As our world rapidly changes before our eyes, educational practices must not reflect the world of yesterday but instead provide students with the knowledge, skills, and values to meet the challenges, foreseen and unforeseen, that lie ahead. The planet that Hewitt girls are inheriting will present unique local and global problems, many of which are rooted in the health of our environment and the dynamics of our ecological support systems. To address these concerns, 21st century leaders and problem solvers will require new and different sets of skills and understandings than previous generations. As we guide girls to become young women of purpose and the bold leaders of tomorrow, we have been expanding sustainability and environmental literacy as a core component of our curriculum and community practices.
One of the driving forces behind our school’s sustainability efforts lies in the leadership of our middle school students. Hewitt middle school girls have great concern for the health of the planet and are discovering a genuine sense of purpose by actively working to implement sustainability initiatives throughout their school community. Since the fall of 2017, our middle school Service and Sustainability Committee has grown from a small but mighty group of nine to include almost forty students across grades five through eight.
The committee meets during their recess and lunch periods to discuss environmental issues of concern, actualize new initiatives, and plan opportunities to educate their classmates on their work. Their efforts this school year have largely focused on reducing our school-wide consumption of resources (i.e. energy, water, school materials) and diverting as much waste as possible from landfills or incinerators. Some highlights from the committee’s efforts this year include:
- Instituting a program to collect and recycle used markers from classrooms.
- Introducing plastic snack wrapper recycling.
- Advocating for composting as much of our food waste as possible. This is an ongoing effort that began last year with the introduction of composting bins throughout the dining room.
- Promoting a month-long Last Straw Pledge during November to limit our community’s use of disposable plastic straws.
- Joining Green Teams from other local independent schools in a Sustainability Through Student Voices event at The Town School focused on plastic pollution.
- Leading a middle school town meeting on the growing problem of plastic pollution in our oceans and the harm this causes in marine ecosystems.
Creating a more sustainable global community will be among the greatest challenges of the 21st century. At Hewitt, through teaching and mentorship, we are striving to provide our girls with the knowledge, skills, and values to be strong, confident leaders and problem-solvers in this ever-changing world.