Assignment: Education- Project Polar Bear

Reported by Lisa Klein | bio | email | twitter

These three Sparta High School students are known to some as the polar bear girls.

"We're going to teach you guys a little bit about polar bears and global warming and recycling and how all of those things work together,"said Amanda Flock, Sparta High School polar bear girl.

They made it their mission to educate the entire school district about global warming and recycling.


"We took the program we have at the high school, the recycling program, and thought of a way we could make it educational," said Harley Schauf, Sparta High School polar bear girl. "And we found out that none of the elementary schools or the middle school or the intermediate were recycling. So, pretty much that's where we started."

They were inspired to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling after learning about an international competition through an organization called Polar Bears International.

"Pretty much all I knew was if we won we were going to Canada to see the polar bears," said Schauf.

That was motivation enough to get these three girls to compete in Project Polar Bear against 42 other teams from across the nation and Canada.

"Polar Bears International sent out the goal for everybody's project to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and kind of a social outreach, too," said Flock. "That part of our project has just exploded."

Beginning in September, these girls have gone from school to school, and even out into the community of Sparta, educating people on the importance of recycling.

And according to the Earth Club Advisor, it's made a big impact on the district and the city.

"By doing this, we're promoting something that's very, very good because it's sort of become our rallying cry," said Joe Cook, Sparta High School earth club advisor. "We can't continue to build landfills. There's only so much space that's left and the time for action is basically right now."

So they took action. And when the contest ended in December of 2010, the School District of Sparta recycled enough material in the fall to keep hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere. This made the Polar Bear Girls team one of four finalists to head to the San Diego Zoo on April 28 for a ceremony where the organization announced the winning team headed to Canada.

"I'm thrilled," said Flock. "I never thought we were going to make it this far. We're the only team in Wisconsin. Nobody from Sparta has ever done this before."

The girls didn't win the Canadian trip to see the polar bears in their natural habitat. But win or lose, they still accomplished something big.

"The excitement of the community gives us so much hope because there's been so many people who have been with us on this," said Schauf. "There have been so many people that have helped us tremendously."

"I can't wait until the kids that we're talking to now, that are getting so excited about recycling, when they're older and they're the dominant people in the school system," said Flock. "And pretty soon just everybody will."

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