As teachers, parents, and students are gearing up for the upcoming school year, we’re checking in with Stacie Mehaffey, the first EcoRise Ambassador to lead sustainability curriculum in the Houston area and receive a mini-grant sponsored by Sun Club.
Earlier this year, EcoRise – the school-based nonprofit organization inspiring a new generation of leaders to design a sustainable future for all – and Sun Club announced a partnership to provide 50 Houston-area teachers with leading-edge, student-driven sustainability curriculum, project mini-grants, and training to educators at no cost to teachers, schools, or school districts.
Stacie is a first grade teacher at Ehrhardt Elementary in Klein, Texas. She became an EcoRise teacher and began implementing sustainability curriculum in March. Shortly after, Stacie led her eager students through an Eco-Audit and applied for a mini-grant.
Eco-Audits are student-driven efforts to measure a specific aspect of a campus’s environmental footprint, and create and implement a strategic plan to make it more sustainable.
At Ehrhardt, the first graders took initiative and polled other teachers, collected data, crunched numbers and – with a little help on the calculations – identified where the campus could benefit the most from a green boost.
“Looking at all of the data and numbers, we realized that our campus was heavily dependent on paper worksheets, and many of the teachers didn’t have a way to recycle those worksheets,” said Stacie. “The kids said ‘Well, that’s one of the first R’s [reduce, reuse, recycle], Mrs. Mehaffey – we have to get this done.’”
With a mission in mind, the class named themselves the Eco Soldiers and began planning their Eco Operation. Check out their application video for the mini-grant.
Once approved for a $450 mini-grant to purchase recycling bins through the Sun Club program, the Eco Soldiers leaped into action, putting boots on the ground to distribute bins to every classroom and office on campus, implementing a system for collection, and educating and working with other teachers and students on how to recycle.
“The students in my class have really internalized the principals behind sustainability. The hands-on education from EcoRise is what really put this idea that we all make a difference in the kids’ hearts. It gave them what they needed to take ownership and make the grant happen,” said Stacie.
Once students grasp the concept, importance, and feasibility of sustainability through the EcoRise curriculum, it becomes firmly rooted in their ability to influence others around them and quickly goes beyond the school to reach the surrounding community.
“My goal here is to make our school a little greener, a little more sustainable, teach those ideas, and transfer that to the community,” added Stacie.
Through the project, the students ultimately aim to increase the amount of recycling on their campus, and expect to reduce the school’s landfill waste by 50,400 pounds per year. Additionally, the school also hopes to cut the amount of money that the school spends annually on paper by $4,000 through limiting paper usage.
Since 2015, a total of nearly 102,960 students, 2,260 teachers, and 928 schools have participated in EcoRise programming, conserving more than 750,000 gallons of water, diverting nearly 2,000,000 pounds of waste, producing 6,275 pounds of food, and saving more than 21,700,000 kWh of energy.
Learn more about how to enroll to be an EcoRise teacher at www.ecorise.org/enroll/.
This story was originally published on the Green Mountain Energy Blog.