10/7/2014 5:20:35 PM

Project Polar Bear - Register Thru Nov. 15!

Each fall groups of young people from around North America, led by intrepid advisors, team up for Polar Bear International's "Project Polar Bear" (PPB).

The contest challenges young leaders to develop community projects that reduce the carbon dioxide load in the atmosphere—especially those that engage and sustain community action. It is open to students 11-18 in the U.S. and Canada working in small teams or big groups.

During six months, these teams create, implement, and plan sustainable projects. Over the past five years, contestants have inspired long-term change in their communities through sustainable, ongoing projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Since 2006, Jenna Whitney's PPB teams have been inspiring their community near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—the "Steel City," where factories, mills, and nearby mines provide the means for a good living.

"We are the very definition of a blue-collar community," said Whitney. "I was apprehensive about how a contest like this would be received by our community, but then I realized we had the perfect people delivering the information—children!"

"Our projects took off from a small idea and grew and grew until now it is a part of the culture of our school district," Whitney continued. "Being an advisor is so incredibly rewarding!" 

Margie Marks of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium originally encouraged Whitney to get a group together and has been impressed with the work of Whitney and her kids.

"Take Jenna's 2010 team for example, the Energy Angels, consisting of three ambitious 9th grade students. Armed with CFL bulbs instead of guns, the Energy Angels initiated their project by educating their classmates on energy usage and how it connects to their carbon footprint, and ultimately climate change," Marks said. "Eventually, their project blossomed into a community-wide effort to make smart energy choices, and therefore reduce their carbon footprint. Their efforts were so successful that they were able to partner with a local energy provider to distribute thousands of CFL bulbs throughout the community." 

The Energy Angels won PPB's top prize and their work continues today.

Whitney said that her decision to form a PPB group has changed the way their school and community look at and treat the environment.

"Through this project we have had the ability to not only educate our students but also our community that what we do in our small community has a larger impact on the whole world, including polar bears," Whitney said. 

"Each year, Jenna introduces me to her new Project Polar Bear team," Marks said. "Last year, it was the Green Dream Team and their '1,000 Acts of Green Project.' No surprise, another big win for the polar bears. If we are to save the polar bears, it will take efforts of young people like The Energy Angels and the Green Dream Team. It will also take teachers like Jenna, who have the special blend of characteristics that enable them to mold the next generation of proactive conservationists."

Project Polar Bear registration is on now through November 15. Consider becoming an adult advisor—or reaching out to teachers or local youth leaders—to channel youthful energy into positive projects and help transform your own community! 

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