Middle School Students “Go Green” at Innovative Event

They came with curiosity and left as leaders! More than 240 students from 11 middle schools in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland joined forces at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School (Alexandria, Va.) for the seventh-annual Students for Sustainability (S4S) Conference on January 26. It was a day of hands-on education, brainstorming, and bonding to make their schools “greener” places. “The students were asking tons of questions and seemed really fascinated,” said Marshall Benjamin, a senior at SSSAS. “They got a jump start on looking into the future of the world and what we need to do to change our ways and make a healthier planet.”

Keynote speaker Ian Cheney is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose projects include “King Corn” and “Truck Farm.” Students engaged in 12 Green Activity Zones, such as Harness the Wind, Race to Recycle, and Gaming for a Sustainable Planet, and they competed in a fun, environmental quiz game. S4S is waste-free; everything used during the day is recycled or composted. “My favorite part was making our own wind turbines,” said Thomas, a middle schooler from Sandy Spring Friends School (Md.). “It was cool because you got to experiment to see how much more energy or less energy they would produce.” Helen, an SSSAS eighth grader, said the activities inspired her to get active: “I want to share with students that we can incorporate our own passions and interests into informing others about sustainability.”

St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School started the annual S4S Conference in 2008. It’s the only event like it in the Washington, D.C. area. “We focus on making sustainability part of our culture,” said Brian Kane, director of environmental stewardship. The school has reduced its overall carbon footprint by nearly 30 percent since 2008. SSSAS junior Caroline Curran said, “Coming to a conference like this where there are a lot of like-minded people around the same age can really help you be more confident and feel like we can make a difference.”

Does your school do something similar?

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