Building student leadership skills and giving students a voice is a big part of the PLT GreenSchools! program, and at F. L. Schlagle High School in Kansas City, KS, members of the school’s Green Team routinely demonstrate what students can do when provided with an opportunity to lead and to speak. A case in point was a March 2012 appearance by two Schlagle juniors, Randi Hartin and Irene Fernandez, at an annual ecological conference called “Breaking the Silence.”
The two students knew they would be speaking about their PLT GreenSchools! work. But they had no idea that the conference organizers wanted them to be part of a two-hour-long panel discussion where they and two other high-school students would be fielding questions from a group of adults that included the president of the Kansas state Parent Teacher Student Association.
Despite their initial nervousness, Hartin and Fernandez came through the experience with flying colors. They talked about the recycling program they’ve started at Schlagle, about how the student Green Team is replacing their school’s bathroom fixtures and lights with more water- and energy-efficient models, and about the business plan they’re developing for their new school garden. They told their audience how the PLT GreenSchools! program helps teach students about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). “It went really well,” says Fernandez.
The two young women are part of the school’s Green Team, whose members are taking the lessons they’re learning about recycling, organic gardening, and environmental sustainability to their families, their neighborhoods and—through events like the conference—the wider community.
Waste & Recycling Investigation:
The school’s recycling program, begun with funding from two PLT GreenWorks! grants, involves the whole school and, increasingly, the school’s faculty, parents, and neighbors. “The kids are taking information home to their families, and it’s having an effect,” says Green Team advisor and teacher Dominick DeRosa.
“One student made such an impression that his family changed all the light bulbs in their house to energy-efficient models. Another one of my students said his mom wasn’t letting the family throw anything away any more; they’re recycling everything,” DeRosa reports. Even the Schlagle faculty has caught the recycling bug from the Green Team. “When we had a faculty meeting at another school, our teachers were dumpster-diving to retrieve cans and bottles that had been put in the trash.”
The recycling program also has engaged special education teacher Mitzi Hargis and some of her students. “Two of my students do all the recycling. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful program for them. Katie and Dyanne go into every classroom three times a week, and all the kids and teachers know them,” says Hargis. “It has really helped my kids to be known—and seen—through the whole school. It’s a life-skills lesson no ordinary class could teach.”
School Site Investigation:
The PLT GreenSchools! School Site Investigation has led to plans for a community organic garden on the Schlagle grounds. The students broke ground for the new garden during the spring semester of 2012, after devising a business plan that includes raising vegetables, selling them at a local farmer’s market, and reinvesting their profits into maintaining the garden plot. They enlisted the help of a parent with organic gardening skills who provided advice on what flowers should be planted to keep pests away.
The Schlagle students believe that their work makes a difference, not only in their community today, but for others who come after them. Says Green Team member Irene Fernandez: “What we’re doing is important for our future. We need to help the environment so future kids like us can continue on.”
American Forest Foundation Blog:
- April 18, 2012: Kansas City High School Students Work Toward a Greener Future
- May 16, 2013: PLT GreenSchools! Teacher Receives White House Award
- Faces of Kansas City: Schlagle High School teacher adds a green emphasis to his teaching
The Branch Newsletter:
- Summer 2012: Kansas Green Schools Burst with Innovative Learning