MANATEE -- Wakeland Elementary fifth-graders are working to find solutions for the world's energy and environmental issues ranging from deforestation and the lack of clean drinking water in the Sudan to drilling for oil in Alaska.
It's a big task for 11-year-olds, yet teachers Ed Hashey, Kristi Lim and Alison Shedrow are confident their students can shape the future for alternative technologies and renewable, sustainable energy.
"They are learning that research and money for the right solutions are better than just instant gratification," said Hashey.
Students have been working on displays and their own inventions for a
special exhibition Tuesday at Wakeland Elementary. The theme is "Activism, Awareness and Aid."
Students have focused on wind and solar energy and water filtration systems. Hashey said Wakeland students received a Pollination Project grant from philanthropist Ariel Nessel, which helped pay for the tools and resources. The $1,000 grants are given to schools and organizations working on projects that can change the world.
Students Hannah Ford, Quintin Riggs and Collin Whelpton designed a board game to explain how energy-saving technologies save money in the long run. They measure the voltage produced by scale-model wind turbines to support their cost-saving claims.
Teachers say student ideas have been quite creative.
"We have been stepping back and letting them take their projects in whatever direction impacts and motivates them," Lim said.
Students have experimented with wind and solar energy as well as their own invention prototypes.
Owen Ingham and Bailey Zoller looked into the problem of shrinking farmland and growing desert in areas such as Sudan. They worked on a device for heating and cooking to replace the need for burning wood. Zoller said the invention uses the sun's reflection off mirrors onto a foil platform to provide heat for cooking and boil water without emissions. They still have to test the product to ensure it will not catch fire.
"Ideas like this can break the habit and addiction to fossil fuels," Hashey said.
Stephen Coppa, Dylan Ausborn, Denise Perez and Tarai Gray hope to solve noise pollution problems.
Students say deforestation and highway construction does more than just thin out animal habitats. Noise limits animal ability to communicate and stresses them out.
It is impossible to hush an entire city so students want to raise awareness of noise pollution to animal and human ears. Their presentation aims to persuade people to think about blasting music and blaring car horns near wildlife areas.
Student Noah Fischer worked with his group to build natural barriers against oil spills.
Through research and trial runs, Noah and his group discovered bulrush plants, or cattails, can break down and decompose oil with no damage to the roots. They successfully tested this with their hand-dug pond on school grounds.
Willow Holey and Anissa Santana are also concerned about oil spills. Their project details how biologists clean and rehabilitate animals after a spill.
Hashey said he is impressed with the student research and follow-through.
"This has been a year-long think tank," Hashey said. "These are the kids that will take care of me and my generation. They won't settle for easy fixes."
Students say have been working on their projects with enthusiasm and a positive outlook for the future.
"We are finding environmental alternatives and fixing past mistakes," Noah said.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.