This year Earth Day came on the heels of Easter, making it easy to forget the environmentally-themed holiday. However, Shortridge High School’s Science Club was determined to make Earth Day a holiday their peers will remember, so the group spearheaded a service-themed Earth Day celebration.
Thanks to these students, Shortridge held its first Earth Day celebration on April 22. Students and faculty took a break from classes to learn how to take care of the planet by volunteering time to environmental causes such as recycling, urban gardening and picking up trash. The environmentally-themed service events went so well that Shortridge will make them annual.
Students at Shortridge have a community service requirement, so the school’s Science Club decided to use its expertise to provide service opportunities. In September 2018, it proposed an Earth Day celebration where students would learn about environmentalism and act on what they learned. Shane O’Day, principal of Shortridge, approved the event after he noticed the leadership qualities students displayed.
“Leadership doesn’t simply come from those with titles, being a principal or assistant principal or teacher, but it comes from a voice of passion and a voice that resounds our values,” O’Day said.
Students began the day listening to a presentation from Jim Poyser, executive director of Earth Charter Indiana, who discussed ways students can make changes to improve the environment. For example, he said students can campaign to replace Styrofoam cafeteria trays with more environmentally friendly cardboard trays.
Students then rotated through different activities. Some activities were Earth Day-themed track events. In one event students ran back and forth between a bag of soil and a flower pot, trying to fill up the pot one spoonful at a time. In another, they ran a relay race trying to push a two-liter bottle to the finish while trying to prevent the bottle from swerving off course.
The rotation also included service projects for each grade. Freshmen created art out of recycled materials. Sophomores learned about urban gardening through working in Shortridge’s gardens. Juniors armed with trash bags and gloves scoured the city, picking up 601 pounds of garbage. Finally, seniors visited one of the learning gardens run by the nonprofit organization Big Green to learn the advantages of eating food from gardens.
“As people were participating in [Earth Day], I really feel like it did help educate some students on climate change and environmental problems that are going on right now and how they can help,” Lucy Pickett, a Science Club member, said. Jessica Carlson, faculty advisor of the Science Club, said Shortridge’s assistant principal not only approached her about doing a similar event for Earth Day next year but also suggested doing multiple neighborhood cleanups every year.
O’Day said he would like to see each future Earth Day celebration focus on a different aspect of environmentalism such as air quality or caring for local parks. Regardless of whether Shortridge adopts this angle or not, O’Day said future Earth Day activities will be in the students’ hands.
“I’m not entirely sure what direction the students will take this, but I think that’s what makes it exciting,” O’Day said. “The students themselves get to choose what is the singular purpose.”