EcoRise Elementary Teacher of the Year and her 3rd Grade Students from Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of Ana Ka'ahanui.

EcoRise Students Showcase Innovation Across the Nation


The 2018–2019 school year has been a banner year for EcoRise. We are now serving more than 2,000 teachers and impacting nearly 120,000 students. This Spring, we also expanded our student showcases from three cities to five: Houston; Austin; San Antonio; Washington, D.C.; and New York City! The showcases featured 308 students who presented their green campus projects to more than 2,500 community members. The professionalism, expertise, and pride of these student presenters spread quickly throughout the crowd of visitors as they realized that today’s students are truly capable of leading the way to a sustainable future for all! Read on to learn more about each showcase.

HOUSTON, TEXAS
On April 17, 2019, EcoRise launched our inaugural Houston Student Innovation Showcase at City Hall. Nine student teams from Houston-area schools presented to 100 community members, including representatives from the Houston Mayor’s Office of Innovation, the Houston Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, USGBC Houston, Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, and the Houston Chronicle!

Each of the student teams completed an environmental audit of their school and created a project to address an issue they identified. From tackling indoor air quality and waste issues on campus to creating pollinator gardens and more, Houston-area students are creating real-world change for their campuses and in their communities. By the end of the school year, EcoRise awarded $6,752 in micro-grants to 14 student-driven projects to help fuel this change.

This event was made possible by support from our regional sponsor, Green Mountain Energy Sun Club. Program participation was funded this school year thanks to the Sun Club and Tomball ISD. EcoRise would also like to thank the City of Houston for hosting our event and Jesse Bounds, the City of Houston’s Director of Innovation, for providing the keynote address.

For more photos, visit our Facebook photo album!

AUSTIN, TEXAS
Thunderstorms on May 3, 2019 in Austin didn’t dampen the spirits of the 83 students set up to present their creative ideas to the community at the 5th Annual Central Texas Student Innovation Showcase! That evening, 20 student teams wowed a crowd of nearly 200 guests, including Austin Mayor Steve Adler, by discussing their data-driven solutions to environmental issues they discovered on their campuses.

In total this school year, EcoRise awarded $15,430 microgrant awards in the Austin area to support 33 student-designed projects that either reduced negative impacts of the school campus on the environment or created public awareness around environmental issues. Community members heard why and how these student-driven projects—including growing food on campus, a school energy-reduction campaign, math and literacy gardens, and an erosion control plan—are making a difference.

We’d like to thank Austin’s Mayor Steve Adler; Lucia Athens, Austin’s Chief Sustainability Officer; Mary Priddy, Conservation Program Manager; and the City of Austin Office of Sustainability for sponsoring our grant program, hosting the event, and supporting our young leaders. Program participation was also made possible through partnerships with Austin ISD, Rackspace, and HEB.

For more photos, visit our Facebook photo album!

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
May 16, 2019 was a beautiful evening at the lovely San Antonio Botanical Garden, where EcoRise and the National Wildlife Federation co-hosted the third annual San Antonio Student Sustainability Showcase. This year, we showcased 25 student teams from 15 San Antonio-area schools who received grants from EcoRise or participated in the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA Monarch Heroes program. Student teams presented their green projects to an audience of more than 250 parents, school administrators, local community members, program sponsors, and elected officials.

Attendees were inspired by the students’ passion and knowledge of their environmental impact. Overall, EcoRise provided more than $7,770 in microgrant awards to support 22 student projects in the San Antonio area. Projects included an outdoor classroom with a solar phone charging station, water and energy conservation efforts, and plastic and food waste reduction initiatives. Schools participating in the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA Monarch Heroes program funded 10 projects that created habitats for and spread awareness about the issues facing the monarch butterfly.

During the event, EcoRise presented the Secondary Teacher of the Year Award to Jennifer Humphreys from Nimitz Middle School of North East ISD. For the past two years, Ms. Humphreys has created authentic learning experiences for her students that translated this year into outstanding, student-produced Eco-Audit Grant applications. Over the past two years, Humphrey’s students have created projects that built upon previous student projects for even greater impact—including a sustainable outdoor classroom that collects rainwater for campus gardens and provides solar electricity that can be used to power small electronics.

