan to address it. The final round, which starts Jan. 11, puts them in the running for the grand prize of $30,000. There will also be eight first-prize winning groups that will walk away with $15,000.
With the state drought in mind, June Kim, Angeline Dequit, Fiona Paredes, Alma Spicher, Vanessa Canchola and Jessica Gallegos looked into Washington Middle School’s water use and came up with plans for drought-tolerant landscaping and drip irrigation and looked at getting low-flow toilets and automatic faucets.
The girls said the changes could reduce the school’s water use by at least 30 percent. They also encouraged the school to cut down its irrigation from watering three days a week to two days a week, which it has done.
“We put a lot of work into this,” Gallegos, 13, said. “ It’s very good that it’s going to help the community save water.”
Their teacher, Susan Pritchard, proposed the contest to all of her science classes, but the six were the only ones who took interest. They dub themselves the “Water Guardians.”
Pritchard said the girls put hundreds of hours into the project, working at lunch and after school.
“They’re pretty amazing girls,” she said.
It’s not just a theoretical project either. On Jan. 19, the Water Guardians plan to share their project with the City Council, hoping council members can give them feedback about implementing it.
“I like making a difference in the community. It makes me feel happy,” Dequit, 13, said. “I also like science and I knew that this project would help me learn a lot of things.”
From the $10,000 prize, $7,000 was distributed equally among the students,$1,000 went to the teacherand $2,000 went to the school. Pritchard is donating her $1,000 prize to the school to help fund the students’ plans.
The grand prize winners will be announced on March 7, 2016.
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Washington Middle School students Jessica Gallegos, left, Fiona Paredes, June Kim and Angeline DeQuite greet La Habra City Water Manager Brian Jones, center, and La Habra City Councilman Tim Shaw. They met with the city officials to talk about their plans for saving more water through irrigation and plumbing. The proposal is for the Lexus Eco Challenge, which tasked middle school and high school students with coming up with eco-friendly solutions to issues regarding land and water.
Washington Middle School students Jessica Gallegos, left, Fiona Paredes, June Kim and Angeline DeQuite developed a drought-tolerant landscaping strategy for the Lexus Eco Challenge. The eighth-graders just won $10,000 in round one and start the final round , where they compete for a grand prize, in January.