Summer Series – Youth in Action Part 5: Youth Work with Local Media to Address a “Smelly Situation” in the Rio Grande

This week, we’re learning about young people in Albuquerque, NM, who worked with the local media to educate residents about a “smelly situation” affecting the Rio Grande.

At Coronado Elementary, a dual language school near the Albuquerque National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1st graders teamed up with 5th graders to investigate water quality at the bosque on the Rio Grande.

The 1st graders made monthly visits to conducted water quality testing at two different points on the Rio Grande, one near the Hispanic Center and one at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. They passed off the data they collected to the 5th graders for analysis.

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The older students took the data and began a yearlong investigation that tied all parts of their curriculum together, including lessons in science, literacy, art, technology, math, and social studies. They decided to head out to the river to see what might be causing some of the water quality issues they observed from the data. Once at the bosque, they noticed an enormous amount of dog waste, left by dog owners. Armed with orange flags to mark poop piles, they ran out of markers before they could make it 100 feet!

Their solution was rooted in public outreach. They contacted local media outlet KOAT-TV to help spread the word on Earth Day that pet waste is dangerous, not only to the waterways, but to the residents of Albuquerque. Check out the TV spot here: There’s too much dog poop in the Rio Grande.

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They also created dog treat carriers as a fund-raiser to sell to residents and presented to City of Albuquerque officials explaining their finding and recommendations.

This week ends our Youth in Action Summer Series. We are thrilled to have shared so many amazing stories of young people working to address the environmental issues their communities are facing today. Thanks to all of our passionate partners, funders, educators, and of course, young people, who make change possible!


Summer Series – Youth in Action Part 4: Lanier Middle School Reduces Waste Through Drinking Fountains

So far, we’ve seen young people work with the local county board on a storm drain project, team up with the Board of Alderman to raise litter awareness, and bring the girl power when investigating local water quality.

This week, we learn more about a group of middle school students that are tackling waste reduction in a really unique way!

Lanier Middle School Reduces Waste Through Drinking Fountains

Students at Lanier Middle School in Fairfax, VA, are drastically reducing the amount of waste in their school through new water fountains. How does that reduce waste you ask? They propose using water bottle filling stations that combine a traditional water fountain and a no-touch sensor that detects a bottle under the dispenser and fills it up.

When students inventoried their school, they realized if they reduced the number of students using single-use water bottles each day of the school year by half they would save over three tons of plastic. Through their research, they learned that although recycling has grown in popularity, the average American uses about 170 plastic water bottles annually, but only recycles about 40 (

The students developed a campaign to accompany their water bottle filling station proposal and said, “I Dare You To: Say No to Bottled Water.” They created posters and distributed them throughout the school, particularly focusing on the cafeteria and water fountains, to promote the ban of plastic water bottles. They also presented their proposal at the Caring for Our Watershed Competition, sponsored by Agrium, in the spring and took home second place! In total, Agrium provided the students with $4,200 toward their project.


The students wanted to install seven machines (one in each major hallway in the school) and with each machine costing roughly $1,600, they still had more work to do. They approached the Fairfax County School Board with their proposal in hopes of getting additional funding. Ultimately, they were granted enough money to install four additional water bottle filling stations, bringing the grand total to six filling stations!

Once the school year starts, students hope to buy 500 steel water bottles to sell to the student body, and they also plan to donate a portion of the water bottles to students who can’t afford one.

Great work by all involved! The impact of this initiative will be felt well beyond the walls of Lanier Middle School.



Summer Series – Youth in Action Part 3: Rochester Brings Girl Power When Investigating Local Water Quality

If you haven’t been following along, so far we’ve featured two amazing groups of young people from Wentzville, MO, and Arlington, VA. Now we turn to the northeast, where two all-girls schools in Rochester, NY, took a unique approach when investigating their environment through GM GREEN.

Rochester Brings Girl Power When Investigating Local Water Quality

Students from Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women and Young Women’s College Prep joined forces with an all-female General Motors‘ mentor team for a day of water monitoring this past spring. Talk about girl power! They worked in groups of two to test the waters of Durand Eastman and Ellison Parks through water chemistry tests and biotic indices and then documented and discussed their findings.


This was part of the Scholastic Aquatic Partnership, a collaborative effort including General Motors, the Stormwater Coalition of Monroe County, the City of Rochester, and the County of Monroe under the guidance of Delta Laboratories, Inc. and funded by the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute through a grant from the Department of Environmental Conservation.


The students played a critical role in developing an in-depth final report, which they presented to the Mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren, and the City Council. The data that they documented during the monitoring of different test sites on both bodies of water provided detailed analyses for the report. Overall, both water bodies seemed to be in good health, with only a few tests indicating otherwise, which students attributed to stagnant water or urban runoff.