CHANCE Idol winners announced

The Penn State Lehigh Valley CHANCE program (Connecting Humans and Nature through Conservation Experiences) has announced the winners of its second annual CHANCE Idol competition. The Green Sierra Club of State College Area High School, under the advising and mentorship of science teacher Susan Braun, claimed the top prize for their video, "Deforestation," and environmental project. The $2,000 check was presented to the students and their school during an assembly on Nov. 18, in the auditorium  in State College Area High School's south building.

The CHANCE Idol competition is a yearly contest that challenges Pennsylvania high school students to showcase their environmental and musical skills by writing their own environmentally-related words to a favorite song; videotaping their group performing the new song; then uploading the video to YouTube for judging. Entrants also have to submit an environmental project that would use the prize money to make their school community more sustainable. Judges, who represent non-governmental and governmental agencies, and business and academic institutions across Pennsylvania, select the top three entries on the following criteria: clarity of environmental message, creativity, production quality, and chosen environmental project.

During the assembly, the winners showcased their video to the student body and administration. In addition, Richard B. Alley, Evan Pugh Professor in the Department of Geosciences and Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State, gave a formal presentation on his international work on global warming and performed his YouTube hit song, "Rollin’ to the Future." The $2,000 check was presented to former president of the State College Area High School Green Sierra Club, Sara Mueller, who is presently a Schreyer Honors College student at Penn State University Park studying environmental science.

The top winning entry, “Deforestation,” was based on the song “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. The students’ creative lyrics and video footage sent a clear environmental message about the effects of deforestation on the globe. Also, the judges were impressed by the students’ effort in performing the choreography from this classic music video.

The Green Sierra Coalition will use the award money for their environmental project, building a Living Wall. Also called a green wall or vertical garden, a Living Wall is a wall, or a portion of a wall, that is covered in vegetation. The judges agreed that this environment project would have many benefits to the school community and the environment. A Living Wall will purify and oxygenate the air, regulate humidity and temperature, make students more aware of the environment, and accomplish all this in an efficient use of space. The group anticipates installing one wall in each of their two campus buildings, and placing them in central locations to help the student body feel connected to the environment.

The idea for the competition came from the success of Alley's environmentally-focused YouTube music videos, which have been featured in media outlets including The New York Times. Alley has participated in the CHANCE program as a collaborator with Jacqueline McLaughlin, associate professor of biology at Penn State Lehigh Valley and developer and director of CHANCE.

CHANCE is a coordinated effort and partnership between Penn State Lehigh Valley and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). Through international field courses and online modules, participants engage in inquiry-based research opportunities and conservation efforts that allow them to better understand global environmental issues. Participants also gain the awareness, knowledge, and skills needed for a more sophisticated comprehension of the causes, connections and consequences of global environmental destruction.

For more information about CHANCE and the contest, visit