Joe Lee Johnson students awarded grant by Eco-Rise Youth Innovators

Eco-Rise Youth Innovators awarded fourth-grade students at Joe Lee Johnson Elementary STEAM Academy three grants totaling $1,461 to promote student projects that will divert an estimated 450,360 pounds of plastic waste from the landfill each year.

After an environmental science lesson about renewable and nonrenewable resources, students realized disposable water bottles created an environmental concern and is a problem they wanted to solve. This set the fourth-grade class on a path of decreasing the use of disposable water bottles on campus by 50 percent.

“Being awarded this grant makes me feel accomplished,” fourth-grade student Zachary Pheops said. “We are going to be responsible for bringing down the number of disposable water bottles and could be responsible for helping the ocean.”

Students created materials to educate their classmates, including posters and videos. To further encourage using reusable bottles, students partnered with the PTA to sell reusable bottles during lunch. Results were tracked by administering surveys before and after the campaign and indicated a 30 percent reduction in the campus use of disposable water bottles. To infuse their campaign and meet their goal of reducing usage by 50 percent, students applied for an Eco-Rise Youth Innovators grant to help fund additional incentives to close the goal gap.

The awarded grant will fund a pizza party for the classes who commonly use reusable water bottles, supply an inventory of high-end reusable water bottles that can be earned by students who consistently reduce their consumption of disposable bottles and purchase a recycle bin that looks like a bottle.

“Our goal was to help people recycle disposable bottles instead of just throw them away,” fourth-grade student Rachel Fincher said. “We thought it would be cool to have a recycle bin that looks like a bottle so it would make recycling fun.”

Students practiced concept ideation, planning, process design and documentation while applying their knowledge of math, science, marketing, technology, research and problem-solving to accomplish their tasks.

“During STAAR testing we provide the student’s snacks and water,” said Cary Zepernick, Joe Lee Johnson assistant principal. “The students sent us an email holding us accountable for providing water in disposable bottles. We were called out on how our behaviors are impacting the environment and realized we need to check our practices too.”