In school we learn about the water cycle, ecosystems, weather, climate change, and many other aspects of our global environment. We learn about plants, animals, and all kinds of critters that inhabit the Earth with us. However, rarely do our students get the chance to really learn about how humans ourselves are affecting the planet; changing it in ever increasing ways. With over 7 billion people on the planet and a projection to hit 10 billion by 2050, humans may be one of the most important factors in affecting our global environment.
Unfortunately, most teachers don’t have a good opportunity to engage their students in learning much about this critical piece of environmental education. Many schools don’t have the resources or knowledge on how humans actually are impacting our environment. Luckily, this is where extra-curricular competitions like the World of 7 Billion Student Video Contest (W7B) step in and fill the academic-gap.
The World of 7 Billion contest provides both teachers and students with resources to help get started learning about these topics. Competitions like W7B are helping teachers incorporate critical lessons into their classrooms and beyond. W7B alone provides elementary, middle, and high school lesson plans covering everything from carbon emissions to ocean acidification to fertility rates and life expectancy in developing nations. But it’s more than just lesson plans, competitions also provide real money to students and teachers. The World of 7 Billion includes awards up to $1,000 for the best video submissions in each category, and provides over 70 awards in total each year!
How are we changing animal habitats? How are we changing environment to meet our energy needs? How are we changing our own ability to provide environmental, social, and economic security to our ever increasing population? These are three questions that this year’s contest is challenging students to learn about and present their own exciting videos detailing how population change is having an impact.
W7B is just one of an expanding array of environmentally themed competitions that are playing a bigger and bigger role in helping engage students in environmental education topics that are getting less and less time in the formal classroom. If you want to make sure your students are getting a healthy dose of environmental, social impact, and global change education don’t miss out on all of these opportunities. You can find a full list of environmentally related competitions in our ICS database here. But be sure not to miss the World of 7 Billion that is open for submissions now through February 28th, 2019.
Environmental competitions are available to students of all ages and come in a slew of different structures and styles. Want your students to get introduced to ocean science? There's a competition for that. Want students to start taking on conservation or sustainability projects? There's a competition for that. Want to create videos, posters, or written research reports about environmental challenges? There are competitions for that.
In the list below we've identified our top environmental competitions for students of all ages. We group these into two types (Submission Based and Performance Based). There are great benefits available in both types of competitions that can help you and your students take the first steps in environmental conservation, or solidify funding for advanced project development! After years of researching academic competitions, we know that not every competition is the same in terms of what benefits it provides to its participants. The structure and design of competitions matters just as much (if not more than) the awards provided, by going to the competition's ICS database listing, you'll be able to learn more about the benefits of each program.
Check out our lists below to help you understand more about what kinds of environmentally themed educational competitions are available for your students, and don’t forget, you can search through our entire competition database online to find, filter and follow your favorite competitions.
World of 7 Billion Competition: this featured challenge in the ICS environmental competitions database helps students take the first steps into global change-making by researching challenges associated with global population change, and creating a video describing their solution to the problem. Check it out today.
Submission Based Competitions
ICS tries to organize competitions into common types that will help students, parents, and educators alike understand which competitions are best for them. One of the most common types of competitions and awards are "submission-based." This is where students are required to create something and submit it to be judged for awards. These are typically less complex than other types of competitions, but also may not have as many awards or benefits built in to the programs. Check out the environmental student competitions that are submission-based here:
Students submit projects that integrate architecture with natural environmental systems, and technology to provide architectural solutions that protect and enhance the environment. The competition is for college students.
A contest for students to design zero net energy buildings based on an annual design brief provided. For College Students.
Students imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future that showcase their solution to a citywide sustainability issue. Past topics include stormwater management, urban agriculture, and green energy. The competition is for middle school students.
Students create their own work of art, prose, poetry, or film that interprets an annual contest theme and advocates for ocean conservation. The competition is for middle and high school students.
Students submit original and inspiring artwork from around the country for the shot at being featured in the NOAA Marine Debris Program calendar. This award is available for elementary and middle school students.
Students create an artistic poster based on the annual theme. There are three types of entries that students can submit to the Ocean Pal's competition: (1) National Poster, (2) International Poster, or (3) Digital Image. This contest is available to elementary and middle school students.
This international art competition engages students to promote the need to preserve, protect, and restore the world’s oceans and aquatic resources. Students submit original artwork to the challenge that are reviewed by the foundation. This is available to middle and high school students.
Students submit Essays based on the themes of the Climate Law and Governance Day conference generally about how to create laws that will benefit the climate and environment. The contest is for college students.
