By Wendy Dew
You have to love it when you walk up to a school and kids are planting trees and a 1st grader is waiting at the door to inform you where you should put your “scrape metel”. I had not yet identified myself as an EPA employee there to photograph the amazing kids who received a grant to put solar panels on the roof of their school. Any visitor to Mackintosh Academy that day would be astounded at the amount of environmental work occurring at the school. After almost a decade in environmental education at EPA you would think I could no longer be amazed by kids…think again!
Mackintosh Academy in Littleton, Colorado is leading the pack in environmental education. Numerous projects have been accomplished and many more are in the works. The most notable project was recently completed right before Earth Day 2015. A group of students at the school decided that they needed to do more to help the environment. They decided to apply for a grant through State Farm Youth Advisory Board’s service learning grant and were able to get $96,000 to put solar panels on their school. The panels, now installed, save the school money and reduce carbon emissions. The school will even be able to put energy back onto the grid.
The kids involved in the project, 7th graders, are very excited to have solar panels on the roof of their school. Talking with the kids it is clear that they understand the importance of what they have been able to accomplish for the school and for the environment.
The school is also planting trees, recycling, composting and learning about how these actions help to protect the environment. Every time I visit a new school to see what kids are doing to green their own school, the bar gets raised. When we visit schools to do talks we often find out the kids know more about the environment than we thought. My colleague was worried that 2nd graders would not understand recycling, they then proceeded to show us their composting program! I do not worry about the future. Soon kids like the ones at Mackintosh Academy will be leading the way in environmental protection and telling us how to get it done!
About the author: Wendy Dew is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for EPA Region 8.