2023 Children's Science News - Gold

Laura Allen told her young readers about scientists who are learning how to make cement and brick construction materials more Earth-friendly with a surprising ingredient: poop. In some cases, the feces come from grazing animals such as cows, whose manure is full of plant fibers. Recycling sludge — the material from sewage-treatment plants — also works. Both types of poop have chemical ingredients useful in making cement and bricks. Large amounts of sewage sludge get buried in landfills each year, Allen reports, but making construction materials with it instead could put this waste to better use and, at the same time, reduce the pollution created by the standard fossil-fuel burning processes used to make cement and bricks. In one experiment, mixing 15 percent sludge ash with ground limestone made a product as strong as regular cement while cutting fossil-fuel emissions by 13 percent. Judge Paul Basken, North America editor for Times Higher Education, called Allen’s piece “an important story of environmental sustainability, told in a clear and engaging narrative, mixing a serious message with a good pace of fun and humor, to animate for children the scientific process working in the real world to a highly beneficial effect.” Judge Christine Dell’Amore, online natural history editor for National Geographic, said the story “offers a real-life, everyday connection to kids” with writing that is “clear, simple and direct.” Laura Allen said: “I am so honored to win this award. I’m excited to share with young people how something as ordinary as poop can help fight climate change and has the potential to be an important resource.”