Contact: Linda Topoleski, 412-389-0410
Or: 4-H Organization Volunteer
Jacqueline Nunn, 706-795-2281

Tornado Survival Program by Madison County, GA 4-H Students Wins Gold Medal in National Science/Community Service Competition Held at Walt Disney World®

Students Develop Tornado Survival Program in Response to a 2004 Category F3 Storm

ORLANDO, FL—June 1, 2006 Bright ideas, solid research and teamwork won four students from the Madison County, GA, 4-H Club a Gold Medal and a $2,000 Savings Bond in the Christopher Columbus Awards, a nationwide program that challenges middle-school students to explore opportunities for positive change in their communities. Eighth-graders Dylan Brooks, Steven Goldman, Samantha Wood, John Scott, and their coach, 4-H volunteer leader Jacqueline Nunn, made it to the semifinals earlier this month by developing a unique tornado survival kit and community education program.

The Category F3 tornado that hit Madison County in September 2004, injuring people and destroying homes and other property, highlighted just how unprepared residents are for catastrophes. Homes in this rural area are not built to withstand major storms, and few areas have tornado warning sirens. Each team member was personally affected by that storm, either through the loss of their own home or the property of someone close to him or her.

Through research involving the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a Georgia State climatologist, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other websites, the students determined that properly preparing residents for potentially devastating storms could go a long way toward preventing injury and property loss.

Team Photo

Gold Medal Award Winners, "T.A.S.K. Force — Tornado Awareness and Survival Kit " — Danielsville, GA.
Left to right: Samantha Wood, Dylan Brooks, Coach Jackie Nunn, John Scott and Steven Goldman.

The team developed a resident education program that includes tornado drill practice, designation of safe rooms in houses, understanding of weather warning signs, and a tornado survival kit that includes not just food, water and communications equipment, but protective footwear and identification bracelets. They plan to focus their education first on families in manufactured homes and with elderly and disabled residents.

A panel of community leaders, scientists and experts in science education judged this idea as one of the top eight entries in the U.S. Over 1,200 students and coaches participated nationwide.

Team Wins a Trip to Walt Disney World

The team and their coach won an all-expense-paid trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, where they competed in the Christopher Columbus Awards' National Championship Week, and participated in 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 and the Magic Kingdom.

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 tenth year and has attracted nearly 14,000 students from diverse backgrounds all across the U.S. The program is sponsored by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation ( with support from the National Science Foundation and it is endorsed by the National Middle School Association. Past winners have included: a group of students from IS 164 in the Washington Heights section of New York who won a special Judges' Award for their portable, inflatable backpack seat which would enable students of all sizes to see the blackboard; a group of Native American girls who built a study hall out of straw on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana; and a group of students from Pennsylvania who developed a video/motion sensor device for school buses that deters motorists from trying to pass illegally.

Strong Participation from Girls, Minorities

The program attracts many students who may not typically enter a science competition. More than half of the entrants are girls, and more than a fourth are from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, statistics that are higher than those of most science competitions. The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation believes the teamwork aspect and community focus draw a broader range of students to enter.

About the Sponsor

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 Discovery—Work in Progress and Discover the Future, programs that recognize "cutting edge" innovations, innovative ideas of America's youth, and honor teachers. These programs include the Homeland Security Award, Christopher Columbus Awards, National Gallery for America's Young Inventors and the $10,000 Freida J. Riley Teacher Award.

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