March 11, 2008 13:20 ET

Students Nationwide Set Out to Change the World

Winning Teams in Lexus Environmental Challenge to Share $1 Million

TORRANCE, CA--(Marketwire - March 11, 2008) - Throughout this school year, more than 3,500 middle and high school students nationwide have learned first hand that improving the environment is within their control and real change can take place -- one step at a time. These students participated in the Lexus Environmental Challenge, a program designed by Lexus and Scholastic to educate teens about the environment and empower them to create a better world.

"This program was meant to drive action, and that's exactly what it's done," said Mark Templin, group vice president and general manager of Lexus. "Our goal was to inspire young people to be a part of the solution, and they definitely stepped up to the challenge. In fact, their efforts have been so impressive, we're the ones who are inspired."

Since September 2007, hundreds of teams of 5-10 middle and high school students led by teacher advisors have participated in one or more challenges addressing environmental issues related to land, water, air, and climate. Teams were required to define an issue, make a plan to address the issue, implement the plan, and report on the results.

Throughout the four challenges, more than 350 Action Plans were submitted. Sixty-two of these entries each won $3,000 in grants and scholarships to be shared by the students, teacher and school. Some winning Action Plan highlights include:

--  Production of a public service announcement about ways to reduce
    carbon dioxide emissions that reached 70,000 people
--  Distribution of 15,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs to low-income
--  Collection of six 10-gallon buckets of used batteries for recycling
--  Educating 450 families about the impact of mold on indoor air quality
--  Creation of green roof boxes on the school's campus

A complete list of winning Action Plans can be viewed at

Winning in the initial challenges qualified each team to participate in the Final Challenge for a chance to win part of $850,000. Two grand-prize winning teams will each receive $75,000 in grants and scholarships, and 14 first-prize winning teams will receive $50,000 each. In all, $1 million will be awarded.

Challenge Inspires Teachers and Students to Take Action

Comments from teachers and statements written in the Action Plans demonstrate the impact of the Lexus Environmental Challenge. One teacher told Lexus she loved how the competition is so motivating while also fostering a true concern for the community and teaching sound scientific principles. Another teacher wrote, "I watched this project, through the experiential learning and the hands-on approach, completely transform the students' attitude about protecting their local water resources. When we first began to approach this subject, students' attitudes were complacent and ambivalent about the topic, but they have completely transformed their attitudes to reflect concern, determination to take action, and motivation to educate and inspire others to take action."

The Action Plans contained pages and pages of inspiration. The final question in the Action Plan asks students to state what they've learned through implementing their plans. Some excerpts include:

--  We learned that even making small changes in our daily behavior can
    have a huge impact on our environment.
--  We learned the importance of raising awareness. One person cannot move
    the world, but as each person does one thing, the cumulative effort begins
    to add up to something big.
--  We learned how hard it is for actual scientists to have to work on
    this pollution problem day after day and still have to watch people ignore
    all the warning signs and continue to pollute.

The Final Challenge Dares Teams to Take Their Efforts Worldwide

For the first four Challenges, teams were asked to take a stand for the environment in their local community. The Final Challenge requires teams to reach beyond the local community and inspire environmental action around the world through innovative ideas that the team must communicate to a wide audience. Teams are currently hard at work on their programs and must submit their entries by March 24. The winners will be announced in April 2008 in conjunction with Earth Day.

Editor's Note: A complete list of winners organized by state is available on request.

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