In preparation for America Recycles Day on November 15, several Mt. Vernon High School (MVHS) students have already made a big impact in the environment with lessons learned in school. MVHS Biology students in Mrs. Huth’s class have concluded a two week environmental unit yielding big results. As part of a project, students explored humans’ impact on the environment in ways such as deforestation, emission of greenhouse gasses, eutrophication of waterways caused by agricultural runoff, the accumulation of trash in oceans and landfills, and the colony collapse of a keystone species, the honeybee. Throughout the project, students shared what they learned in the classroom with their families resulting parental support far exceeding Mrs. Huth's expectations. Huth states, “I can’t believe the level of parental support in this community. Emails and notes in support of this project have poured in over the last two weeks, not to mention all the families willing to make changes to lessen their impact on the environment!”
All students participated in planting sunflowers and hyssop in a pesticide free area along the school stadium creating a safe haven for honey bees. One parent who was excited about the project made a commitment to explore options other than neonicotinoids, (a contributor to colony collapse,) when spraying crops.
Tackling the problem of deforestation, students started oak trees from acorns, now growing in their classroom until they may be safely transplanted at their homes in the spring. Trees play a crucial role in the ecosystem absorbing carbon dioxide and creating oxygen. Mrs. Huth vowed to do her part by joining the "minus one" program, reducing fonts on printed classroom assignments by one, resulting in an 18% reduction of paper. Many parents jumped on board with her saying they reduced the font size of work projects. Since more than 100 million trees are destroyed every year to produce junk mail, students encouraged their families stop the delivery of such mail to their residences, 67% of families took this step.
Parents of Mrs. Huth’s students took the threat of climate change seriously and supported students by swapping out a whopping 129 incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent or LED bulbs. The National Wildlife Federation explains, if every U.S. family replaced one regular light bulb with a fluorescent or LED bulb, it would eliminate 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gasses! This is equivalent to taking 7.5 million cars off the road.
Startled by the realization that Americans populate 5% of the globe, yet produce 30% of the waste, students decided to reduce, recycle and reuse. 57% of Mrs. Huth’s students found a way to reduce materials they currently use. 56% of the students found something to reuse instead of buying new. 67% of the students continue to recycle, or began to recycle for the first time upon completion of this unit. One family reported installing a water filtration system so they no longer need to purchase bottled water in an effort to reduce the buildup of plastics in our landfills and waterways.
“Most rewarding”, said Mrs. Huth, “is that upon completion of the ‘Human Impact Project’, ten of my Biology students expressed interest in considering a career in environmental or climate science! Environmental changes are happening right before our eyes, largely due to human activity. The world population continues to experience exponential growth and many resources are not replenished as quickly as they are used up, so the invention of sustainable resources is the way of the future. These are exciting times for a generation of innovative thinkers who have the opportunity to reinvent the way we do life.”
For additional information on America Recycles Day (November 15), please see www.americarecyclesday.org. For further information on the “Minus One Project”, see the Minus One Project YouTube video.