Sustainable Students

By Abby Kaija

Sustainable Woodstock actively empowers and encourages youth to become involved in and make choices to better the environment, helping to build a foundation of sustainable ethics at younger ages within the community. Local elementary schools also provide opportunities for students to pursue environmentally-focused education and to implement sustainable practices. Schools, like Woodstock, Reading, Prosper Valley, and Killington, are choosing to cut their waste streams by composting and recycling, to buy and serve local food products, to repurpose and upcycle, and most importantly, to integrate these choices into all academic subject areas.

At Woodstock Union High School and Middle School, students may choose to sign up for a variety of environmental classes. The excellent offerings at the high school create relevant learning environments for students with varying degrees of interest in the subject material. In the Horticulture Department, popular standbys like Forestry, and Horticulture I and II are offered along with a new class called Locally Grown, a semester-long class taught collaboratively by Kat Robbins and John Hiers. Students in Locally Grown dive into investigations of how and where food is sourced, what “local” means and how individuals can make sustainable food choices. If a student wants to pursue an even deeper understanding of horticulture, there is an opportunity to take part in Advanced Agricultural Studies (AAS). AAS asks students to explore, research and potentially solve any school issue or present a new idea related to biological and/or environmental studies.

As an Advanced Agricultural Studies student, I have seen a variety of projects grow and evolve, from solar projects to complex hydroponics systems involving trout to studying the medicinal benefits of plants to making soaps and lotion. This year, junior Ben Beaudoin, is working hard to build a handicapped-accessible pathway to Arnie’s Greenhouse, the newest of the high school’s three greenhouses. Beaudoin commented,”The greenhouses just felt incomplete and I wanted to get my hands dirty to help every student get to Arnie’s.” I am studying the importance of pollinators, particularly native pollinators, and am learning how to construct a healthy habitat where bees can thrive. Within the next couple weeks, a Mason Bee house will appear amid perennials and other pollinator-friendly blooming plants outside the greenhouses.

The WUHS Science Department also offers Integrated Environmental Science for all ninth graders, Marine Biology and Oceanography, Upper Valley Geology, Advanced Placement Environmental Science and IDEA (Innovation Design Engineering Action) for tenth graders and above. Students may choose to take environmentally-related courses not offered at WUHS, by enrolling in the online Virtual High School Program. The WUHS Art Department’s environmental offering is Green Art.

Environmentally-related extracurricular options for all students include the Agricultural Exploration Club, Earth Beat, the Outing Club and Farm-to-School. The Ag Club is associated with the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and visits farms, forests, fairs and agricultural exhibitions like the Vermont Farm Show. Earth Beat maintains a large five-bin compost system for cafeteria waste and educates the student body on zero sort recycling, energy and water conservation. In addition to installing water bottle filling stations, Earthbeat has also conducted waste audits and recorded 206 lbs of waste from the school cafeteria. The WUHS Outing Club explores the outdoors, often taking hikes to the top of Deer’s Leap, Luce’s Lookout or the Plymouth caves.

The possibilities to explore science, agriculture, and anything environmental are endless, especially in Woodstock Vermont “birthplace of conservation.” Sustainability starts in kindergarten with harvest lessons and teachers work hard to inform the next generation how to lead socially and environmentally conscious lives. During the last 7 years, Sustainable Woodstock has invited and inspired students and other youth in the community to attend its film series, to participate in East End Clean up days, to contribute to one of the Community Gardens and to volunteer at other exciting green events. Sustainable Woodstock and other organizations are excited to continue teaching youth sustainable ethics, moving forward in a world with more pressure for educating and empowering individuals to live green.

If there are any comments or questions feel free to contact Abby Kaija at 16kaijab@wcsu.net.

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