Spotlight: Tempe High School

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?

Entering the Tempe High School Campus

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!

One of the Tempe High Garden Plots!

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!

Beginning the Fall ’11 Semester

Despite the title of this post, our dedicated Sustainable Schools team actually began working months before the fall semester began. Summer workshops for high school teachers and training sessions for our six new Fellows (Ann Marie, Ben, Brendan, Jen, Katie, and Omaya) translated into a strong start for the 2011-2012 school year.

We are continue to work with Chandler, Carl Hayden, BioScience and Tempe High Schools. Last year’s strong efforts with Tempe Union High School District has paved the way for us to connect in some capacity with all of the schools in the district. Fellows will be working closely with teaching teams at Tempe High, McClintock, Desert Vista and Marcos de Niza, and our Outreach Fellows will follow-up with the other high schools in the district. Teaching teams are working with our Fellows to define new sustainability projects that address issues of waste, water, food and energy. Though the semester has just begun, plans are being developed for exciting projects with equally exciting names – like the “Tempe High School Stampede to Sustainability: Stomping out Waste” and McClintock High School’s “How Green are you McClintock?”, a project that will include a school-wide recycling survey.

Accompanying our six new Fellows are our four returning ones! In addition to supporting schools in the Tempe Union High School District, Auriane and Sandra will be working on a variety of outreach activities (from Sustainability clubs to conferences!). Tamara and Nigel are focusing their efforts on special community engagement projects as they are a critical platform for sustainability efforts. We are very excited to be moving into year three of our program, and know that the good work of our Fellows is only possible through strong school and district partnerships. Together we’re bringing sustainability science research into our local schools and addressing the challenge of becoming a “sustainable school”.

As always, thank you for reading and come back next week for more exciting updates!

Welcome back updates (part 2)

As promised, here is the second part of the updates from the last school year!

With the new year (and the spring semester) came a new addition. Carl Hayden High School, in the Phoenix Union High School District, became a Sustainability Project School as a result of its team of energetic, sustainability-minded teachers.

In addition to the new school, the Fellows completed their week-long lesson plans and amazing progress with their project schools.  Though not exhaustive, below are some key highlights from last year:

  • BioScience High School: The BioScience Fellows, Braden and Edgar, tackled different projects in the spring.  Braden worked with teams of students on placing planter boxes in vacant lots as well as a solar/hybrid car design project.   Meanwhile, Edgar provided guidance to students on the “Backyard Ecologies” project which allows students to explore ecology and permaculture through experiencing nature and seasons in their own backyards.
  • Chandler High School: Emily and Sandra worked with Chandler High on many fronts to support their waste reduction efforts.  They took a multi-pronged approach to reducing waste which included: a reusable water bottle design contest; partnering with the City of Chandler and Waste Management; as well as a recycling awareness campaign.
  • Coronado High School: Tamara worked with the students of Coronado High to design and implement the youth garden project called G.A.R.D.E.N. – Green Agricultural Retreat for Dontastic Endeavors in Nature.
  • Metro Tech High School: Erin and Mark guided the completion of the large projects that were began in Metro Tech’s first year as a project school – the Green Fine Dining Room redesign and construction project and the solar-powered message board.  Anna facilitated a school-wide sustainability fair with several different educational and recreational stations for students to participate in.
  • Tempe High School: Auriane and Nigel were very busy with the teachers of Tempe High!  Their many efforts included: an energy conservation poster campaign, development of public service announcements focused on sustainability topics, development of the Earth Day & Week Festival program and activities, and design and implementation of several school gardens.

You’ve gotten the highlight reel from last year, so next week we’ll introduce you to this year’s new Fellows and projects!

Welcome back updates (part 1)

It has been about a year since we’ve last posted and, as you can imagine, there is so much to share! Rather than bombard you with all of our updates at once, we are going to divide it into two posts with this one dedicated to the Fall of 2010.

The year started with an amazing team of eleven Fellows. We were fortunate enough to have three returning Fellows from the 2009 school year (Erin Frisk, Braden Kay, and Mark Woods) as well as the eight new ones (Lindsey Rose Allen, Edgar Cardenas, Nigel Forrest, Emily Freeman, Auriane Koster, Anna Krithis, Tamara Lawless, and Sandra Rodegher). Since the Fellows’ year started earlier than the public school year, they began preparing for work within high schools through the challenging task of creating week long lesson plans around various areas of focus in sustainability. These units included: Energy, Supply Chain Management, and Quality of Life. Not only were they honing their skills, but they were also beginning to develop a great resource for teachers to use in the classroom!

Once the school year started, our Fellows’ efforts spread out across Tempe, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Chandler. They continued working with our two returning schools, BioScience High School and Metro Tech High School in the Phoenix Union High School District, and started new efforts with Coronado High School in the Scottsdale Unified School District, Chandler High School in the Chandler Unified School District and Tempe High School in the Tempe Union High School District. The fellows enthusiastically jumped into their schools with both feet. In addition to simply getting familiar with the schools, teachers and students, they engaged in sustainability project development and worked with science and environmental clubs. They also collaborated with their teaching teams to assist in teaching sustainability lessons across diverse classrooms ranging from AP Environmental Science to English and Health. Some Fellows even had the opportunity to work with school leadership to integrate sustainability concepts throughout the entire school curriculum!

Next week we will tell you all about Spring 2011!