Posted on Tuesday February 16, 2016
Posted on Tuesday May 25, 2010
This month, eight students will graduate from Wayfinder Schools’ Residential Program. These students have accomplished amazing things during the past year, including taking part in the schools’ new Green Project Initiative.
In May of last year, the Green Initiative received start-up funding from the Knox County Fund of the Maine Community Foundation. Matching contributions from individual donors soon followed and by August, a dedicated team of volunteers was hard at work cleaning and “greening” the school in preparation for the arrival of new students in September.
By mid-September, the students were working weekly with the school’s primary partner in this endeavor, The Newforest Institute, based in Brooks, ME. Newforest staff worked with students to develop a permaculture plan for the school, which involves using every inch of the school’s campus in the most environmentally responsible way possible. From maximizing the school’s natural light, collecting rain water, gardening, composting and recycling, this plan will reduce energy consumption and costs, while teaching students important lessons and skills in alternative energies and sustainable agriculture.
As part of this project, students began a composting program for the school, they evaluated the school’s trash production and water consumption, they conducted soils testing, they planted lettuce, blueberries and garlic, they researched the feasibility of raising chickens, they helped local seniors prepare garden beds, they served a locally grown harvest lunch to local school children, they helped the Tanglewood 4-H camp clear trails and combat invasive aquatic species. They also worked with an organic chef to learn how to prepare locally grown produce, conducted surveys on how much money the school spends and store-bought produce, and more.
On May 13, students presented some of their findings and recommendations to school staff, board members and volunteers.
Student Zech McIntosh studied the fuel consumption of the school’s two vehicles and recommended securing internship placements for the students that are closer to campus, in an effort to reduce mileage to job sites. He also suggested securing a fleet of donated bicycles so that students could cycle to their job sites, and along with fellow student Ian Betts, suggested creating a system of physical education credits for biking or cycling to work. Betts and student Natalie Paul researched the costs and benefits of building a chicken coop and raising laying hens. Eric Knight made recommendations for reducing the school’s trash consumption and increasing the ease of recycling and composting efforts. Billie Pirruccello recommended reducing the school’s output of methane gas by reducing student consumption of beef. Karen Johnson conducted a second mileage survey, with conclusions similar to McIntosh’s. Tyler Sabattis researched the amount of money the school spends on store-bought produce and made recommendations for planting crops on campus.
Khia Newell studied the impact of global warming on Antarctic penguins, and had this to say in her final report:
“People had always talked to me about global warming and what the effects had on earth and other species on the earth, but to be honest it still didn’t phase me any; I still continued what I was doing and didn’t give it another thought.
When we first started talking about the green initiative project I thought it was kind of a waste of time. Why would you have to grow your own vegetables and all of that when you could just go to the market and purchase the things needed? I guess I understood the money aspect about it, but that’s all I thought it was about. Now I realize it isn’t even about the money. By participating in the green initiative, we’re going to be reducing our carbon footprint by a huge amount, we’ll be less reliant on fuel and electricity, we’ll have a compost on site, and future students, hopefully, will be more aware that human behavior is causing the death and possible extinction of these penguins.
Now I understand the whole purpose to this project, and I’m happy Wayfinder Schools has decided to take this on. This project has taught me a lot. To know that helpless animals have to suffer because of our actions makes me want to make a change. And this green initiative project is a perfect way to start.”
All of the student presentations were thoughtful and well-researched, and created compelling arguments for continuation of the project. Pros and cons of each recommendation were carefully considered, and as these students prepare to graduate on May 28, they have left Wayfinder Schools with a top-notch, student-inspired blueprint for the future.