Building student leadership skills and giving students a voice is a big part of PLT GreenSchools. 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: an appearance by students Randi Hartin and Irene Fernandez at an annual ecological conference.
The two students knew they would speak about their PLT GreenSchools work. But they had no idea they would field 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 with flying colors. They talked about the recycling program they started at Schlagle, about how the student Green Team is replacing the 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,” said Fernandez.
The two young women were part of the school’s Green Team, whose members take 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,” said 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 reported. Even the Schlagle faculty 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 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,” saids 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 led to plans for a community organic garden on the Schlagle grounds. The students broke ground for the garden after devising a business plan that included raising vegetables, selling them at a local farmers 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. As student Irene Fernandez said, “What we’re doing is important for our future. We need to help the environment so future kids like us can continue on.”