Archive for April 26th, 2013

April 26, 2013

Speak Out: Middle School Challenge #5 of the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps

by Melissa Harding

Cartoon 1

During the latest challenge of the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps, participants were asked to speak up about an important environmental issue affecting the region. They were given the option of either writing a letter to the editor or creating a cartoon to illustrate their point. Participants in the letter writing challenge were asked to think critically about why their chosen problem affects western Pennsylvania and ways that local citizens can help mitigate its impact. They also were asked to include informational facts that they found through their research. The cartoonists were required to create a cartoon composed of original student artwork and to write a 200-word essay accompanying their drawing. In total, 277 middle school students participated in this challenge. There were so many entries that the judges were working in overtime to find the winner! All of the entries were wonderful, tackling such hard topics as fracking, pollution, water run-off and green energy.

Cartoon 2In the essay category, the winning entry was from a student at Shaffer Elementary concerned about invasive species. Citing zebra mussels, garlic mustard and emerald ash borer as examples, this student not only outlined the reasons that these organisms are spreading, but also gave many great examples of ways to eliminate these intruders. From reminding boaters to scrape their hulls to pulling out garlic mustard before it seeds, this letter was positive and provided an empowering message to its readers. “As you can tell, all of these invasive species are dangerous and harmful to the ecosystems of western Pennsylvania! So let’s stick together and take action to eradicate these invaders!”

The second place essay, from a student attending Sewickley Academy, tackled the topic of pollution in the Ohio River, one of the top ten most polluted rivers in America. Citing sewage overflow as the main culprit, the author describes the many plants and animals who make their homes along or in the river and why these are adversely affected. “In the Ohio River there used to be at least 80 species of mussels that were recorded to be healthily living. But now, there are only 50 species left, out of which five are endangered and close to extinction.” Her solution, increased funds for projects related to the decrease of sewage overflow, is a good idea for both the environment and the people who live near and drink from the river.

Cartoon 3In the cartoon category, the winning entry was submitted by a student from Mellon Middle School regarding global warming. Her cartoon depicts two children walking along wearing shorts and eating ice cream, both talking about how unbelievable it is that winter used to be cold. Her accompanying letter cites the fact that Pennsylvania is the third in the nation in terms of global warming pollution. “If everyone sees the current problems, then we might have a fighting chance of turning the whole thing around. It might take a decade, two or probably more, but it can be accomplished.”

The second place winner, submitted by a student from Shaffer Elementary, tackled the issue of zebra mussels crowding out native mussels in our regions three rivers. Her cartoon depicts a zebra flexing its muscles and dressed in a military uniform, saying “Atten-hut! Time to invade western Pennsylvania!” while streams of mussels jump out of a ship and into the water. Her accompanying letter warns of the endangerment of native mussels and recommends that boaters clean their boats to help fix the problem.”Boaters of western Pennsylvania need to take action now to prevent Zebra mussels from causing more damage than they already have. All parts of your boat should be thoroughly washed each time you pull it from the water. You should also inform others about the zebra mussel issue and tell them to wash their boats before it is too late!”

While there can only be three winners for each portion of the challenge, all of these students are winners for learning how to articulately express their environmental concerns to the general public. Students from all three winning schools will be interviewed on the Saturday Light Brigade this Saturday, April 27, at 10:35am. The Saturday Light Brigade can be heard every Saturday morning on WRCT 88.3 FM. It also streams live at where the interview will be archived under Neighborhood Voices.

The above photos were taken by Kate Borger.


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