Hewitt’s K-12 sustainability program teaches students about their local and global communities while encouraging them to imagine, design, and make meaningful contributions to the world around them. Throughout the 2022-2023 school year, Hewitt students engaged in hands-on experiences that helped them develop environmental literacy and systems thinking skills and practice becoming more active, responsible citizens. Here are a few highlights:
- First graders visited Hewitt’s rooftop garden to learn from upper school sustainability leaders about the garden’s sustainable features — including a composter and rain barrel — and explore the different plants growing there. Lower and upper school students then returned to the classroom to repurpose plastic bottles into self-watering planters full of flowers to take home for the summer.
- While learning about the importance of the Hudson River to the indigenous people of Mannahatta, second graders visited Hewitt’s own oyster research tank to observe how these sea creatures clean the water. They also visited Hewitt’s oyster research station on the Upper East Side, where they helped identify, measure, and record data for over 30 living oysters for the Billion Oyster Project.
- As part of Hewitt’s fourth grade leadership program, students practiced leading their community toward a more sustainable future by implementing a school-wide recycling system, starting a classroom garden, and helping to create a new triple-stream recycling and composting system for our lower school cafeteria.
- As part of their study of sustainable food systems, fourth graders partnered with members of our upper school Earth Committee to visit Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center for a full-day of learning about sustainable agriculture.
- For their annual spring plant sale, the middle school sustainability team grew and sold a diverse assortment of plants including tomatoes, peppers, basil and other herbs, native flowers, and several varieties of houseplants. During the sale, students learned key ideas about designing and leading a sustainable and community-focused business and sold over 200 plants, inspiring community members to plant gardens of their own and consume locally grown produce.
- Hewitt’s middle school Sustainability and Social Activism Committee created a new norm for student leadership and responsibility in our dining room by instituting new systems for recycling and composting food waste and selecting sustainable cleaning products for students to use when cleaning up their tables after lunch.
- Fifth and sixth graders were guided by members of the upper school Earth Committee in learning about urban agricultural practices and local foods at the GrowNYC Teaching Garden; visiting the New York Harbor estuary to explore its biodiversity; and traveling to the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium at Sandy Hook for a day of immersive learning in a salt marsh.
- Led by a member of the Class of 2023, Hewitt’s weekly food rescue initiative expanded to include student volunteers delivering leftover food from Hewitt’s dining room to a nearby shelter every Friday afternoon. Upper school students helped rescue over 2,800 pounds of food which served 2,400 meals to members of our local community and prevented the emission of close to 1,000 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere. For her senior project, the student who founded Hewitt’s food rescue program developed a framework to ensure that the program continues on and our students continue to make a game-changing impact on their community.
- In the fall, a group of upper school students participated in a six-day deep dive, Sustainable NYC, focused on how New York City residents can foster a reciprocal relationship with the Catskill communities that protect our watershed. Students met with state conservation officials, explored the Battery Urban Farm, and visited the Ashokan Reservoir to conduct water quality tests.
- Following their sustainability deep dive, Hewitt students connected with peers at Krobo Girls' School in Odumase Krobo, Ghana, to share information about their local water systems and the projects each group is taking on to ensure their sustainability.
- Team Hewitt was one of only four high school teams across the world to be named a finalist for the Project Green Challenge, an annual competition that informs, inspires, and mobilizes high school, college, and graduate students worldwide around climate action, public health, social justice, and advocacy. As part of the competition, Hewitt juniors planned and hosted a community thrift sale designed to raise awareness about and combat the environmental impacts of fast fashion.
- Student members of Hewitt’s Sustainability Council successfully advocated for and supplied all campus restrooms with sustainable period products. These new products are made from organic cotton and will greatly reduce the water and plastic footprint of personal hygiene products at Hewitt.
Finally, Hewitt’s school-wide Sustainability Council — which already included faculty, staff, and upper school students — expanded to include representation from our eighth graders and members of our parent and guardian community. The Council leads a culture of sustainability at Hewitt through sub-committees focused on learning for sustainability; food and dining; materials and waste stream; energy and climate; equity, justice, and community connections; and school culture. This spring, the Council used the Sustainability Tracking and Road Map Tool (START) to conduct its second annual school-wide sustainability assessment, examining 53 metrics in the areas of educational programming, community culture, and campus and facilities. Hewitt’s 2023 START results showed growth and improvement over the previous school year, and provided important data that will inform how we continue growing our sustainability programming during the 2023-2024 academic year.