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This past November, a team of 10 students from Houghton Middle School in Houghton, Michigan, won the Lexus Eco Challenge in the Land and Water category with their “Backyard Backlash” project.

Houghton Middle School works with the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, a regional hub of the GLSI. Their winning project focused on surface and groundwater contamination. The group studied the impact of common lawn and garden maintenance habits, roadside grass seeding projects, and agricultural practices, all of which involve nitrate fertilizers. Team members identified ways that individual families’ actions impact water quality, even in their own backyards.

The winners conducted experiments, gathered information, suggested strategies to reduce the impacts of nitrates on water quality, recruited other young people to get involved, and presented results and recommendations to the Michigan Department of Transportation.