Earlier this school year, Samsung, the South Korean consumer electronics conglomerate, invited schools across the country to answer a simple question: “Show how science or math can help the environment in your community.” More than 1,500 application essays were sent in from teachers, including one from Dana Hausen at Indian Trails Middle School.
Hausen won the first round: Indian Trails was one of 25 schools selected and awarded a Samsung laptop, a video camcorder, the Adobe photo and video editing software (not a cheap gift) and a computer. For round two, Samsung challenged the 25 schools to use the materials to create a video on the same subject: how the application of STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—can improve one’s community. “As technology makes its way into my classroom, less and less paper will pass through that copy machine,” Hausen says in a clever plug for Samsung. “In the meantime my students are discovering that origami and paper-making are great ways to re-use paper at our school, and to help their community.”
Hausen’s life science and service-learning classrooms met the challenge by creating a video that demonstrates how origami can be used to address paper recycling at their school and homelessness in Flagler County.
It was a round two victory: The project won the equivalent of $70,000 in technology for its new STEM lab from Samsung, Microsoft, DirectTV and the Adobe Foundation.
But it’s not over. Indian Trails is now one of 12 finalists in Samsung’s national Solve for Tomorrow video contest.
The nine Samsung Solve for Tomorrow judges—culled from the executive ranks of participating companies, the National Environmental Education Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science—will select four grand prize winners.
And you can select the fifth grand prize winner, called the Community Choice Winner. You can cast your vote, and vote again and again—but no more than once a day—from now until the voting ends on March 12 just before midnight, by clicking on this link, and voting for the Indian Trails video. Remember: you can vote once a day through March 12. (Yes, the website requires you to register before you can vote, then to confirm your registration through that link they send to your email box, but you only have to do it once.)
It’s worth it: the video mixes the hilarious with a serious message: wasting resources is a dead-end for everyone. Recycling is key. But how, when there’s such dependence on, say, paper? “Maybe we can ban teachers from the copy room,” one student intones. Hausen picks up the thread at that point and illustrates one way Indian Trails has sought to improve matters–by recycling paper products through origami.
Indian Trails is one of two schools from Florida in the contest. The other is Davenport School, of the Arts. Otherwise, Indian Trails is up against schools in New Jersey, New York, California, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington, Alabama and Wyoming.
Indian Trails is in the running for up to $100,000 in total prizes (including the original $70,000), though none of it is cash. As part of the prize package, up to four people from each of the winning schools will be flown to Washington, D.C., the week of April 16 for the Solve for Tomorrow Awards Ceremony on April 18.
The event is part of the Samsung Hope for Children philanthropic initiative, which over the past 10 years, and is itself part of a broader national push for a focus on so-called STEM education.
If Hausen’s “Mustang scholars” win the People’s Choice Award, in addition to the prize money, the school will also receive a classroom assistant dog that will help to serve the needs of special-education students at the school.
“This prize holds special meaning to a group of ITMS Service-Learning students who are working to bridge the gap between students with disabilities at their school and students in the general population,” Hausen writes. “Also, 7th and 8th graders at ITMS encourage the community to get involved by donating to the Sonobe House of Hope for the Homeless which is located in the front lobby at Indian Trails Middle School. ITMS Service-Learning students are working closely with Dr. Pamela Jackson-Smith, the Homeless Education Coordinator of Flagler County Schools, who will connect the supplies and monies collected to families in need.”
The video Indian Trails’s Mustangs produced is below. But remember to vote early, often, daily, and to tell your friends.