Bethesda student, teacher win carmaker’s national contest

Avery Irwin, of Bethesda, at Volvo headquarters in Sweden. (Courtesy Anna Irwin)

A Bethesda, Maryland, elementary student and her teacher have won a nationwide contest about the importance of sustainability.

Nine-year-old Avery Irwin, a rising fifth grader at Washington Episcopal School, and her mother won a trip to Volvo headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden. Her STEM teacher, Katherine Owens, received $10,000 earmarked for green initiatives in the school community. Irwin said Owens plans to spend the money building a bird sanctuary at the school.

Volvo said Irwin and Owens won the essay contest due to Owens’ “passion for, and dedication to, educating the next generation on the importance of sustainability and other STEM-related subjects.”

Irwin said her teacher would use unusual methods, such as bringing a lobster to class for observation. Irwin said it was a rented lobster. “You’d be surprised how you can get a rented lobster, but you can,” Irwin said.

Under Owens’ guidance, the class also made their own s’mores at home for a bake sale to raise money to donate sheep — sources of milk and wool — to communities in need.

Irwin’s mother, Anna, wrote the essay, “and she was like, ‘Yeah, we’re definitely not going to get in,’” said Irwin. “But sure as you know it, we got in, and next thing you know we’re hanging out in Sweden.”

In a statement, Volvo said their submission was selected because “it was the most original, creative and persuasive story” that adhered best to the contest’s theme.

“It’s just showing how we are continuing to support our communities when it comes to that education,” said Allison Lane of Volvo Cars USA, “and making sure that [children] know what’s going on in this world.”

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, PA, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP sports.

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