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Global Citizenship and Student Leadership

Louise Jackson, Middle School Math Teacher and STEAM Coordinator

Promoted at TCS (in honor of Earth Day 4/22/19)

Two years ago, as the new STEAM coordinator at The Country School, I wanted an umbrella for some of our projects and thought the environment would be a broad enough theme to encompass endless ideas.  Since our school places an emphasis on an outdoor, affective education, it seemed appropriate to think of projects where the environment would be protected, or to generate awareness of global environmental issues and not limit our efforts solely to our backyards.

One of my colleagues at Country School, in keeping with the environmental theme, showed her 5th Grade students a film on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch last year, and it had a huge impact on a handful of her students. As a 6th Grade advisor this year, I heard of this group’s interest in working on the plastics issue and that they specifically were looking to tackle the elimination of one-use plastic bags in our local supermarkets. One day in September, one of the students handed me a letter that he had written to both our local family-owned supermarket and Stop & Shop regarding the elimination of one use plastic bags; he asked them to consider charging a fee for plastic bags. I was energized by this student’s interest and enthusiasm in making his world a better place. I felt that I could help provide avenues for these children to be ambassadors for bettering the environment. First, I actually began to read all the articles in National Geographic regarding the plastics crisis and tried to stop using plastic in my own little world!  It is really difficult, by the way, because plastic is everywhere!

Before I knew it, we were making a plastic scarecrow for the Chamber of Commerce in Madison so that we could help educate citizens on the environmental plastics crisis and to aid them in their “Turn the Tide” on plastic campaign. Students made a scarecrow for the COC to help convey that message to the public.  A few of the 6th Grade students designed tote bags for our school to encourage community members to refrain from bringing one-use plastic bags to school. Students in 7th and 8th Grade and both art teachers created an art piece to bring attention to the issue. Robert’s Food Center responded that they were interested in meeting with us to hear the ideas from the students and became the first store to put the art piece in front of their store. The owner and manager of Robert’s also educated the 6th Grade students on how using tote bags instead of plastic bags affected business so that students could understand the argument on the other side.  The students designed a sign for Robert’s to remind shoppers to bring their reusable bags. 

Next, students are preparing to help Robert’s sell their reusable bags in an efforts to eliminate plastic bags in their store by the fall of 2019! I constantly remind my students that it may seem that they are making only a ripple..but that is all it takes to create a tsunami!  Next up--showing the Bagit! Movie on campus on May 22 in conjunction with the BYO Madison organization to bring more community awareness to the plastics issue. Students will be running the program!