Successful High School Greening Competition
April 4, 2009
On Saturday, April 4, eight student teams from Vermont and New York competed at Johnson State College for funding of their proposed high school environmental projects. In her opening remarks, JSC President Barbara E. Murphy expressed her support for the participating students’ efforts. She also stated that instituting environmental changes on any campus is always an ongoing process and exhorted students to ask questions as to the greening intentions of any colleges they are considering attending. Senator Bernie Sanders, a strong advocate for both education and the environment, also lent his support to the competition, sending a representative from his office as well as an inspirational videotaped address.
The winning teams, science teacher Sheila Tymon’s advisory group from Peoples Academy in Morrisville and the Upward Bound Team from Hazen Union High School in Hardwick, each received $500 to help implement their greening initiatives. All teams submitted written proposals beforehand, and then delivered both formal presentations and dramatic skits at the Summit. The winning Peoples Academy plan was to host an imaginative “localvore” barbeque dinner for students, parents, teacher, and community members, in order to educate people about where their cafeteria food currently comes from. Doing so would allow them to tout the environmental, economic, and health benefits of “eating locally.” The Hazen team’s idea was to purchase occupancy sensors that would automatically turn off lights located in school hallways and bathrooms after people left these areas. This plan also incorporated an educational component.
Equally imaginative and viable plans were presented by the other teams, including first runner-up BFA St. Albans, which wanted to build two rain gardens around the school to filter runoff water that would eventually drain into Lake Champlain, and second runner-up Moriah (NY) Central School, which developed a plan for a better school recycling program. The remaining teams were from Burlington High School, Milton High School, Jericho’s Mount Mansfield Union, and the Lamoille Family Center’s Learning Together Program in Morrisville.
The awards were funded from a grant made by the Vermont Community Foundation’s “Green Mountain Fund.” In addition to the two winning submissions, all the teams’ proposals are being evaluated by Senator Sanders’ staff, in the hopes that some of them might gain funding via the federal monies being made available to support such school greening projects.
In addition to the competition, participants were treated to an engaging presentation by acclaimed Vermont filmmaker John O’Brien, who screened portions of his work-in-progress, an amusing film about “the priorities of high school students and the challenges of saving the planet.” O’Brien, who said he strives to make his work “about 90% humor and 10% message,” seems to be on the right track, judging by the laughter his film elicited from student and adult viewers alike.
The day also featured a green tour of JSC, highlighting campus environmental initiatives, as well as a lunch featuring organic and local fare served in the dining hall of the newly refurbished Stearns Student Center, which was renovated in line with a wide range of green building principles and practices. All in all, the event, which included the participation of a certified green builder, as well as personnel from Efficiency Vermont and the Vermont Energy Education Program, was a great success, mainly thanks to the commitment of the participating high school students and their teachers. Judging by the hard work and creative thinking that went into their environmental proposals, Vermont’s future seems to be in very good hands!
Participants in the competition, as well as JSC Upward Bound staff, later met with Senator Sanders to discuss the experience. You can read more about it on Senator Sanders’ web site here: http://sanders.senate.gov/news/record.cfm?id=311839
Pictured above: Winners from People’s Academy and Russ Weis.