Wild Treasures: Sustainability, Naturally was one of the most challenging and thought provoking experiences that we, as teachers, have ever encountered for adolescents. —Charlestown Middle School science and mathematics teacher Shawn Brodeur-Stevens
Wild Treasures’ Local Program ends in June with a class of middle school students earning a Governor’s Sustainability Award for transforming the way their school operates.
It begins the previous September in a forest along a winding path surrounding an 800,000-ton capped landfill and a symphony of sounds produced by a very active waste recovery and transfer station. Along the trail, small groups of students solve a variety of surprising problems that introduce them to 5 big ideas about sustainability: waste, exponential growth, cycling in nature, feedback loops and entropy. If they solve all the problems, they will earn the free support of a Wild Treasures’ School Associate who will help the class succeed in the Research phase of the program. Solving all of the problems at the Challenge Trail guarantees that the Wild Treasures School Associate will visit the class on at least six occasions before winter break.
During the next nine months students earn additional support from a Wild Treasures’ School Associate, including up to an additional 15 visits by applying the five big sustainability ideas to:
- Conduct original research about their school’s sustainability practices,
- Present a comprehensive proposal to their school board, detailing the necessary action-steps needed in order to improve their schools sustainability practices (based on their research), and
- Transform their school-board proposal into measurable action.
The Wild Treasures’ School Associates work closely with teachers and students, and are available to facilitate Wild Treasures activities in the classroom. Their goal is to help provide logistical and curricular support to participating classes.
Since Wild Treasures’ inception in the fall of 1999, more than 450 students from fifteen middle schools in southern Vermont and New Hampshire have become real agents of change in their communities while learning about and applying the principles of sustainability. Students have reduced their school’s solid waste, implemented school-wide energy conservation programs, initiated large-scale composting systems and started an organic lunch program.