Woodcreek's Croc Hunter Crew takes part in Lexus Eco Challenge

Science team wins $10,000 in scholarship money; in running for $50,000 prize
By: Megan Wood The Press-Tribune
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Although the college acceptance letters have yet to come back, five Woodcreek High School students are well on their way to paying their first semester’s tuition. As the winners in the land and water categories of the Lexus Eco Challenge, the “Croc Hunter Crew” won $10,000 in scholarship money and a chance to participate in the final challenge and take home an additional $50,000. “We’re already gearing up for the final challenge,” said Woodcreek science teacher and mentor to the Croc Hunter Crew Kendra Grinsell. “We won’t know what the exact challenge will be for another month or so, but we’re anxious and excited and most of all, ready.” According to Lexus Eco Challenge program director Nancy Hubbell, each crewmember took home $7,000 in scholarship money, $2,000 went toWoodcreek High School and Grinsell received $1,000 to be used in the classroom. After receiving a flyer in the mail last year describing the contest created by car manufacturer Lexus and Scholastic publishing company, Grinsell realized that the very thing she had been doing with her students since 2003 fit the bill. “Our biggest challenge was getting all of our information together because we’ve been doing this for years,” Grinsell said. A short month before the contest cut-off date, Grinsell and five of her most dedicated students came together to compile a detailed report to submit to Lexus and Scholastic outlining their efforts and how they made a difference in their community. “Their passion came way before this challenge,” Grinsell said. “This was an opportunity to reward them for something they weren’t even looking for compensation for.” For the past six years, Grinsell has been teaching a nature center class each spring that dedicates itself to preserving the wetlands behind the school and giving educational tours to local elementary schools. “We start out with a puppet show and some games that relate back to what they’re learning, like lifecycles or habitats,” said Croc Hunter Christina Bay, who doesn’t shy from having the class pet, a Red-tailed boa constrictor, wrapped around her waist. “Then we go on the walking tour of the reserve and apply the things that we’ve taught so they can see them up close.” A major part of the maintaining the nature preserve is clearing out invasive plants like star thistle and water hyacinth and replacing them with native vegetation. “That’s the most frustrating part, if we don’t stay on top of clearing them out they will literally take over everything,” Bay said. The Croc Crew got fellow Woodcreek students and clubs like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Rotary Club involved in the cleanup and were able to remove enough to fill two dumpsters. In addition to newspaper articles, a YouTube video made by crewmember Alex Warner, and a Facebook page, crewmembers participated in community activities like Roseville’s Creek Week and Earth Day events last spring to raise community awareness. Four of the five members were part of the Creek Week Planning committee that worked closely with city representatives and other organizations to plan the week’s events. “The community awareness aspect I think was very successful,” said Croc Hunter Ryan Searcy, who is hoping to get into environmental engineering in college. “Anytime you can get more information like this out to the public it’s going to have a positive effect.” The Croc Crew will get word on their final challenge this month and winners will be announced later this year.