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Hawken School Named as Gold Medal Award Winner in National Competition at Walt Disney World®

Students Plan to Save Native Brook Trout in Area Streams by Motivating Residents to Reduce Point-Source Pollution


WALT DISNEY WORLD, FL — June 23, 2004 — Bright ideas, solid research and teamwork won three students from Hawken School in Lyndhurst, OH, a Gold Medal Award at the Christopher Columbus Awards, a nationwide program held here this week. Eighth-graders Karoline McMullen, Angela Primbus and Amanda Weatherhead, and their coach, parent Irene McMullen, competed against more than 1,200 students nationwide to win the Gold Medal Award.

Concerned that a 12,000-year-old population of brook trout was endangered due to toxic runoff in the watershed, these students developed a plan to educate area residents about the consequences of their daily actions and to motivate them to change. The students met with local hatcheries, the Chagrin River Land Conservancy, the Geauga Soil and Water District, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and other experts to determine the main threats to the health of area waterways. The culprits: lawn fertilizers and pesticides, and other chemicals that area residents inappropriately dispose of in the storm sewers that drain into area creeks. The majority of residents the students surveyed were unaware that the storm sewers drained into creeks and most were not aware of the fragile brook trout's existence.

"The brook trout has been in this area since the time of the glaciers," the students said. "We felt we needed to take action now to educate area residents in order to save this species from extinction."

As part of their education campaign, the students asked area residents to sign pledges to reduce non-point source pollution in their yards and neighborhoods, primarily from lawn fertilizers and pesticides. After a survey indicated that area residents were pouring excess chemicals into area storm drains, which lead to area waterways, the students tacked warning stickers on the drains alerting residents not to use the sewers as a dumping source. In addition, they educated residents about developing riparian buffer zones in their yards to contain the impact of fertilizers and other yard chemicals.

Photo of Lyndhurst Team

Gold Medal Winners — Lyndhurst, OH.
Left to right: Angela Primbas, Amanda Weatherhead, Karoline McMullen and Coach Irene McMullen.


The team won an expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World, along with seven other finalist teams, to experience the science behind the thrills as part of the Christopher Columbus Academy. In addition, each of these team members will receive a U.S. Savings Bond.

Three other teams received awards at the national competition.

$25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant — Pottstown, PA Area Middle School Students — With nearly 10% of children in the United States allergic to peanuts and dyes, this team of four students from St Aloysius, Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Wyndcroft School, developed their own handheld scanner system that shoppers can use to quickly and accurately read product labels to flag eight different allergens that go by up to 72 different names depending on the manufacturer. They received the competition's top prize — the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant — to turn their idea into a real product.

Gold Medal Award — Hillel Academy, Fairfield, CT — Every year, more than 200,000 children are treated in emergency rooms for playground related injuries, 70% of which are caused by falls on tough surfaces. Statistics like these prompted this team to test and develop what they consider to be the safest and cleanest playground surface — recycled rubber. By dropping eggs, growing mold and conducting shoe invasion tests with different playground surfaces, the students determined that rubber would absorb the impact of falls, stay clean of mold and weeds, be most accessible to handicapped visitors, and be less likely to track into childrenís shoes and inside buildings.

Judges' Award — A one-time award for addressing an emerging issue of critical importance: Childhood Obesity — Enterprise Charter School, Buffalo, NY — With childhood obesity on the rise to near epidemic proportions this team decided to take action. After surveying nearly 200 of their peers and finding that more than half have a sweet tooth, they decided to develop a healthy and tasty cookie to replace the high-sugar snacks teens typically eat. To take their idea a step further, they packaged their cookie in a pyramid shaped wrapper that also encourages kids to exercise.

Health, Safety, the Environment Top Students' List of Concerns

The most pressing community issues among this year's nearly 1,200 entries were health, the environment, and safety with special emphasis on the needs of people with disabilities.

Competition Attracts Teams of 'Everyday' Kids — Including an Unusually High Percentage of Girls and Minorities

More than half of the entrants to the Christopher Columbus Awards are girls, an unusually high number for a science competition, and a statistic that competition officials believe is linked to the teamwork aspect, which plays to a strength of middle-school-age girls. More than a fourth are from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, statistics that are higher than those of most science competitions.

"In a competition like this, middle school students gain critical life skills and discover, to their absolute amazement, that they truly can make a difference in the world," said Robert J. Glovitz, chairman of the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation. "They've seen that if they have a workable idea, and present it clearly, that very often people will listen and encourage them."

National Panel of Judges

Judges have included nationally prominent scientists, journalists, teachers and community leaders who have worked with children. This year's panel included:

Greg Hale — Vice President, Design & Engineering and Regulatory Compliance, Walt Disney World

Dr. M. Ian Phillips — Vice President for Research & Professor, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

Robert J. Glovitz — General Manager, EFI-ADS Communications, Inc., Scottsdale, AZ

Dr. Maria Lombardo — Educational Consultant, Rockville, MD

Rosalyn Queen Alonso — Former Chair, Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, Flemington, WV

Eight finalist teams won an all-expense-paid trip to the Walt Disney World® Resort, where they competed in the Christopher Columbus Awards' National Championship Week, June 19-24. Rewards included U.S. Savings Bonds for Gold Medal Award winners. In addition, the Pottstown team will bring home the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant to help bring its idea to life in the community. The finalists also attended the Christopher Columbus Academy, a custom-designed educational program. Conducted by scientists, engineers and educators, the program reveals the science and technology behind the thrills and excitement of Epcot®.

For a complete list of finalists and their entries, visit

Positive Community Change

The Christopher Columbus Awards challenge teams of middle-school students to explore and discover opportunities for positive change in their communities using science and technology. The program is now in its eighth year and has attracted more than 12,000 students from diverse backgrounds all across the U.S. The program is sponsored by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation with cooperation from the National Science Foundation and is endorsed by the National Middle School Association.

About the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation

The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation is an independent Federal government agency created by Congress in 1992 to encourage and support research, study and labor designed to produce new discoveries in all fields of endeavor for the benefit of mankind. The Foundation has established Frontiers of DiscoveryWork in Process and Discover the Future programs that recognize "cutting edge" innovation, innovative ideas of America's youth and honor teachers. These programs include the Frank Annunzio Award, Homeland Security Awards, Christopher Columbus Awards, National Gallery for America's Young Inventors and the Freida J. Riley Teacher Award. Please visit the Foundation's website at for more information on the programs it supports.

For more information on the Christopher Columbus Awards, call 1-800-291-6020 or visit