McAuliffe Center wins prize in Global Environmental Video Competition

McAuliffe Center wins prize in Global Environmental Video Competition

Mar 24, 2021

The Christa McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning at Framingham State University, a Smithsonian Affiliate, announces their win of the Teens Dream Changemaker Challenge, a global competition sponsored by the Global CoLab Network, and in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. The McAuliffe Center mentored six teams of teens who made it to the final round of judging in the competition. Because of the number of outstanding proposals submitted by the students, the McAuliffe Center was awarded the competition's first-ever Mentor Award of $500 which was matched by $1000 from the Smithsonian.

Student teams, from 9-12th graders in Framingham, Marlborough and Milford High Schools, proposed solutions ranging from apps for smarter recycling and reducing litter using data collection and incentives, as well as addressing air pollution inequities by planting carbon-capturing plants in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Framingham. Other ideas included tips for reducing fast fashion, and researching the efficacy of solar panels at their schools. The students have been working with mentors since the fall of 2020 to develop their ideas as part of the McAuliffe Center's See Yourself in STEM – Team Mentorship program.

To compete in the Challenge, youth from around the world were invited to consider the effects of the pandemic on the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and to propose solutions through a 2-minute video explaining their idea. In January 2021, videos were uploaded to the Teens Dream Changemaker Challenge competition, sponsored by the Global Co Lab Network in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. A 15-member jury judged all videos in three rounds, with winners and commendations announced on March 21.

"Participating in the competition was a catalyst for our team mentorship program and if our teams did so well it is in part also thanks to the opportunity provided by the competition," said Irene Porro, director of the McAuliffe Center. "I am truly grateful for the special mentor recognition the Co Lab Network and the Smithsonian awarded to the McAuliffe Center. This recognition is really important as it highlights the care and dedication shown by our McAuliffe Center team and our extended group of mentors to all the youth in the mentorship program."

This is the second time the Teens Dream video competition has collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution to recruit young changemakers from its Affiliate partner communities. The collaboration aligns with the Smithsonian's Earth Optimism initiative, which aims to find positive solutions to environmental problems that can be replicated and scaled.

"Now in its seventh year, this competition has always attracted great ideas from youth. In partnering with the Smithsonian this year, we focused on the implementation of student solutions, and the real-world execution of ideas. We were really impressed by the quality of the submissions," said Linda Staheli, Director of the Global CoLab Network which sponsors the competition. (See all 2020 submissions at

One hundred and forty videos were received, from students in 10 states and 8 countries, including Kuwait, Costa Rica, Turkey, Vietnam, Mexico and Spain. The 15-member jury included communication and environmental experts, Smithsonian staff, teen activists and former winners. Those students who made it to the final round had one week to submit a detailed plan, budget, and timeline for realizing their dream with the $500 award.

"Seeing so many fresh, innovative, and yet realistic solutions to the environmental issues we face was truly an inspiration," said Jennifer Brundage and Brian Coyle, co-directors of the project at the Smithsonian. "We embrace this opportunity to empower students to be the transformational changemakers we know they are. We are deeply committed to helping make their dreams a reality."

The proposals put forward by the McAuliffe Center teams will be part of the Science on State Street virtual celebration, and filmmakers will be featured on April 20 at 11am. In addition, one of the McAuliffe Center teens will be starting a virtual filmmaking internship with the Smithsonian in April, to continue to make films about environmental action by teens. Addressing the global climate crisis with innovative approaches to environmental challenges is a priority at the Smithsonian. Through its Earth Optimism Initiative and collaborations with Smithsonian Affiliates and organizations such as the Global CoLab Network, the Smithsonian works to inspire more young people to become environmental leaders. Another gathering is tentatively planned for October 2021 in Washington, D.C. to spotlight the implementation of student ideas.

About Framingham State University

Framingham State University was founded in 1839 as the nation’s first public university for the education of teachers. Since that time, it has evolved into a vibrant, comprehensive liberal arts institution offering small, personalized classes on a beautiful New England campus. Today, the University enrolls more than 6,000 students with 58 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences and professional fields. As a State College and University (SCU), Framingham State prides itself on quality academic programs, affordability, and commitment to access for all qualified students.