This environmental short film contest for southern California high school students asks students to create a film about topics in any of these categories: (1) Climate Heroes– People or communities making a positive climate impact, (2) Watertopia– Imaginative solutions for clean and sustainable water, (3) No Justice, No Green– Social justice issues, such as poverty, race and gender in relation to the environment, (4) You Are What You Eat– elements of the food ecosystem (dining, agriculture, supply chain, culture, etc), or (5) Wild CA– Animals, plants or natural systems found in neighborhoods or nearby parks. The contest is open to high school students in Southern California.
Students should think of a problem in their community and what kind of robot they would design to help overcome that problem. Student posters will provide suggestions, in artwork form, on how their robot would tackle environmental issues, financial issues, food supply issues, healthcare, over-crowding, poverty, safety needs, transportation, unemployment, or any other need their community needs to address. Winning posters will be neat, colorful, and present clearly how your students’ robot concept could improve life in their community. The contest is available to middle and high school students in the Southern California area.
This environmental sustainability competition challenges 9th through 12th graders to seek new ways to support the transition to sustainability. Students research complex topics related to sustainability, then innovate technologies, designs, or plans to mobilize behavior. They must create a plan of action to put their ideas to practice. The competition is open to high school students.
Students in grades K–12 are invited to participate in a national recycling awareness contest sponsored by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and JASON Learning. Students can submit either a video or poster submission responding to the annual theme. The 2018 theme is “Recycling is Bigger than the Bin!” Student videos should respond to the theme by promoting ways to recycle various materials. This competition is open to elementary, middle, and high school students.
Students must develop a solution to an environmental issue affecting their community. They use their critical-thinking and research skills to come up with a solution and report on the results by way of an Action Plan submitted to the challenge. This competition is available to middle and high school students.
Students demonstrate through original drawings of Smokey Bear or Woodsy Owl their understanding of wildfire prevention and basic environmental conservation principles. Available for elementary students.
Students take photos that capture the spirit of exploration and write a short description about the "moment" when it was captured. Available for Middle and High School students.
Each day throughout the month of October, a uniquely themed challenge will be delivered to students. Each challenge will be live for 24 hours inviting participants to complete actions and upload deliverables to acquire points and prizes. Deliverables include photos, videos, and text uploaded on the PGC site, as well as across TG social platforms. This is available to high school and college students.
This contest provides children and youth a chance to show their love and affection for our shared natural world by writing an essay on the value of nature and submitting it for recognition and awards. This is available to high school and college students.
This contest challenges middle and high school students to create their own inspirational videos about solutions to global challenges associated with population growth. Students submit their videos online to be eligible for awards and other opportunities. This is open to middle and high school students.
Students submit entries in three media categories; Article, Photograph, and Video. Participants can choose one media category. Submissions must respond to one or more of the sustainable development goals. This is available to middle, high school, or college students.
In this type of academic competition, students must create something, or do something that meets a challenge statement for the competition. Generally the student or team of students that score the best on how their submission performs win the awards. Generally, in the environmental competition arena, there are two types of performance based competitions: ones where students conduct a conservation/sustainability project and get rewarded for it, and ones where students create or engineer a solution to an environmental problem and are evaluated on how well it performs. We list both of these types of competitions below for you to review.
Students submit an application identifying and describing their outstanding work in support of the environment. Students must have already performed a project in an area of environmental conservation to be awarded on of the finalist spots. The awards are for elementary, middle, or high school students.
Similar in nature to the Brower Youth Awards, in the Eco Hero Awards, youth from countries around the globe send in their applications and explain their work relating to an environmental project they have started or been involved in. Then a panel of judges including experts in environmental science, biology and education determines the year’s top achievers. Students must have already completed (or at least reached significant milestones in) the environmental conservation project to be considered. The awards are for middle and high school students.
The Genius Olympiad is an international high school academic competition about environmental issues. It hosts projects in five general disciplines with an environmental focus: Science, Visual and Performance Arts, Business, Writing, and Robotics. Projects in each category take different forms, but all fall within the environmental issues themes. The competition is for middle and high school students.
Students make a video about their activities to help combat climate change and submit the video for awards. Youth climate projects happening around the globe are eligible. The project can be in either of two categories: (1) Climate friendly and resilient cities, or (2) Oceans and climate change. The contest is for college students.
This award celebrates and recognizes inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America. Each year, the Barron Prize honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference to people and the environment. Students must submit an application detailing how they have conducted a project that helps people or the environment. The award is available for elementary, middle, and high school students.