We are grateful to our implementation partners at the National Wildlife Federation, to the San Antonio Botanical Garden for hosting the event, and to Douglas Melnick, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of San Antonio, for speaking at the event. Thank you to the City of San Antonio, which provided grant funding for student projects as well as to North East ISD, Rackspace, and HEB, which each provided support for teachers to participate in our programs.

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For more photos, visit our Facebook photo album!

WASHINGTON, DC
It was a night of camaraderie and celebration at the 2nd Annual DC Student Innovation Showcase on May 21, 2019. Our partners at the Center for Green Schools graciously hosted the event in the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) office in downtown DC. Fourteen student teams toured the Platinum LEED-certified building before presenting their own sustainability efforts to a crowd of about 200 community members, school, and city staff.

Attendees were amazed by the tenacity and eloquence of students from four DC Public Schools and two Fairfax County Public Schools. For this school year, EcoRise awarded $11,250 in microgrant funds to support 25 student projects including the creation of homemade cleaning supplies, hydroponic systems, an outdoor learning space, and multiple vegetable gardens, to name a few.

To add to the excitement, EcoRise presented two awards at the event. Bruce-Monroe Elementary’s science teacher, Sabina Malkani, was named the Elementary Teacher of the Year for her commitment to student innovation and sustainability throughout the current school year. Ms. Malkani’s students focused on improving their school’s indoor air quality. In November, they received the first Eco-Audit Grant of the school year, which allowed them to create non-toxic classroom cleaning supplies. In addition, to further improve the school’s indoor air quality, they received a second grant in the Spring to build classroom terrariums. This project has had a ripple effect on the entire school, parents, and the community—many of whom no longer use toxic cleaners at all.

EcoRise presented Kendra Heffelbower, who has been teaching with DC Public Schools for 15 years, with the EcoRise Legacy Award. Ms. Heffelbower is an educator who creates opportunities for students to take the lead, make connections, and integrate their knowledge and understanding to find solutions that benefit their community. She was one of the first highly engaged EcoRise teachers in the DC area. Over the past four years, she has worked tirelessly to mobilize students, teachers, and administrators to deeply embed student innovation, sustainability education, and EcoRise programs into the culture of her school, C.W. Harris Elementary. This year, EcoRise awarded student groups at C.W. Harris five micro-grants totaling $2,543.67 for projects that will address food security via an herb garden; enhance public spaces and school well-being by installing a peace garden; create a composting system and educational campaign to divert 1,440 lbs. of school wastes next year; integrate system interdependence learning and wildlife conservation via Bird Observation Areas; and install a hydroponic system.

EcoRise provided support for more than 200 DC-area teachers with help from key partnerships with DC Public Schools, the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, and Perkins Eastman DC. Thank you to these wonderful supporters and to the USGBC Center for Green Schools for hosting this showcase for the second year in a row!

For more photos, visit our Facebook photo album!

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
EcoRise ended our Student Showcase Season on a high note by participating as one of 15 partners in the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Sustainability’s 3rd Annual Sustainability Showcase on May 22, 2019. Four student teams from four NYC schools represented EcoRise in a room of more than 90 student-led school projects. We are so proud of these pioneering teams, who were the first in the city to represent EcoRise programs with their projects on reducing waste, improving drinking water, updating green spaces for learning on campus, and conserving water.

EcoRise awarded over $4,300 in microgrant funds to 10 impactful student projects in the city this school year. Students estimate that their projects can save their school district nearly $79,000 per year. We’d like to thank BNY Mellon, the New York City Department of Education, and Structure Tone for supporting EcoRise’s work in the city and making it possible for teachers in NYC to participate in our programs.

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For more photos, visit our Facebook photo album!

Next year, in addition to growing our impact in each of these regions, EcoRise will begin programming in Miami, Florida, thanks to a new partnership with Target. Other key supporters are allowing us to offer teacher scholarships in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, rural Texas, Louisiana, and New York City next year. So if you know of an educator who would appreciate access to sustainability lessons, professional development, and micro-grants for student innovations, send them to www.ecorise.org/enroll today. Together, #WeRise!