In the last six years, I’ve had an opportunity to look into the future. Not through a crystal ball or via time travel, but right in my classroom. I’ve gotten to know many, many teenagers. These young adults are our future, and they inspire me to live my own life in a sustainable way. I’m going to take a break from writing about what I do and have done to try to live more sustainably, and instead I’m going to talk a little bit about some of my most inspiring students.
After taking my AP Environmental Science class in her junior year, K. emailed me over the summer to ask if I would mentor her in an independent study about sustainable fashion. A little nervous about the fashion end of it, I agreed, figuring that I’d learn something in the process. K. more than lived up to her end of the bargain, and was able to organize “Green Awakening,” a sustainable fashion show. She got sustainable designers to donate clothes, shoes, jewelry, and other accessories. She coordinated student volunteers to work as models, sell tickets, run the lights and music, take photographs, and make a program. She contacted the folks at Threadbanger, who agreed to come and speak at the show and featured her project on their own online show. The fashion show and silent auction was held on Earth Day, and was a huge success. K. managed to raise over $1500, all of which she donated to the Sierra Club. She also got offered a bunch of internships and job offers from the sustainable designers. Last I heard from K., she was in Italy studying fashion. She plans to become an eco-friendly designer.
Boy Scout Biologist
I had the opportunity to teach C. in Biology, AP Environmental Science, and Botany, so I really knew him well by the time it was his senior year. His years in Boy Scouts made him a whiz at plant identification. When he approached me about doing a survey of plants around our school, I was more than happy to help him in any way that I could. He did such a wonderful job of identifying plants and drawing cladistics diagrams that I suggested he apply to present his project at the Connecticut Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, held at UConn. He was accepted to present in the poster session, which is quite an honor. I went to see him there and I was so proud that my student had done original research on local plants and was being recognized for his work. Last I heard, C. was majoring in Biology/ Environmental Studies at UConn.
After my fall Botany course ended, J. wanted to pursue an independent study. She was interested in sustainable fishing, and wanted to educate people as to what fish were good choices at restaurants and the grocery store. After taking water samples and doing chemical tests for contaminants to learn more about water quality, J. designed a brochure to help people choose which fish to eat and which to avoid. She asked at the local supermarket, and they were happy to hang up her poster and display her brochures at the fish counter. J. is currently a senior in my AP Environmental Science class.
Friend of Recycling
I’ve gotten to know A. over the last two years, in my AP Environmental Science class, Botany class, and as president of the Environmental Club. He is a true friend to the Earth, and spends each Saturday at the town’s recycling center, helping to sort recyclables and answer questions. For a teenager to get up early each Saturday and head out to the recycling center, he has to really care about living sustainably. He’s also helped get trees for our club through the Arbor Day Society, and has coordinated students to take care of the trees over breaks and over the summer. A. wants to pursue a career in environmental engineering next year when he goes to college.
K. and A. are animal lovers. When they heard that kittens were in need of a home, they both jumped at the chance. Each of their famlies take in expecting stray cats from the animal shelter. They care for the mother until she gives birth, then they take care of the whole family until the kittens are old enough to be separated from their mother and adopted. It’s hard for K. and A. to give away their kittens, but they know that before long, there will be another cat in need of a home and a family to care for her.
I met L. on my first day teaching. She was a freshman in my Biology class, and I admit that I was more than a little nervous. Over the years, I got to teach L. in AP Environmental Science and Botany. She always had a passion for the environment and wanted to make a difference in the world. Her mother made me cry at parent conferences during L.’s senior year when she told me that I was L.’s favorite teacher and thanked me for educating her daughter. L. keeps in touch through emails and visits around the holidays when she’s home from school. She’s currently a sophomore in college, studying to be an environmental lawyer. She tells me that she always wanted to be a lawyer, but that I helped her to realize that protecting the environment is her calling.
These young adults are just a small fraction of the amazing students I get to work with. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these kids, as I know they’ll be doing wonderful things and changing the world for the better. When I work to preserve the environment, it’s for K., C., J., A., K., A., L., and all of the other wonderful kids I meet year after year.