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"Team Cahaba" Finalist in National Lexus Eco Challenge
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8-Jan-14 (HHS) – For the second time in three years, Hoover High School’s “Team Cahaba” has won national recognition in the Lexus Eco Challenge Contest. The national event engages ecology teams nationwide in challenges including Land & Water, Air and Climate and others. Team Cahaba won $10,000 for its Land & Water study of privet along the Cahaba River.

The team now finds itself vying for the national “Grand Challenge,” the winner of which will be announced later this year. They will be competing for top prizes of $15,000-$30,000K with fifteen other teams nationally. Most of the money awarded provides student scholarships.  The Grand Challenge project, for which Team Cahaba is now preparing, proves more complex and builds upon the Privet and Tree Garden projects.

Advanced Placement (AP)/International Baccalaureate (IB) Environmental Sciences teacher Mrs. Janet Ort, who sponsors the Cahaba River Club and Environmental Competitions Club of which Team Cahaba is a part, reflects on this huge win and its impact on students.

“This is the perfect manifestation of students being encouraged to solve problems, integrate science, community service, technology and career goals in service-learning,” Ort said.

Five students comprise Team Cahaba Caroline Amerson and Tyler Reynolds [Team Leaders]; Massie Cho, Hunter Striklin and Jonathon Harvey [Members].  They were ably helped by members of the AP Environmental Science and IB Environmental Systems and Societies classes.  Their Privet Project was a multi-faceted approach to researching invasive plant species found along the eco-rich Cahaba River, specifically privet. Students on the team involved outside groups including local professors, members of the Cahaba River Society and others. The project was judged in many areas including research, collaboration, writing, communication, and overall presentation.

“The students were excited and enthusiastic about the process and the WIN! I knew what we had been able to do before with other Cahaba projects. As their mentor, I am in a position to encourage them to see beyond the world in which they’ve lived. The projects become the vehicle for them to apply things they’ve learned throughout school and look at the big picture. They are combining their talents and the skills they gained in other classes throughout Hoover City Schools,” Ort said. “They have to collaborate, collect data and think critically.

Ort added that the Lexus Eco Challenge showcases a "perfect example of the power of STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] based learning" by application of Hoover City Schools' Technology Initiative and exploring real world science skills.

-Jason Gaston/Hoover City Schools