Spotlight on Success: Student Stories
The Generation Earth program exists to inspire students to become engaged in their communities by participating in environmental service projects. The program provides mentorship and learning opportunities to students, supporting them in completing environmental projects, spreading the word on environmental topics, and developing leadership skills. The following spotlight stories highlight students who combine their own commitment with Generation Earth's approach to inspire awareness and change in their schools.
Santa Monica High School
Students: Megan Kilroy and Amanda Dworkin of 2008/2009 Team Marine
Team Marine is Santa Monica High School's marine focused eco-club, which has been active since 2007. Team Marine members educate their peers and the community about environmental issues such as the global marine debris and energy crises. Simultaneously, they advocate for conservation efforts and the protection of fragile habitats from man-made threats.
Benjamin Kay, Santa Monica High School Science Instructor and coach of Team Marine, and volunteer assistant coach Renee Klein attended several Generation Earth service learning and environmental education workshops. Together, they brought inspiration back from the workshops to Team Marine to engage students in eco-projects.
As student leaders of Team Marine, Megan Kilroy and Amanda Dworkin had a jam-packed 2008/2009 school year working with their student peers to compete in the Edison Challenge, a Southern California eco-education competition. While this was truly a team effort, the leadership and organizational work from Megan and Amanda helped bring the year's work to life.
Researching Issues, Sharing Solutions
After attending numerous conferences and workshops to educate themselves, including the Generation Earth Water Pollution Prevention Workshop, Team Marine set out to teach community members about marine debris, storm drain transport and runoff, sustainable products and practices, and other eco-topics.
Team Marine assembled lesson plans for various audiences, all of which focus on the core topics of sustainability through mindful consumption and human impacts on the marine environment. From there, they hit the street, sharing information at schools and events. Each lesson consisted of presentations, games, hand outs, and take-home activities.
Environmental Service Learning in Action
The students developed a large roster of eco-projects and activities to deepen their understanding of the environment and to spread awareness. These included:
- Participating at beach clean ups.
- Coordinating a school-wide plastic bottle cap drive.
- Constructing a REthink Art Display on the Third Street Promenade made out of the collected 34,727 bottle caps.
- Organizing two student marches against single-use plastic products.
- Testifying at Santa Monica City Hall to express support for the ban on plastic bags from all retail stores.
- Building a solar-powered boat for the Solar Cup.
- Joining Jane Goodall's Roots and Shoots program to share their ideas and network.
- Partnering with the Surfrider Foundation in their Teach and Test ocean water quality monitoring program.
- Advocating for the preservation of the Ballona Wetlands.
- Restructuring the website to facilitate updates by future members of Team Marine.
- Presenting at several gatherings (including a Generation Earth Water Pollution Prevention Workshop).
- Teaching at several different schools.
Spreading the Word
While the eco-activities took place in Santa Monica, the students' outreach is going national and international. Team Marine's eco-activities over the past few years have been featured on six local television news programs and in more than two dozen local print articles. Beyond Southern California they have been featured in a Whole Foods Internet podcast, an Al Gore CurrentTV network production called "Plastic is Murder," a feature film documentary on youth and the environment, as well as on YouTube, NPR, CNN, and a Japanese TV show! Through lesson plans, multimedia and media exposure the students have communicated their message to millions of people around the world.
Team Marine's work has resulted in hundreds of students adopting one or more sustainable lifestyle choices from reusable shopping bags to stainless-steel water bottles. They have inspired increased recycling on campus (20 new recycling/trash cluster bins have been brought in), and seen the emergence of other eco-clubs on campus. Additionally, many Team Marine students are considering majoring in environmental science or policy once they move on to college.
Team leaders Megan and Amanda were glad to see the work of their peers rewarded. The group won second place in the Edison Challenge – and enjoyed an all-expense paid group trip to the Sierras. Nice work!