Fifth Grade Orca Project Wins First Place at Santa Cruz Earth Day

‘We Ourselves Set this Problem in Motion, Let’s Help Save the Orcas of the Ocean,’  a project of the Mount Madonna School (MMS) fifth grade class, has won First Place in the environmental Class Challenge at the Santa Cruz Earth Day celebration on April 18. The students were presented with $300 prize for their First Place finish. 
‘The judges seemed really engaged with our project and what we shared,’ reflected fifth grader Simone McIntyre. ‘I felt like we all explained our project really well. When we started talking to the public I was nervous, but I became more comfortable and was really able to share what we’ve learned. People told me they learned a lot from us and had a strong interest in our petition.’
‘I liked that the event was held on the grass by the river,’ shared classmate Bryce Adams. ‘I wish I could have been there for the award presentation since I spoke to the judges. I wasn’t nervous talking with the judges, but later found out one of them was the mayor of Santa Cruz; if I had known that earlier, I would have been a little nervous. It was pretty cool that our project won!’
The fifth graders took turns hosting their booth at the annual San Lorenzo Park event, and spoke knowledgably to the public about their project. Their display included a computer showing the humorous and educational movie they created, students’ research boards, original artwork and reports. Students also displayed the response letters they received from various government officials.’
‘I enjoyed all the people talking with me and asking me questions,’ said fifth grader Grace Timan. ‘I was surprised so many people didn’t know about microbeads. It felt good knowing I had taught people about the reasons for banning microbeads in personal care products.’ When the judges came around to talk with us, I felt a little nervous and worried that I would make a mistake; but after I started talking, I found my voice and was able to tell them everything I wanted to about our project.’
In addition to the cash award, the director of the San Cruz Museum of Natural History was impressed by the students’ knowledge of orcas and the Monterey Bay, she invited the students to be “junior docents” during weekend public tours at the museum.  
‘As a teacher it is a great experience to watch students embrace their project and the curriculum so deeply that they can speak to others intelligently and with passion,’ comments fifth grade teacher Jessica Cambell. ‘Many adults approached me about how well-spoken, knowledgeable and persuasive the children were when speaking about their project. I love the Earth Day event because the students learn to interact with the public, receive positive feedback for their work, and see that they are changing the world.”
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Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.