Green Fun Night

A group of students has monopolized the bench space and availability of my classroom in order to perfect the art of making recycled paper. The last few weeks have brought recycled goods to my classroom that are stacked on the windowsill and lab benches. Craft samples of refurbished glassware into vases, candleholders, and bracelets are scattered throughout the room. Bins of soaking bottles pepper the lab benches. Excited students stop in throughout the day to check on their projects. The room is teeming with preparation!

This is event is different from others organized at the school. Our Going Green Team that is a student driven organization sponsors it. Unlike our school science fair, this event is organized by and will be conducted by the students.

At some point the students realize a need to advertise the event more effectively as our school newsletter doesn’t seem to be reaching families. They agree to visit all the elementary classes announcing the Green Fun Night in an enthusiastic and inviting manner. Furthermore, 6th graders see the recycled paper project in action when they come to science class and all exclaim, “Oh, I’m definitely going”. But not one single person has responded to the R.S.V.P.

Then there are the student presentations. We’ve asked to see the Power Point and hear what they want to say but several deadlines have come and gone and there’s still nothing. When do the students actually put the presentations together? Well, one person has it done the day before but the other two groups are working on their presentation an hour before the event begins!

The entire two days before the “Green Fun Night” is spent in preparation. By the time Tuesday night arrives, my room is in complete chaos. I seriously wonder if it will every be returned to normal again. But boy are the students excited. They beam with confidence and are eager to teach their “trade” to the school community.

Our Green Team students are juggling drama, sports, debate club, IB schedules as well as this Green Fun Night. They also have never organized an event to this scale before and don’t really know what it entails. They are doing the best they know and they seek to follow our guidance to the best of their ability. Finally we gather in the cafeteria, an hour before the event is to begin. We are basically ready. The students devour the pizza we ordered. The presenters quickly practice and make some modest changes. And then everyone positions themselves for the night.

As the students begin their presentations on the South Africa trip; the accomplishments of the Green Team last year; and the progress and plans of the Green Team for this year disappointment battles for a place in my heart. There are only a handful of people in attendance. Will it indeed, be a night with no participants? However, by the time the festivities begin, there is a crowd. After the presentations the students quickly assemble themselves at their “booths”:

  • Making recycled paper from scrap paper
  • Bowling with recycled bottles
  • Origami from scrap paper
  • Decorating recycled glass bottles with paint, string, and/or feathers and sparkles.
  • Trivia Game on green activities at the school (answer the questions for a free popcorn)
  • Organic Smoothies
  • Fundraising

A parent approaches me and tells me that her daughter awoke that morning and exclaimed, ‘Today is going to be a good day because there’s a party tonight at school!” This parent admitted having not planned on attending but due to her daughter’s enthusiasm changed her mind. She followed up with “What did you do to advertize?” Then I realize that the students’ efforts in the elementary school did indeed have an effect.

In the end, despite some glitches, the evening turned out to be a big success. Students and parents were engaged. All had fun. Awareness was raised.

One of the goals in becoming an eco-school is to educate the community and raise awareness and we certainly accomplished that at our Fun Night. We also made a start to our fundraising goals, in that we made a small profit despite a huge receipt for the ingredients for the organic smoothies. Going green should be fun. It should be cool. And hopefully we’ve begun to spread that word to our school community.

Student Ambitions for Going Green

I’ve mentioned before that I’m part of a Going Green initiative at our school.  We have a student group that meets Tuesdays during lunch.  A parent who’s an expert in the field is graciously consulting us.  The school itself is interested in becoming environmentally sustainable.  The community is open to our efforts.   So, even though our forces are small, the experience is productive and positive.

We completed the garbage audit (four posts in January were dedicated to this) and are putting together a proposal to reduce waste.  The students have launched several “reduce energy” campaigns that included a day of turning the heat down to the lowest setting all day and “lights off Fridays”.  Using our live portal with the electric/gas company the students collect the data from these different events and create charts and graphs illustrating the effect of our reducing energy efforts.  A goal is to reduce energy consumption by 5% this year.  The students are also preparing themselves to present to the greater school and neighborhood community in order to launch a fundraising drive.  This drive will initially fund the installation of solar panels for which the school has already received a subsidy commitment from the city.  The long-term vision is to have the school able to put energy back on the grid and to ultimately be a fueling station for electric cars.  It’s ambitious. 

The students are not overwhelmed with their task and dutifully show up each Tuesday at lunch working slowly and steadily towards their goals.  Yesterday the student group met during lunch knowing that they would be meeting during today’s lunch with our consultant as well.  However, today the consultant had work obligations and requested that we postpone until Friday.  I was mentally already filling the time with other things (lab preparations, printing, meeting with the EAL advisor, etc.).  The students arrived in my classroom and I told them we’d be postponing until Friday.  Their response?  “Let’s watch a TedTalk on global warming”.  OK!  Fortunately I have a few tagged and saved in my bookmarks bar. 

It is an honor to work with students who are truly interested in an issue and who sincerely desire change, even if it costs me three lunch periods out of the week!