This week, we’d like to provide the opportunity to learn more about the sustainability efforts at Tempe High. We asked our Fellows, Brendan and Jen, to fill us in!
Q – Brendan, you’re a second year PhD student in the School of Sustainability, with research interests in include regional sustainability transitions and the interface between sustainability and enterprise. Jen, you’re also a second year student, but you’re in the Environmental Social Science program and studying visual representations and stories that are told surrounding renewable energy technologies – but can you tell us who makes up the rest of the Tempe High Sustainable Schools team?
A – We have the opportunity to work with many great Tempe High teachers this year. The two teachers that are the critical driving force behind much of the success at Tempe High are the two co-leaders of the sustainability PLC: Jessica Hauer and Mary Bridget Nowicki-Samson. Mary Bridget teaches IB biology and biotechnology. Jessica teaches biology and a brand new introduction to sustainability class. We, the Fellows, are really excited to work with Jessica and Mary Bridget, along with all of the other awesome teachers at THS -they’re so enthusiastic and motivated to make positive sustainability changes at their school.
You know, I think it is also important to acknowledge the students as a part of the team since they are interacting within the sustainability classes, as well as the other endeavors. We even have one student who has stepped up to work on a photo portfolio for a garden grant we’re working on!
Q –This is Tempe High’s second year as part of the Sustainable Schools project, right? Are there any projects from last year continuing into this year?
A -Yes, it is THS’s second year in the Sustainable Schools Project so they definitely have a great head start and a lot of momentum going into this academic year. As for projects that are continuing from last year, there is an increased effort around expanding the gardens on campus (We have 3 plots already). We are in the process of finding new locations on campus to add gardens. We are also planning on building upon the huge success of the Earth Week celebration that started last year.
There is also that sustainability PLC that we mentioned earlier – so the interest and commitment from the faculty is great. They are really leading the way and taking the initiative to come up with new projects and push them forward. THS has a lot of great assets and I think we can definitely build on the success from last year.
Q – I know the school year has just begun, but are there any exciting new projects on the horizon you’d like to tell us about?
A – We are working on grant applications right now to try and secure funding to build a wildlife habitat on campus. We hope to include a water feature and create a solar-covered, outdoor classroom space for the school. Our vision also includes incorporating the engineering class by having them create a water purification system each year and test the water quality. This project could be an awesome opportunity to expose students to a full ecosystem that numerous classes and subjects could interact with. If this project goes forward, it would be an instant location of interest on campus, giving THS a focal point for integrating sustainability throughout the campus as well as something that is really unique for a high school to have. It really fits with the district’s broader initiative to implement energy efficient and renewable infrastructure technologies.
Q – Is there anything else you think we should know about?
A – While Tempe High really does have a lot of exciting projects going on that we still have a lot of work to do! It takes a lot of folks working on lots of smaller projects in order to create a cohesive initiative. We need multiple actors – from teachers to administrators, student groups, and parents – working at various scales to be truly successful.
THS’s new Introduction to Sustainability class is such a big step in that direction. Brendan has had the opportunity to sit in on the class and participate on numerous occasions. The kids are really engaged, and it’s also an awesome opportunity to solidify sustainability in the district curriculum offering going forward. Most of us didn’t get exposed to sustainability until college, so starting in grade school is great. Hopefully, this trend expands into other schools and other regions because education will ultimately determine the staying power of sustainability going forward.
… Oh – and we can’t forget to say – when it comes to sustainability, have fun with it!