Liam Kiniery, 12, a student at Saint Vincent de Paul School, was the grand-prize winner in "Be an Agent for Change," a national contest sponsored by Time for Kids magazine. The children designed pamphlets on how to save resources and conserve energy.
Two other students from Kiniery's sixth grade class-Kristen Costanza and Andrew Miltner (both age 11)-were firstprize winners and had their submissions published on the Time for Kids Web site (www.timeforkids.com).
Teacher Susan Pelliccia made the contest into a class assignment and submitted her students' work in for consideration. "We just happened to be on a chapter about Earth science. The kids were very interested in the topics," Pelliccia said. Marilyn Skillender is the principal of Saint Vincent de Paul.
"The Earth is in trouble," Kiniery warned. His submission, a how-to guide called "How to save the Earth," included ways to conserve energy.
Miltner's entry, on compost boxes, made him more aware of the damage being done to the planet. "To make a compost box, you just put all the waste in it and you can use it as a fertilizer," he said. "All over my block, I see that there is trash everywhere. People just throw it on the floor. They are ruining the Earth. I encouraged my neighbors to be more careful."
Costanza's guide on preventing global warming included small suggestions on conservation that could yield big results. "You can turn down lights or turn them off when no one is around and turn off video games when no one is using them," she said. "Some people are ignoring the problem of global warming, but we need to reduce our use of fossil fuels. I think I will try to help the environment in the future."
In honor of Kiniery capturing the national grand prize, the Toyota Motor Corp.'s "Highway to the Future: Mobile Hybrid Experience" tour came to Saint Vincent de Paul School for a day. Open to the entire school and the public, attendees had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the Prius, Camry Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid to experience Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system for themselves. Along with the cars, a trailer, or "mobile museum" featured exhibits on alternative fuels, environment resources and hybrid technology.
"I am really into cars so I thought that part was really cool," Kiniery said. "They had huge flat-screen TVs with information about the Earth on them."
As attendees went to each exhibit, they collected points. Those who acquired many points became eligible to have a tree planted in any forest in the United States under their name for Arbor Day. Toyota will plant more than 50,000 trees in honor of those visiting the experience in conjunction with the National Arbor Day Foundation. Toyota officials said that planting these trees will help offset the "carbon footprint" of the trucks transporting the tour across the country.
"The tour will help educate kids and adults about the environment. The population has really depleted resources," Joel Franco Chakkalakal, road producer for Toyota's Mobile Hybrid Experience tour, explained. "The exhibit shows what kids need to do as conscious citizens and they can figure out ways to help the environment. The tour promotes awareness of the environment and explains how critical our resources are. We have to do something."