This competition exposes students to diverse environmental issues, ecosystems, and topography. Teams compete for recognition and scholarships by demonstrating their knowledge of environmental science and natural resource management. Student teams are evaluated on their performance at each of the following training/testing stations−Soils/Land Use, Aquatic Ecology, Forestry, Wildlife, Current Environmental Issue. This competition is available to high school students.
Students from across the country working in groups on an Energy Challenge designed to stretch their minds and energy knowledge. Want to stretch your mind even more? A limited number of spaces are available for a special two-day, pre-conference event which will allow students access to additional hands-on energy sessions, time to discuss energy with their peers, and access to industry professionals to learn about energy careers. These awards are available for elementary, middle, and high school students.
PEYA has two parts — a regional award for Grades K-5 and a regional award for Grades 6-12. Students must complete an environmental project and submit an application for through their sponsoring school and teacher. These awards are available for elementary, middle, and high school students.
This award recognizes young people who take conservation action at an early age. Each year, it recognize the work of the next generation of conservation leaders.To be considered for the award students must complete and submit a written and video application describing their conservation work demonstrating their leadership in the field. This is available to high school and college students.
This competition is a global challenge to students to develop ideas to tackle the pressures on the world’s Food, Water and Energy resources. Participants first submit an initial idea. These ideas are evaluated and selected teams move forward to develop their ideas in conjunction with Shell Mentors and Subject Matter Experts. In the final stage, five finalists are selected to present their idea to a panel of judges. This is available to college students.
Students conduct water related science projects that start at local or regional levels and advance to national competitions. National finalists are then invited to participate in the annual international Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition. This is available to high school students.
Students who have a big idea to protect or restore the environment; or who have a vision for a more sustainable future can be a Young Champion of the Earth. Each year, six young people – one from each global region – will be named Young Champions of the Earth. These winners receive seed funding, intensive training, and tailored mentorship to help them bring their big environmental ideas to life. This is available to high school and college students.
Students use critical thinking in "rapid memory recall" questions covering the biology, physics, geology, and chemistry of the oceans, as well as related geography, technology, history, policy, and current events. Teams of students compete in a tournament (bowl) style competition to see which team can answer the most questions correctly in each match. This competition is available to high school students.
Undergraduate students design engineering projects related to environmental conservation and biology. Students design a project to respond to specific engineering criteria and performance metrics. The contest is open to college students.
During JSS students design, build and race solar powered cars using hands-on engineering skills and principles of science and math. They develop teamwork and problem solving abilities, investigate environmental issues, and gain hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills. Students submit their own model solar cars and race them against others. The competition is available to middle school students.
Student teams create their own small scale wind turbines and are judged on how much electricity they can generate! Teams first participate in regional events held across the US. Then teams selected for the final program are invited to the national championship and tested in a large wind-tunnel. The competition is open to elementary, middle, and high school students.
Shell Eco-marathon is a unique competition that challenges students around the world to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient car. With three annual events in Asia, Americas and Europe, student teams take to the track to see who goes further on the least amount of fuel. This is available to high school and college students.
This is a collegiate competition of 10 contests that challenge student teams to design and build full-size, solar-powered houses. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends design excellence and smart energy production with innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency. This is available to college students.
This contest promotes real-world design experience for students interested in pursuing education and careers in water and wastewater engineering and science. The competition tasks individuals or teams of students to prepare and present a design that helps solve a water quality issue. Teams evaluate alternative ideas, perform calculations, and recommend solutions in the form of an engineering report and presentation. This is available for college students.
The Institute of Competition Sciences provides information about all kinds of academic competitions free of charge to help more students get excited about learning! We unfortunately cannot guarantee the veracity of the information on our site about these competitions, so please (1) Report anything that is incorrect to us!, and (2) Always check the competitions official website to verify important information like deadlines and rules.
Also remember, you can search, filter, and save competitions you like on your ICS portal, by using our database feature. So if you want to just see environmental competitions for high school students, or just engineering competitions, or anything else, use the database feature here!
In recent years, we’ve seen some amazing millennials graduate college and enter the professional world. Through this generation we were introduced to such global change makers as Boyan Slat, the 23 year old Founder of The Ocean Cleanup, Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist leading global change in women’s rights through Malala.org, and many others.
With such inspiring young change-makers now leading their own organizations, we started to wonder, where are the next great social leaders going to come from? We know that the millennials and their younger centennial counterparts currently in K-12 schools are generations that care a lot about solving global challenges. As the Case Foundation’s 2016 Millennial Impact Report puts it, “Millennials are looking to effect change and make a difference through individualistic and personally gratifying action.”
