116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In Iowa cities and across the country, waterways are being polluted by pharmaceutical drugs.
But some local streams will run a little bit cleaner now because of four West Branch Middle School sixth-graders.
At their first TakeAway day in February, Kara Fountain, Allison Kusick, Gabby Salemink and Megan Tadlock, all 12 years old, collected 158 pounds of medication from residents of West Branch and surrounding areas.
For their efforts, they were chosen as the national second-place winners in this year's Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge.
The girls each will receive a $7,500 savings bond and other prizes.
They've also earned our thanks and congratulations.
Because they've demonstrated to us all that small efforts can make a difference to our environment.
We hope other area students - and adults - take their example and get involved to help make their communities better.
Middle school students entering the Siemens challenge event work in teams and with a mentor's help to identify and research a local environmental issue and to develop green solutions to help address the problem.
The West Branch students decided to tackle pharmaceutical drug disposal after one girl's mother asked about how to properly dispose of a prescription medication.
They didn't know, so they went to work with the help of their teacher and mentor, West Branch Middle School science teacher Hector Ibarra.
They went to the University of Iowa Hygienic Lab to have water samples tested, and they learned that animal antibiotics, acetaminophen, nicotine and caffeine already were in the streams.
They talked to local political leaders, and they learned even more about how people were improperly disposing of their medications - by throwing them in the trash or flushing them down the toilet.
They learned why it's important to dispose of drugs the right way
“Kids in the future aren't going to have very good clean water,” Kara said.
“We learned that there are not very many safe ways to dispose of your medicine,” Gabby said.
The best way, they learned, is to return unused medication to pharmacies or hold a TakeAway day (for more information, visit www.iarx.org/takeaway). So they did.
They've educated local adults and state legislators about the negative environmental effects of improper disposal of pharmaceutical drugs. They hope to hold more TakeAway days in the coming months.
Most important, they found out they could make a positive difference in their community.
As these West Branch students have shown, all it takes is an idea, persistence and a little hard work.