The middle school’s STEM Research team won the Air and Climate Challenge at the 2016 Lexus Eco Challenge competition, with each member receiving a $700 prize. The team competed against middle and high school students from across the country and are among only 32 teams chosen to compete in the finals, where they will be in the running for scholarships and grants of up to $30,000.

Team E.L.L.I! (Eat Local, Long Island) is made up of eighth-graders Jessica Bianco, Patrick Fallon, Jack Manning, Anish Mukti, James O’Connell, Noah Pietrafesa, Beatrix Postley, Ferah Shaikh, Nicholas Siconolfi and Chase Williams.

The Lexus Eco Challenge asks participants to solve problems in their own communities related to global warming, air pollution, ozone depletion, greenhouse gases, or fossil fuels and renewable energy. Each project was judged on its action plan, overall team effort, quality of writing and project gallery.

The team's national science education entry focused on reducing greenhouse gases in the environment, specifically focusing on the impact of food choices on the local environment. As part of their efforts, students brought awareness of this topic to the community, stressing the importance of reducing our collective carbon footprint. For example, they took a farm-to-table approach by encouraging the school cafeteria and local restaurant owners to buy local. The team contributed an op-ed piece to the middle school newspaper and presented their project to the District Health and Wellness Council.

Ken Packert, K-12 science curriculum leader, said the Eco Challenge fit nicely with the district’s focus on personalized learning. “These students gained valuable knowledge and experience in an appropriate way personalized to their skills,” he said. “It is rewarding to see our future scientists develop the skills they need to be successful 21st-century citizens.”

Middle school teacher Julie Feltman coaches the team with the assistance of Rebecca Glavan. Seven of the team members will move on to the finals as the team “Eat Local America,” including Bianco, Manning, O’Connell, Pietrafesa, Postley, Shaikh and Siconolfi.