Unfortunately, the traditional K12 classroom provides little opportunity for these students to engage with the content of global change-makers beyond a few classroom activities or homework assignments. In fact, according to a 2015 Gallup poll of over 1 million K-12 students in the United States, only half of students feel engaged in school, while a fifth are actively disengaged. About 10 percent are classified as both actively disengaged and discouraged. So it’s safe to say that the traditional classroom alone is not the great breeding ground for our next global change-makers.
Our schools need help connecting students with real-world social-change experiences that can show students they can become the next Boyan Slat or Malala. To help create these important connections, many educators are turning to educational challenges and competitions.
The Institute of Competition Sciences has identified over 35 academic competitions for K-12 students in the United States that actively deal with social-impact. In recent discussions with one of our partners, the World of 7 Billion contest, we wondered how data from academic competitions might be used to help identify where our next global change-makers are coming from. So we decided to test it out with a little data dive from the contest.
Discovering American Change-Maker Factories.
Ben Allen, from the World of 7 Billion, helped us take an introductory look at some of their submission information from the past three years to see if we could identify any trends in where students are having the most success in defining their own solutions to global challenges.
In the 2016-2017 school year, roughly 5,500 students participated in the World of 7 Billion (W7B) contest in which middle school and high school students take the first steps in global change-making by producing their own videos addressing a global challenge and offering a self-designed solution. Each year the contest has different themes. Last year, students were challenged to develop videos describing solutions in areas of climate change, rapid urbanization, and ocean health. For the February 2018 submission deadline, students can propose solutions in the areas of: advancing women and girls, feeding 10 billion, and preventing pollution.
We began by examining the sheer number of submissions to the challenge. In 2017, out of 2913 submissions, 2466 were from the United States. Not surprisingly, many of the states with the highest number of submissions were also states with the highest populations. Texas and California top the list with 316 and 167 submissions per year (averages based on submissions from the 2015, 2016, and 2017 contests). New York State also shows up in the top 5 based on sheer number of submissions. These three states are also the three most populous states in the nation.
There are a few notable exceptions, particularly Virginia, which has the third highest number of submissions, but falls in the middle of the pack in terms of population, giving it the highest submissions per million population (17.1) of all states except Connecticut.
Of course, just identifying the total number of submissions probably doesn’t have too much correlation to how many students will ultimately go on to be the next great change-makers. It probably correlates much more closely to how many students have actually heard about the competition. To get a better sense of where there might be outstanding work being done by the school and students, we have to look at the awards. Are there any stand-out states in terms of what awards the students are winning? Can we see stand-outs in the number of awards per submissions, or even awards per million population?
For this, we evaluated the last 3 years of the W7B competition and counted how many awards were received in each state. We used the ICS Badging points system to help evaluate how each state was doing based on all of the different levels of W7B awards received. Here’s what we found:
By pure points, California comes out on top. Over the past three years, California students have brought in a 1st place finish, a 2nd place finish, three honorable mentions, and two additional finalist placements totaling 3450 ICS points. Virginia is again in the top placements, close on the heels of California with 3000 ICS points, followed by Wisconsin at 2600 and New Jersey and Texas rounding out the top 5 with 2200 points each.
But still, simply looking at the sheer number of points, doesn’t really tell us if any one state stands out from the “norm.” California has the most points, but it also has the 2nd most submissions, and the highest population. Taking the next step in our analysis, we looked at the points per entry.
In this table, we’ve included all states that scored points in the World of 7 Billion contest between 2015 and 2017, regardless of how many yearly entries the state had. However, what we should really consider in looking at points per entry, are only the states with a significant number of entries each year. This eliminates states where there were just 1 or 2 entries submitted each year, but they did very well in placing. For example, Mississippi and Idaho and even to an extent, Utah, Minnesota, and Hawaii who scored fairly low in overall points, but because they had so few entries, they come out on top in the points per entry category. It’s hard to say that states with fewer than 10 to 20 entries per year demonstrate a trend in delivering above average numbers of upcoming global change makers.
For the sake of this experiment, we consider an average of 20 submissions per year, to be the minimum for which we can make any relevant inference about above average performance in producing future global change-makers. When we consider this cutoff, we start to see a few standout states.
Chief among them is Wisconsin, followed by Illinois and Pennsylvania. With 49 average entries per year, Wisconsin has a significant base of participation. Wisconsin also comes in ranked 3rd in overall ICS points at 2600. In fact, Wisconsin shines not only in their overall points, but also in both points per entry and points per total population. So in this introductory experiment, we give our outstanding Global Change-Maker Factory award, to … Wisconsin!
