I was so inspired by students this week.
Everyday I spend an hour in a classroom in the mornings, but today was different. I was asked to dismiss my students early because they had an urgent meeting with a few representatives from the School’s District Office. Very official. My mind immediately assumed they were in some kind of deep trouble, something that had worked its way all the way up the chain to the district. While my lack of faith certainly earns me some ‘bad teacher’ points, turns out, the students had written a letter to the superintendent questioning why school lunches are packaged in so much plastic. This was a double win considering I am their writing teacher and a lover of the earth and everything plastic-free. The kids had noticed the trash increasing around their school since returning to school. Currently, school lunches are being handed out in plastic bags each day. While they recognized the need for the individual wrapping of lunches due to the pandemic, the students suggested paper bags instead. They cited articles and found schools in other places in the country that were composting and reducing their footprint in other ways. They had so many good ideas that a meeting is being held in Room 8 today to discuss the environmental consciousness and impact of the school.
I have spent the past five years keeping one foot in the education world. I have been an informal science educator, a kindergarten teacher, a substitute, a classroom aide— you name it. Being a PhD student, it is hard to manage my time well enough to dedicate the time that I do to the classroom, but my experience this morning reminds me why I do it. Whoever said that ‘kids are the future’— I hope you’re right. They care so much and it makes me that much more committed to my own research and studies. I always say, and I am sure I will say it again, its hard to care about something you don’t know about. Starting ‘em young is the best way to foster empathetic stewards of the planet. I didn’t wake up one day like this. Imagine what the world could do if more people just thought twice about decisions that could harm the planet, and imagine how much quicker we will get there with awesome people (like the students of room 8) holding others accountable. For those of you thinking about the next step on your personal road to saving the planet, I would implore you to try advocacy. Speak out, encourage others to do the same, amplify your impact by instilling your passion for the planet in others. Speak up.
Every year I get a group of scientists together to answer questions about the ocean from elementary school students. It is so exciting to foster someone else’s excitement about the ocean. Give it a try.