DePauw students talk to 1,000 high schoolers about sustainability

Sunday, May 8, 2016
Courtesy photo The DePauw Sustainability Leadership Education initiative took 20 DePauw students into high schools around central Indiana, where they spoke to more than 1,000 students. Freshman Kiara Goodwine and sophomore Haley Chute had one of the longest trips, making the 90-minute trek to Benton Central High School in rural Oxford.

Earth Day was celebrated differently for some at DePauw University this year. Instead of marking the April 22 event on campus, five students spoke to 300 high schoolers at Terre Haute South High School.

Over five class periods, they spoke in an auditorium to the teenagers about how they could start a sustainability project at their school whether through applying for an energy efficiency grant, starting a clothing drive, or supporting a community garden.

"We're all about student empowerment. We just really want to inspire teens to start an initiative at their school. They'll gain leadership skills, make a difference in their community, and it's honestly a lot of fun," DePauw Sustainability Director Anthony Baratta said.

The Terre Haute South presentation was the concluding day of the first season of DePauw's new Sustainability Leadership Education initiative. Twenty students from DePauw's Environmental Fellows and Sustainability Leadership Program presented to 1,000 high schoolers in Central Indiana this spring -- from Greencastle High School to Pike to Brown County to Mount Vernon and more.

At each presentation, high schoolers were asked to compete in teams against each other to create the best plan to solve a problem, including figuring out how to increase recycling participation or reduce energy use.

"Having the students work in breakout groups was a great way to get them to think about ways to solve issues and to formulate a direct plan," Cathryn Lane of Brown County High School said.

Teachers ultimately picked the winner after two rounds, and any ties were decided by a raucous "rock-paper-scissors" game, something both DePauw students and high schoolers enjoyed.

"(The students') participation in all of the activities made the experience lively and fun for everyone involved," DePauw junior Akil Davis said.

So far, it appears that some momentum from the presentations will carry into the next school year.

"Students returned to the classroom excited to learn more about environmental issues and inspired to make a difference in the local community," Mount Vernon High School teacher Lynnette Huth said.

DePauw students are enthusiastic about continuing the Sustainability Leadership Education next spring. Who knows where they'll be for Earth Day next year.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: