Whitehall Middle School Environmental Club at the 2012 White Lake Christmas Parade.
What do you get when you take 40 energetic, earth-loving middle school kids and provide them with the opportunity and resources to create change within their school and community? Over the last four years, I have had the extreme privilege of finding out what these kids can accomplish in my role as the advisor for the Whitehall Middle School Environmental Club.
Founded in December 2008 as an extracurricular activity for students in grades 6-8, the goal of the club was to provide opportunities for stewardship projects within the school and greater Whitehall community, and to fund these projects through small fundraising projects, grants, and community partnerships.
Our accomplishments include:
- Initiating and facilitating our middle school recycling program. We purchased recycling bins for paper for every classroom and school offices.
- Fundraising for the Michigan Arbor Day Alliance.
- Weeding and mulching along the bike trail with help from the Muskegon Conservation District.
- Working with the Muskegon Conservation District on their Benston Road reforestation project.
- Hosting recycling drives for cell phones (American Red Cross fundraiser for Haiti), plastic grocery bags, and plastic bottle caps.
- Building bluebird houses and creating wildlife habitat on our school grounds.
- Planting native perennials at Alcoa-Howmet’s native landscaping project.
- Donating to EARTH University in Costa Rica.
- Purchasing signs and recycling bins for our football field.
- Planning and presenting “White Lake Critter Capers” at one of the White Lake Community Library’s Family Fun Nights.
These are just a few of the activities we’ve worked on over the last four years. The students that I work with have no shortage of ideas and energy. It’s fun to introduce them to community partners that can help make their dreams a reality. Our most recent partnership has been with Goodwill Industries of West Michigan on our Cross-River Recycling Challenge with Montague’s NBC Middle School (www.facebook.com/CrossRiverRecyclingChallenge). Most of the students in the club had no idea about how much Goodwill does in our community for those in need. We are excited to help support their mission while helping Mother Earth at the same time!
Susan Tate teaches Earth & Environmental Science to 8th graders at Whitehall Middle School. She was named Middle School Science Teacher of the Year in 2012 by the Michigan Science Teachers Association. Under her leadership, her environmental club won $25,000 in the Lexus Eco Challenge last year. Her passion for sustainability and environmental issues takes her outside of the classroom and she shares her experiences with her students. In 2011, she visited Costa Rica to study global environmental initiatives as part of Toyota International Teacher Program, and earlier this year she was part of a carefully selected team of educators and environmentalists from 28 different countries to participate in an expedition to Antarctica with the group 2041.