Summit Middle School students place first in international competition
For three Summit Middle School eighth graders, April 2 was a day full of surprises.
The students, Izzy Rolfe, Carson Earnest and Ollie Dixon, spent months working on a project that proposed a plan to reduce food waste by creating a composting greenhouse at the school. It was all for the World Affairs Challenge, an international competition that challenges middle and high school students to find local solutions to global sustainability problems.
During competition day on April 2, the team, who called themselves the Composting Tigers, crowded around a Zoom broadcast as the judges revealed their video placed first among over 70 groups from around the world.
“We saw third place and second place come in and we were like, ‘aw, maybe we could have gotten third place. No way we could have come in first,’” Izzy said. “Then we see SMS flash across the screen … and Composting Tigers showed up. The whole room just went ecstatic.”
Each year middle school students across the world compete in the World Affairs Challenge. Summit Middle School hosts a schoolwide competition for local eighth graders, challenging them to find potential solutions to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The goals aim to solve issues like climate change, gender equality and food insecurity. The Composting Tigers decided to tackle the consumption and production goal after seeing how much food was being wasted at school and throughout the community.
Their initial project for the schoolwide competition was to get a compost bin established at the school. After advancing into the international challenge, the Composting Tigers decided to expand their idea further and proposed building a greenhouse at the middle school that would use the soil created through composting.
The project required the team to meet with a local organization, do extensive research online in addition to filming and editing a six-minute video. While the experience taught the students the science behind composting and greenhouses, the competition also helped them build project management and networking skills.
“It definitely made me feel super professional because we were setting up these meetings,” Carson said. “It also helped me step outside of my comfort zone and talk to these people about interests we shared.”
In addition to the video project that placed first at the competition, the competition had the students participate in a global awareness quiz and challenged students to come up with solutions to global problems in meetings with kids from around the world.
Carson and Izzy said they found themselves learning a lot from students from other countries while they met to solve issues.
“It was really cool because people from one place would say something and people from another place would counter that,” Carson said. “Then they would come together to find a solution that I hadn’t even thought of.”
After combining scores for the video project, quiz and international challenge, the Composting Tigers placed second overall.
The entire project sparked an interest in environmental issues and climate change for the three students. Their teacher, Daniel Pollert, said the value of competitions like these is endless. Pollert himself was proud to see the students place first.
“It was surreal,” Pollert said. “They did such an amazing job.”
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