Cypress, TX News – Birkes ES Places Second in Action for Apes Cell Phone Competition

Cypress, TX News (June 3, 2014) - Birkes Elementary School collected 242 used and broken cell phones to place second overall among Houston-area schools in the annual Action for Apes Challenge, sponsored by the Houston Zoo.

The competition challenged students to recycle cell phones to help reduce dependency on mining for the mineral coltan, which is used in phones and commonly found in the Central African habitats of chimpanzees, gorillas, and okapis.

Birkes’ student council, sponsored by teachers Kristine Berger and Melanie Jackson, led the donation efforts at the school.

“I heard several students say that their parents just threw the phones in the trash in the past when they got new phones,” said Jackson, a fifth-grade math teacher at Birkes. “When we talked about how the material for cell phones comes from where chimps live, a lot of the students didn’t understand. We further explained that people have to dig up large areas making the chimps move or causing them to die because the material was deep in the ground. Once they understood the real reason and how we were saving the animals, they felt good about what they were doing.”

Birkes Elementary School student council members, pictured with sponsors Kristine Berger, left, and Melanie Jackson, far right, helped protect chimpanzee habitats in Central Africa by collecting 242 phones in the Houston Zoo’s cell phone recycling program, Action for Apes. Students pictured (L-R) are Michael Eckles, Jack Read, Dominic Anghilante, Carter Aldmon, Makenna Tryon, Ariana Reyes and Kara Kolek.

A total of 49 organizations and 25,669 participants took part in the effort, which yielded a total of 2,032 cell phones collected. 

Birkes’ 242 phones were second only to Dickinson High School’s 384 phones and ahead of third-place Parkwood Elementary School’s 155 phones.

“The sheer amount of cell phones collected was the first thing the students commented on,” Jackson said. “We couldn’t believe that just the families at Birkes were able to produce over 200 old and broken cell phones. Several students brought in old computers, beepers, and other electronic devices that they hoped could contribute to the drive. It’s amazing how the things we use every day here in Houston impact all the world.”

Jackson said the students are already looking forward to participating in the 2015 Action for Apes Challenge.

“Birkes’ student council was really excited to have earned second place; however, next year we have set our sights on first,” Jackson said. “We will be collecting cell phones next year and we are really going to need help from all CFISD schools.”