REXBURG − The Wyland Foundation awarded the Madison and Rexburg DARE Program a new 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid XLE on Thursday at Madison Middle School. The vehicle is valued at more than $42,000. The program was one of 20,000 nonprofits that were nominated for the grand prize through the Wyland National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation. 

“We’re super excited,” Rexburg Police Officer Shawn Scott with the DARE Program said. “This was definitely a surprise and I didn’t do a lot of work. This was all the kids and how everything came about is a really cool story. And it’s really cool seeing these kids take initiative especially when they saw a problem. They didn’t complain about it, they created awareness and with that awareness they created solutions and they partnered with people to get those solutions into place which is how it should work.”

Madison Middle School teacher Sharee Barton is a certified National Geographic educator. Her class had a hand in bringing this about. Currently Barton uses a National Geographic learning program called geo-inquiry, which is a type of project-based learning. She said that at first she was trying to have the students do a different project but they insisted that they focus their project on water conservation. She said they took a trip to the gardens at Brigham Young University-Idaho where an instructor told the children that Rexburg is almost a desert. 

After doing some research the students spoke with the city and planted a water-wise garden on center street. Mayor Merrill also approached the class about helping him with the Wyland National Mayors Challenge for Water Conservation. Students went to work asking their parents, neighbors, friends, and teachers to make the pledge to save water at home and nominate a charity for the grand prize. Cities all over the country made pledges and Rexburg was one of Five cities that won in their individual size categories but Rexburg was the only city to win a hybrid vehicle for their charity.

“The students that have gone through this process, they don’t question ‘oh how could we do that? Or how can we make a difference?’ They know they can make a difference," barton said. "Not only did they make a difference in Rexburg but they teamed up with a national organization and won a car for the DARE Program."