2016 finalist

This project has been selected as a finalist in the Environmental Education category.

Race 2 reduce

Project Summary

Race 2 Reduce environmental educational programs address a significant water resources issue in the local community through partnership with the local school districts and other entities. For the past 12 years, the water level in White Bear Lake has been declining. This trend has been the subject of multiple studies that have been conducted and financed by various public entities responsible for the lake. While several causes have been identified, and the verdict is still out, the rapid pace of residential development and thirst for water supplies has had a very significant impact on reducing the Prairie du Chien aquifer level. This demand for water has implications for the entire ecosystem in the Northeast metro area as water supplies diminish. The aquifer cannot sustain current and future development’s “thirst” for water. And, White Bear Lake is one community of many facing local water resource issues today.

Race 2 Reduce has introduced a successful educational platform to engage students and teachers to address the need for water conservation education. Education and raising community awareness are key to addressing this issue and are at the core of the Race 2 Reduce community initiative. A collaboration of diverse community stakeholders has come together with a united goal of reducing water usage by introducing conservation into the local communities through targeted public education campaigns and by educating youth in the schools to be the leaders of change.

Local non-profit organization H2O for Life, the White Bear Lake Area Schools, and the Mahtomedi Public Schools are collaborating to educate students and the community about the critical need to conserve water now and for future generations. Through targeted activities provided to all K-12 schools in White Bear Lake and Mahtomedi school districts, Race 2 Reduce aims to deepen students’ understanding of the significant need to reduce our water use. Race 2 Reduce provides relevant classroom and after-school activities focused on local water resources. Our goal is that students will become informed about local water resources and take the next steps to change their personal water use, which will have a long-term impact on their schools and families. Our water conservation educational program educates youth to be leaders of change and is a replicable model that other school districts will follow.

Project Website


Project Partners

  • H2O for Life
  • White Bear Lake Area Schools
  • Mahtomedi Public Schools
  • The Improve Group
  • City of White Bear Lake
  • City of Birchwood
  • City of Mahtomedi
  • Aquarius Water Conditioning
  • Mahtomedi Area Green Initiative

How did the project partners work together?

Race 2 Reduce has worked to involve all stakeholders in the White Bear Lake area that are impacted by the diminished lake level and who share a deep concern about wanting to preserve the health and viability of the lake and surrounding open spaces, as well as continued public access for all residents. Race 2 Reduce is enthusiastically endorsed by local Mayors (Jo Emerson, White Bear Lake; Judson Marshall, Mahtomedi; and Mary Wingfield, Birchwood), School District Superintendents (Dr. Michael Lovett, White Bear Lake Area Schools and Dr. Mark Larson, Mahtomedi Public Schools), the White Bear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Mahtomedi Area Green Initiative (M.A.G.I.), White Bear Lake Homeowners’ Association, White Bear Lake Restoration Association, and has the support of the White Bear Lake Conservation District and Minnesota State Legislature. Race 2 Reduce utilizes multiple community communication avenues for sharing regular updates on our work.

Each group represented in the collaboration brings unique strengths, assets, and valuable networks, which contribute to the overall success of the initiative. H2O for Life, the White Bear Lake Area Schools, and the Mahtomedi Public Schools worked collaboratively through various meetings to develop, pilot, refine, and solidify the Race 2 Reduce educational program model in the schools. Local community organizations, cities, and other public entities provided ongoing support, staff time, and additional resources to further engage students and develop a robust model. Additional partners and organizations have provided funding, which is critical to the development of the Race 2 Reduce programs. Together, we share a common goal of educating our youth about this important issue and recognize the need to implement an immediate community strategy regarding water conservation.

How is the project groundbreaking?

The Race 2 Reduce program model is an innovative way to address a local water resources issue through community collaboration and education embedded in local school district curriculums. While other initiatives have focused on creating curriculum related to water, or housed community-wide educational campaigns regarding an environmental issue, our programs achieve both. Through integrating real issues into the curriculum, students directly see the applications of the topics they are learning in the classroom. Partnering with multiple public entities and community organizations has allowed us to engage students in real, hands-on projects that change the ways our communities use water now and for the future.

