The 2017 One Earth Young Filmmakers Contest was dominated by students from Oak Park and River Forest.
The contest is part of the larger One Earth Film Festival, hosted each year by Oak Park-based Green Community Connections, which is described on the website as a "deep-roots organization working to build a sustainable future in the Oak Park/River Forest area."
During the festival, which ran March 3-12, 30 films, ranging from climate change to waste-recycling, were screened throughout the Chicago area in churches, museums and mainstream movie theaters.
The Young Filmmakers Contest was open to U.S. residents, third grade through college, who were required to submit a 3- to 8-minute film in one of six topics: water, waste, food, transportation, open space and ecosystems, and energy.
Prizes were given out in four grade-level categories. Elementary school, middle school, high school and college winners received cash prizes of $75, $100, $250 and $500, respectively.
Two brothers from Roosevelt Middle School in River Forest, Jaxon and Miles Toppen, won the top elementary school prize for their 8-minute video, "Shells in Need of Saving," which documents how two sea turtles were rescued from the polluted waters near the Florida Keys and rehabilitated.
"Turtles did not struggle until humans started creating many threats," the brothers wrote about the film. "If we continue our ways, not only will we lose turtles, we may lose all life on earth as we know it. We hope our film will make people change the types of behavior that cause pollution, not just of the ocean but of the entire planet."
Rui Shastri Saldanha, who attends Julian Middle School in Oak Park, won the top middle school prize for her 6-minute video, "Deforestation," in which she documents the effect of deforestation on wildlife habitats.
Fourteen students in the Eco Eagles, a group of students at Brooks Middle School in Oak Park who engage in environmentally-sound educational activities, received an honorable mention for their 6-minute video, "Yard Hunters," a spoof on the HGTV show "House Hunters."
"In their film, a family of pollinators looks for the best yard to call home, namely one with native plants and milkweed for their caterpillar children," according to a description by Lisa Biehle, who helped organize the contest.
"First, the realtor squirrel shows them a lawn treated with pesticides, then a yard with beautiful non-native flowers, and finally the perfect yard with native plants."