Thursday, February 7, 2013

River District and Piedmont Natural Gas Foundation to launch Eco-Footprint Challenge in Area Schools

Feb. 7, 2013 – The Catawba River District and the foundation for a regional utility are launching an Eco-Footprint Sustainability Challenge. The friendly competition will encourage students at several schools in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties to get creative with ideas to improve the sustainability of their schools. 
The Piedmont Natural Gas Eco-Footprint Challenge, developed by the Catawba River District, will enable students to apply science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) principles to devise a way to protect or reduce consumption of a natural resource.
Eleven River District elementary and middle schools located in Mount Holly, Belmont, and Charlotte near the Catawba River are being invited to participate in the three-month learning completion, set to begin in March. 

Judges will evaluate each project on several criteria, including creativity, presentation and the project’s success at meeting its goal.
The Eco-Footprint Challenge will engage many students from families that are economically challenged and have limited opportunities to engage in STEM learning beyond their schools. Educators say that students with strong STEM skills by middle school are much more likely to pursue advanced education in science, technology, engineering and math. Many of the best-paying jobs in the global economy require those skills, as well.

PNG Foundation grant makes challenge possible

The Piedmont Natural Gas Foundation issued a grant making the challenge possible as part of the foundation’s community enrichment initiative and its emphasis on STEM education.   STEM learning also is a critical component of the Catawba River District’s work in advancing sustainable solutions for the 16,000-acre that makes up the River District, including northwest Charlotte, Mount Holly, and Belmont.  STEM experts within Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Gaston school districts have been advising the River District’s leaders on STEM learning projects for the past two years.
The River District’s strategic partners – Piedmont National Gas, Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville and Huber Technology – are helping stage the Eco-Footprint Challenge with expertise and volunteers as well as resources.
The Piedmont Natural Gas Eco-Footprint Challenge is a recognized component of the NC STEM Science Festival produced by UNC’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.  This is the second year the Catawba River District’s school partnership has participated in the NC STEM Science Festival. 

  • For additional information or to provide additional financial support please contact River District Executive Director Edna Chirico at or 704-562-8847.

About Piedmont Natural Gas Foundation

The Piedmont Natural Gas Foundation supports nonprofit organizations throughout its service area and has invested more than $6 million since the foundation’s start in 2004.
The foundation provides support in a few key areas, including environmental stewardship, energy sustainability, workforce development and K-12 learning focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
Within the STEM education focus, the foundation seeks to develop high-quality leadership in schools and classrooms, plus programs that help students develop science, technology, engineering and math skills “critical to success in a global economy.”

About the Catawba River District

The Catawba River District is a regional, non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable development and enhancement of a 16,000-acre area including parts of Mount Holly, Belmont, northwest Charlotte, and the region’s watershed.  The River District has been described as a national model for public-private cooperation.  Supporters range from universities, schools and businesses to environmental advocates and municipalities.  Partners share a commitment to elevating the River District through sustainable education, community development, and health and wellness programs. For more information, visit

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