Youth are powerful advocates of change in our communities and they are frequently left out of the conversations regarding real community issues. Our programs empower students to be the leaders in changing community water use behaviors, through providing them the awareness, knowledge, skills, and resources they need to make a difference. Empowering youth to lead this effort dramatically expands the base of excited and passionate citizens in a community, leading to more sustainable management of water resources. Engaging the future generation of leaders and decision-makers now will lead to meaningful and lasting protection of our water resources.

What are the project goals?

Race 2 Reduce seeks to address four primary goals relating to water conservation in local communities. First, engaging and hands-on curriculum that align with state standards will be implemented into local schools to increase students’ awareness and knowledge relating to local, regional, and global water issues. Through tracking their water use, gaining awareness, realizing their individual impact, and taking action through advocacy, students will become leaders and environmental stewards in the community, encouraging their families to adopt sustainable practices as well.

Second, Race 2 Reduce programs aim to decrease the overall water use in the local community through education and community awareness. Students and community members will learn how their personal actions affect local water resources, and take actions to modify their behaviors, with the goal of reducing their impact on our water resources.

Third, Race 2 Reduce provides resources and support to local educators, allowing them to bring local water resource topics into their classroom. This engagement strengthens students’ learning and creates value beyond the classroom, as students and educators learn how real issues connect with state standards and classroom material.

Finally, while the Northeast Metro area faces water resource issues, we recognize that communities worldwide are addressing similar concerns. Race 2 Reduce aims to be a replicable platform for any school district to adopt in connecting local water resource topics to their existing curriculum.

History shows us youth education is an effective tool in driving long-term behavioral change – for example increasing seat belt use, decreasing smoking or supporting public education campaigns to end littering. Schools, along with families, are the necessary partners to achieve long term behavioral change and promote

What are the project outcomes?

Last year, Race 2 Reduce reached over 2,155 students and 870 adult community members, engaging more than 62 classrooms and 5 clubs throughout the two local school districts. This year, in collaboration with a Minnesota Legislative Grant, we have expanded our program and have worked with key teachers in each district to align curriculum to existing standards, preparing a scope and sequence that will be used for years to come. We have integrated curriculum into 9 schools and will reach over 7,500 students either through lessons, projects, or other activities by the completion of the school year.

Through our work educating students about local water resources, students and teachers have both gained greater awareness of local water resources in their community. They have become engaged in learning about where their water comes from, water as a natural resource, and ways that they can take action to have a significant and lasting impact. As a teacher in White Bear Lake remarked, “It really was an engaging experience for the students and helped them learn about an important issue/topic that may not otherwise have been addressed in as much detail.” Students’ excitement for these topics, the work that they have produced, and projects they have undertaken show the incredible impact of our programs.

Based on the positive support of Race 2 Reduce in the community, we will solidify our model so that it can be readily embedded into any school district curriculum across Minnesota. As this project is ongoing, we anticipate that future outcomes will include reaching thousands of students in multiple school districts.

Event Details

Thursday, May 25, 2017
5:00 - 5:45 p.m. Registration & reception
5:45 - 8:00 p.m. Dinner & program
8:00 - 9:00 p.m. Dessert & reception 

Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401

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Presenting Sponsors

Environmental Lay Group

Great River Energy

Reception sponsor

25th Anniversary Sponsors


Community Action

Critical Collaborator

Stoel Rives LLP

Emerging Leader


Energy and Climate

The Weidt Group

Natural Resources

Sustainable Business

Supporting Sponsors

Minnesota Power

partner SPONSORs

In-kind sponsors


CliftonLarsonAllen LLP

Consulate General of Canada

Rochester Public Utilities

Associate Sponsors

Bremer Bank
G & K Services
Nova Consulting
Smith Partners