SILVER SPRING, Md. -- Belk, Discovery Education and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) have announced the winners of the third annual Belk Service Learning Challenge. Designed to support educators, and based on research that students who participate in service learning initiatives demonstrate improved problem-solving skills and increased interest in academics, the challenge encouraged middle school students to help improve their communities through undertaking a service-learning project of their choice.
The Belk Service Learning Challenge invited students to work in teams of up to four classmates with the support and guidance of a teacher/mentor to identify an issue in their local community and design an action plan to implement a solution. The three grand prize winning teams will each receive $2,000 per student team member and a $2,000 teacher award. The grand prize winners include:
Team: "Prosthetic Kids" from District 5 of Lexington & Richland Counties' CrossRoads Middle School
Location: Columbia, SC
Project Description: Students used 3D printers to create prosthetic hands for children in need, and hosted a school-wide Hand-A-Thon event to assemble more than 20 additional prosthetic hands.
Team: "Dead Run Stream Cleanup" from Baltimore County Public Schools' Southwest Academy Magnet School
Location: Baltimore, MD
Project Description: Students researched pollution levels of Baltimore's Dead Run stream, and created an action plan to revitalize the stream by removing all trash and pollutants, preventing runoff, and balancing the water's pH and oxygen levels.
Team: "Saving Sidewalks" from Buncombe County Schools' A.C. Reynolds Middle School
Location: Asheville, NC
Project Description: Students designed an action plan to gain approval from the City of Asheville to build new sidewalks in downtown neighborhoods with busy roads to help protect pedestrians, and keep their community members safe.
"The Belk Service Learning Challenge empowers students to take hands-on, interactive approaches to solve important issues that not only affect them, but the entire school community," said Lexington / Richland School District Five Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hefner. "The Challenge builds students' everyday critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills through an exciting opportunity outside of their normal routine, and allows them to understand that they can make a remarkable difference in this world."
Created solely to support these students through every step of the Challenge, the dynamic online destination BelkServiceLearningChallenge.com equips 6th-8th grade educators with free, standards-based service-learning curriculum, including lesson plans and multimedia tools that reinforce the importance of social responsibility and volunteerism to societies and economics. This year's Challenge was open to students in grades 6-8 who reside in one of the 16 states where Belk has a presence – including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
"Community involvement is one of our core values at Belk, and we are honored to see young students participate in the Challenge by taking actions to strengthen their communities," Jessica Graham, Belk's vice president of communications and community relations, said. "We hope that these students will continue to give back, and maintain a sense of commitment to service and their communities."
"ISTE is proud to honor these amazing middle school students for their creative and impactful service-learning projects that will make tremendous changes in their communities," Craig Thibaudeau, Chief External Relations Officer of ISTE, said. "Through the Challenge, students become more engaged in their learning, and build valuable critical thinking and collaboration skills, which will ultimately make the world a better place for all of us."
"Discovery Education is proud to partner with Belk and ISTE to provide students with this powerful service learning initiative," Lori McFarling, Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President, Discovery Education, said. "Education is much more than what is taught within the walls of a classroom. Some of the best learning opportunities for students are those that encourage them to connect classroom concepts to aspects of their everyday lives."
For more information on the Belk Service Learning Challenge or to view the free classroom resources, please visit www.BelkServiceLearningChallenge.com.