What does all of this actually mean? Is Wisconsin destined to produce the next Boyan Slat, or Malala Yousafzai for the United States? Not at all. We must be careful about what we infer from such limited data, this is mostly a thought experiment to start examining how we might use academic competitions to infer larger scale trends. Far more data and deeper mathematical analysis would be needed to make real statistical projections. However, we can say that Wisconsin schools and educational organizations have been great at promoting a connection to global change-making for their students. Will they continue to lead the awards in the World of 7 Billion contest? The chances look good that they’ll at least produce a number of top contenders.
Regardless of where you’re from, using the World of 7 Billion student video contest, students have been able to create their own self-image as a global change-maker, and this is something everyone can celebrate. If you want to jump into the game in global change-making, or get your students involved, the World of 7 Billion contest is a great entry point. There are 3 months before submissions are due for the 2018 competition on February 22nd. Maybe your students can represent your state and start their journey down the path towards solving some of the biggest challenges of our time. Check out the World of 7 Billion to get started.
- Millennials have proven to be a very socially engaged generation, but continued support from younger generations is needed.
- Video creation has been shown to be a great learning tool that can also inspire action in young change-makers.
- The World of 7 Billion contest provides a unique opportunity for middle and high school educators to connect students with global change on a level they can easily internalize.
It seems like we’ve been trying to tackle pollution, hunger, women’s rights, and other global challenges, for … well, forever. And unfortunately, it seems like the solution is always just beyond our reach. These challenges are so complex and have such a wide ranging set of variables that it is impossible to say that there is one solution. There is no smoking gun where, if only we did X, we would solve world hunger, or we would end pollution, or equalize the rights of all people. Global change happens through the combination of many local and regional changes that percolate into our systems, societies, and economies leading to global trends that move the needle. However, getting students to realize this without being overwhelmed by the challenges ahead can be difficult.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen the Millennial generation grow into its own, entering the workforce and creating new social enterprises to help tackle these global challenges. We were introduced to Millennial change-makers such as Boyan Slat, the 23 year old Founder of The Ocean Cleanup, and Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist leading global change in women’s rights through Malala.org, and other Millennials who have taken the plunge into instigating social change. However, these complex challenges will not be solved by just a few leaders. Solutions require masses of new change-makers to build upon what has come before.
The Case Foundation’s 2016 Millennial Impact Report noted that, “Millennials are looking to effect change and make a difference through individualistic and personally gratifying action.” They act locally, as everyday change-makers. With the rise of the Millennial generation and the success of these young heroes, educators all over the world are starting to see that they can actually inspire students to take action and become mentors to a generation of global change-makers.
Of course, it’s not easy to showcase how students can actually have an impact on such complex, global challenges. For many educators, inspiring action in these areas can seem daunting, especially to students who have as of yet had little to no experience fighting for social change. Sometimes the tasks simply seem too complex to even understand where to start.
So what are educators to do if they want to help inspire their students to become the next global change makers?
One proven way to inspire action is through video – not just watching video about global change – but creating videos where students can use multiple skills to internalize the content. In 2014, Dr. Peter Willmot and his colleagues at Loughborough University and Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom demonstrated that, “there is strong evidence that digital video reporting can inspire and engage students when incorporated into student-centered learning activities.”
Dr. Willmot and his colleagues found that when students create their own videos, they are effectively combining the learning-through-teaching principle with a number of other skills that help to build deep, intrinsic connections to the content and internalize their own learning. In one study, conducted at Loughborough University, Dr. Willmot, found that 3 out of 4 students said they enjoyed a learning activity using video creation as its primary learning tool. While this research does not compare these student responses to those of other learning tools, it does show that video development can be a significant way to engage students.
The World of 7 Billion student video contest provides a unique opportunity for educators to put this research to practice and use video creation to not only educate students on global issues, but inspire them into action. The academic contest will not only help your students learn about global challenges, but it will also engage them in conceptualizing actionable solutions of their own.
In the World of 7 Billion contest, students create their own 60 second video connecting population pressures with one of three global challenges: advancing women and girls, feeding 10 billion, or preventing pollution. Students must also include their own concept on how we can move forward with solving the challenge, and showcase this to the world through their video.
The majority of last year’s student participants said they actually wanted to expand upon their video projects and work on helping to implement a solution!
Students throughout the world are eligible for awards, but more so than just winning prizes, they are included into a global community of young change-makers. Go beyond the traditional research project and encourage deeper learning for your students. Video submissions for the 2018 contest are due in February, but accepting on a rolling basis. So now is the time to start thinking about projects, and getting your students ready to go!
Check out all of the details at World of 7 Billion.