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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - University High School, Normal, Illinois, USA

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University High School, Normal, Illinois, USA
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Registered: December 2020
City/Town/Province: Bloomington
Posts: 1
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At the beginning of this year, I had so many hopes for what I would do to help the environment this year. It was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I had a summer job lined up at a summer camp in southern Illinois where I would teach woodsmanship skills to kids ages 7-15. I was going to plant a heritage garden near my local nature center with help from a college graduate student. However, all of these plans were thrown out the window when the pandemic came around; social-distancing guidelines continued to halt my projects before they even truly got started. I felt defeated and useless; by the time I knew it, it was already December, and I thought that I had accomplished nothing to advance towards my overall goal of helping the environment. Although I may not have done as much as I wanted due to the multiple dramatic upsurges in COVID cases in my college town community, I definitely did more than nothing.

In order to explain the premise of this project that I am presenting, I need to explain the background of the organization that I worked with. The University High School Earth Club did not exist before the fall of 2018; our school had no other environmental-related club, and therefore, had no framework to guide them towards an eco-friendly future. After I attended a conservation conference in Colorado at the end of summer 2018, I decided to establish the Earth Club with the help of my freshman biology teacher, Ms. Proctor. As a sophomore, I had no prior knowledge on how to start and organize a club, so we really started from bare minimum. We struggled to gain members to attend our meetings and become involved. However, despite this, the University High School’s Earth Club persevered and became known as the most active club in the school. Our very first year, we collected $300 from bake sales and 200 pounds of bottle caps so that we can make a recycled bench that still sits in our science department hallway. We set an environmental precedent at our school that had never been seen before.

The Earth Club had a full year of meetings before the quarantine hit. By this point, we gained several members, but I was the only one who was leading our various projects. In the spring of 2020, Ms. Proctor and I were very excited to put together an Earth Week for our school which basically meant a week full sharing environmental ideas with our school community. Then… our school transitioned to an online format, and it looked like our Earth Week wouldn’t happen. However, this was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day; the Earth Club had to do something to commemorate this occasion! I realized that if we used our Instagram page to create a virtual format of what we already had planned, we could still organize a week full of environmental encouragement for our student body. Thus, the University High School’s Virtual Earth Week of 2020 was formed.

I spent many hours putting together online posters and interactive links to post to our Instagram page (many of these items are still available on our page - @uhighearthclub). I wanted to make the ‘daily challenges’ exciting and inclusive so that anyone and everyone would feel compelled to participate.

On Monday, we encouraged our students to eat eco-consciously by making a vegetarian or vegan meal, supporting local eco-friendly restaurants, or attempting to create a zero-waste meal. As a resource, we posted four different vegetarian and vegan recipes to our Instagram story that some of our Earth Club members had already tried. On Tuesday, we asked our student body to get their creative juices flowing; some ideas that we gave were making an eco-friendly message with sidewalk chalk on your driveway or painting rocks with plants. I shared my own attempt on the U-High Earth Club’s Instagram page; I had drawn a nature scene with ‘Happy Earth Day’ message underneath as a promotion for the following day. Since Wednesday was the big day, we decided to pay homage to conservationists that came before us. We shared a short biography of several prominent environmentalists for students to explore. Some of the people that we chose were Greta Thunberg, Rachel Carson, Theodore Roosevelt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jane Goodall. We hoped that this day would incline some of our own students to take their own steps towards helping the environment. On Thursday, we focused on the critters of our community by creating simple bird feeders, planting pollinator gardens, and watching the livestream of the baby North American River otters from our local Miller Park Zoo. The final day blessed us with sunshine, so we encouraged our student body to get outside and appreciate take a walk; we provided a list of local trails and natural areas that are still open.

Throughout the week, we had several students share their experiences with us using our hashtag, #uhsearthweek2020. We reposted everyone’s pictures on our own page, so that everyone can see the impact that this week had on our community. University High School’s newspaper called the Clarionette wrote an article about our virtual Earth Week; you can read it at the following link:

This project has made me realize that even though many projects had to be postponed during these trying times, there are alternatives that can be accomplished. We just have to be creative. This upcoming year, I plan on putting together a pamphlet that highlights the best hiking trails in my community and identifies the wildlife along these trails. My hope is that it will serve as an educational tool for various groups of people who want to learn more when they get outdoors in my county. This project can be done entirely online, so it doesn’t break any quarantining guidelines.

I am excited to see what 2021 this year holds. I can't wait to see what environmental projects come my way.
Date: December 31, 2020 Views: 4744 File size: 13.7kb, 48.2kb : 442 x 586
Hours Volunteered: 1
Volunteers: 3
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 15 to 40
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