NETWORK: Mountain Island Third Grade Wins Forest Defender of the Year Award

What happens when a group of third grade students launches a phenomenal postcard campaign and follows it up with an original theatrical production about protecting Southern forests? They win an award! On February 26, 2010, Dogwood Alliance presented its first Forest Defender of the Year Award to Mountain Island Elementary School’s Third Grade class, led by 8-year-old student Cole Rasenberger.

Some of you may remember our friend Cole. He contacted us last year to ask how he could help protect Southern Forests. (We thought Cole was much older until we got a secret tip from his mom!)

By Earth Week 2009, Cole and his classmates had created an impressive hand-made postcard campaign targeted at fast food companies and urging them to re-think their approaches to paper packaging. The then second-graders made presentations to every class in their school and collected more than 2,000 postcards from fellow students. Their efforts earned them a feature in one of the world’s most recognized kids magazine, Ranger Rick!

But they didn’t stop there. As third graders, Cole and his buddies have written and performed a play about how fast food companies are destroying the coastal forests in his home state of North Carolina. The students make all of the props and costumes for their production from recycled materials. The script even included an appearance from an endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

The class has entered their play in a competition hosted by Odyssey of the Mind, an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college

“The kids’ play delivers a big message, with lots of humor and creativity, in only 8 minutes,” said Danna Smith, executive director, Dogwood Alliance. “It was very inspirational to watch, and all of us at Dogwood will be cheering them on in their competition. I was delighted to present them with our first Forest Defender of the Year Award!”

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