Last December, in a conversation on NPR’s Science Friday, Alan Alda introduced the 2018 Flame Challenge question, “What is Climate?” and charged scientists to tackle it in a way clear and engaging enough for an 11-year-old to understand. Scientists from all over took the challenge, from across the U.S. and as far away as Austria, Libya, and India.

Each year The Flame Challenge poses a new question submitted by 11-year-olds, and holds an international competition for scientists to communicate their answer in written, video, or graphic form. All entries are sent off to schools where thousands of fifth- and sixth-graders serve as judges, reviewing the entries and discussing them in their classes.

They score each entry not just on how clear it was or how much they learned, but also on whether it held their interest; if it engaged them; and if it was relatable to them as 11-year-olds. It’s not easy to do!

Now the reviews have been tallied, and the student judges have spoken: The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science is thrilled to announce the Finalists for the 2018 Flame Challenge!

The seven winning entries were submitted by scientists from several fields, and managed to cover not only the basics of climate itself, but also the problem of climate change. In fact, nearly all the entries this year found a way to connect what climate is to how climate changes, impressing its importance and empowering kids to be a part of changing it for the better. In some of the judges’ words:

“When I read long, all-information no explanation articles, I don't take anything away. With this, I could remember almost every reference and fact,” gushed one student about a video entry.

“I learned so much,” another commented, this time about a written entry, “It made me feel like I need to do something to help the earth.”

About a graphic entry one student remarked, “It’s great when they include examples from real life, ones I can relate to!”

The Flame Challenge Finalists now head back to the all the schools so the judges can vote on their favorite in each of the categories. The winners of this global student vote will be featured in The Flame Challenge show at the 2018 World Science Festival. It will be an exciting and dynamic program, hosted by Alan Alda himself, where you’ll learn about climate and weather, the extremities of both—and of course about the winners. Sign up for the WSF Newsletter and you’ll get notified when tickets for this year’s show!

Learn more about the 2018 Flame Challenge Finalists

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