2010-05-20 / Schools

Student-teacher teams have knack for science

By Sophia Fischer sfischer@theacorn.com

GREEN TEAM—Oak Park High School students Vivian Rotenstein, Pam Chang, Sam Geldin, Stephan Liu, Andrew Cohe and Eric Pai celebrate in the Oak Hills Elementary School greenhouse. The team won second place in the Edison Challenge competition for their  solar energy project. With help from their teacher advisor Allan Hunt, the students obtained donations of solar panels which naturally power the greenhouse. DEBBIE WEST/Special to The Acorn GREEN TEAM—Oak Park High School students Vivian Rotenstein, Pam Chang, Sam Geldin, Stephan Liu, Andrew Cohe and Eric Pai celebrate in the Oak Hills Elementary School greenhouse. The team won second place in the Edison Challenge competition for their solar energy project. With help from their teacher advisor Allan Hunt, the students obtained donations of solar panels which naturally power the greenhouse. DEBBIE WEST/Special to The Acorn Several Oak Park studentteacher science teams won awards recently in the fourth annual Edison Challenge, an environmental competition.

Co-sponsored by Edison International and USC, the contest attracted 67 student-teacher teams from throughout Southern California. Each team submitted an original science project related to energy and the environment. Winners were announced at an awards ceremony at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Television scientist Bill Nye “The Science Guy” was the guest speaker.

A team from Medea Creek Middle School won a first-place award for its project on “energy vampires,” which sought to raise awareness of energy wasted by electrical devices that are turned off but are still plugged into outlets. Just before Halloween the team’s students dressed as vampires and visited Oak Park residents door-to-door delivering brochures with energy-saving tips. In March the student team, led by teacher advisers Sharon Lavene and Elana Levine, organized an informational seminar for the community on residential solar installations. The team won a week on Catalina Island in June to participate in activities at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center.

Oak Park High School’s solar installation team, led by junior Pam Chang, won second place for its project to naturally power the environment in the greenhouse at Oak Hills Elementary. The greenhouse provides organic food to the school district’s cafeterias. The students wrote a proposal and obtained the donation of 12 solar panels from SolarWorld in Camarillo and installation from Advanced Solar Electric in Thousand Oaks. As part of the project, the high school students taught Oak Hills fourth-graders interactive lessons on energy conservation and solar cells. The team won a fourday visit to Southern California Edison’s Big Creek Hydroelectric Facility in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Three other teams from Oak Park High School received recognition. Marine debris project teams from Oak Park High and Medea Creek were named finalists. The Oak Park High team that studied whale migration patterns, ship strikes and global climate change won best interview. The Oak Park High solar derby team won best outreach program.

A total of 10 teams from Oak Park High and Medea Creek Middle School participated in the contest. With the help of teacher advisers, student teams chose a topic and completed five components: a science lesson plan for younger students, a research project proposal, community service, a presentation and a written portfolio.

Students chose topics they are interested in, said Debby West, Oak Park district science specialist.

This year’s projects focused on solar energy, water conservation, energy conservation, carbon emissions reduction, wildlife conservation and protection, and marine pollution.

Oak Park High and Medea Creek parent-faculty clubs and Friends of Oak Park Schools provided support for the projects.

Oak Park schools Superintendent Tony Knight was pleased that the solar project was student generated.

“In Oak Park, our motto is ‘Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders,’” Knight said. “This is a perfect example of that preparation for leadership in the 21st century green economy.”

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