Some Evans Middle School students have been turning out the lights to illuminate the importance of energy conservation -- and to show their campus that a simple flick of a switch can make a big difference.

A team of six 8th grade students from Evans Middle School is one of 16 entries from across the country to earn $10,000 in scholarships and grants in the Lexus Eco Challenge, an educational program and contest that inspires and empowers young people to learn about the environment and take action to improve it. The Evans Middle School team -- Crystal Chavira, Avery Hall, Sara Kerr, Ethan Maliskas, Johnny Millar and Reed Waterman -- has qualified to participate in the Final Challenge for a chance at one of two $30,000 grand prizes.

The Lexus Eco Challenge is divided into three competitions: Challenge #1 (Land/Water); Challenge #2 (Air/Climate); and Challenge #3 (The Final Challenge). For each of the challenges, teams are required to define an environmental issue that is important to them, develop an action plan to address the issue, implement the plan, and report on the results. Winners from the first two challenges are invited to compete in The Final Challenge. During The Final Challenge teams may choose from three topics: Global Warming and Climate Change; Ozone Depletion; or Fossil and Renewable Energy.

 “The Lexus Eco Challenge gives teens the opportunity to change the world, starting with their community,” said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager.  “With the Final Challenge of this competition we want to see how they can use their skills and grand ideas to improve the environment in the world at large. We look forward to seeing what they can accomplish.”

Evans Middle School entered the Air/Climate Challenge in October. Their project entry included a Watt Watchers Program that enlisted students to monitor light usage. As they moved throughout the school each day, the Watt Watchers looked for lights left on in empty classrooms and placed notes on doors to remind teachers and staff members that they can conserve energy by turning off the lights when their rooms are not in use. The project also included “Half-Watt Wednesdays” during which classrooms would use only half their lights during instructional time.

Student Reed Waterman, a member of the team said, “We’ve been doing this for quite some time now, and I never noticed the lights that were left on, or wasting energy. But now, if I’m walking down the hall, I can’t help but notice, and even in my own home, I walk through and turn off lights in the rooms that aren’t being used.”

Kimberly Church, teacher at Evans Middle School and sponsor of the project, spoke about the impact of the project. “Once teachers realized that just one minute of wasted energy, every day, times the amount of teachers in our district and the amount of days we teach in a school year, is enough energy to power a school for an entire year, you begin to see how it all adds up.”

“The teachers and students are really excited about it, and we’re seeing our energy use dropping month to month. We’re excited to take our program to the community and the world through our Watt Watchers app for the iPhone and Android. It will be released within a week, and more educational information about how people can use affordable technology to have a more sustainable and carbon neutral home will be available on our Facebook Community/Cause Page,” she said.

The Final Challenge will take place January – February 2013 with winners announced in March 2013.

And there is no reason to think that the team from Evans Middle School won’t be holding one of those $30,000 grand prizes. Either way, they are making their presence known on their campus by shedding light on a simple strategy for energy conservation -- just turn off the light.

You can find the students’ community effort on Facebook by searching McKinney Watt Watchers:

For more information on the Lexus Eco Challenge, please visit:


For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Specialist, at 469-302-4007 or