Students Break the Ice on Climate Change
May 17, 2018 by Rose Nemunaitis

Hershey Montessori School students are making a positive difference in an ongoing change of global magnitude.

Hershey Montessori School students are making a positive difference in an ongoing change of global magnitude.

“I hope that they learned that their voices and contributions do make a difference, especially when they are well informed about information they want to share,” said Rachel McKinney, Hershey Montessori Upper School guide and farm manager.

Hershey Montessori School students recently worked with Kirtland’s Holden Arboretum to inform visitors about the impact of climate change on the region’s trees and other plant life.

Students from Huntsburg’s Upper School 10thand 11thgrade integrated science class presented findings of their research into the chemistry of climate change May 12 through an exhibit at the arboretum.

Climate change is an alteration of the composition of global atmosphere, observed over a period of time, and in comparison to other time periods, as a direct or indirect result of human activity.

“(Students) had to learn much more about each of their topics so that they were prepared to respond to questions and conversation that went beyond the facts on their posters,” McKinney said. “I hope that they will continue to share what they know and know that their work is and will be, an important part of the future.”

Sharon Graper, Holden Forests and Gardens director of academics, said it is always great to work with the staff and students from Hershey Montessori School because their studies and the projects they take on are very pertinent.

“They are very focused on community concerns and they put a lot of time and effort into not only learning about the issues, but there is always some sort of action that they do that supports their learning about these topics,” Graper said.

Paula Leigh-Doyle, Hershey Montessori School’s head of school, said students experience interdependence with the natural world as an integrated part of their Montessori education and it is a part of the school’s philosophy.

“Their personal choice of study centers on problem-solving opportunities that arise from the natural systems of their campus and region and from their student-run farm,” Doyle said. “As they study the issues of the region, they also study how these issues are affecting the global environment. Their academic engagement is a trajectory of their personal investment in the pedagogy of place and Holden Arboretum offers a perfect extended lab with scientists who engage their intellectual and scientific inquiry.”

StudentsSylvia Altman, Noah DeSantis, Shaun Edwards, Ella Ergazos, George Ferguson, Erin Finan, Jack Hanson, Abriella Minotti, Taylor Reigle, Lucas Susan, Jordan Thierry, Amy Weeks shared findings with visitors, including how to reduce carbon emissions with solar panels on roofs and energy-efficient lighting.

“It was really nice,” Minotti, 16, said, during a break from the rain inside the visitor’s center. “I am glad I was able to share information with the local community.”

Altman, a boarding student from Takoma Park, Md., shared her enthusiasm.

“I really enjoyed it,” Altman said. “I feel privileged to share what I know.”

McKinney said the majority of learning in science at Hershey is based on issues and concerns facing humanity today.

The project for this term focused on the chemistry of climate change starting with a speaker at the beginning of the project (Dr. Jeff Corney from the Wilderness Center in Wilmot, Ohio), who presented information about greenhouse gases as well as current climate trends and future projections.

“This helped to motivate the students to think about what contributions they might make to help reduce greenhouse gases and make a difference,” McKinney said. “They decided that trying to engage the public about the science of climate change, alternative energies and ways to make a positive impact was important to them. They weren’t certain if people would listen seriously to what they had to say, but they know it will be a problem for their generation and beyond, so they thought it was important to try.”

Their projects were very diverse and ranged from talking about the effects of climate change on forest ecology, oceans, agriculture and health to a series of information about solar, wind and nuclear technologies.

Other students focused on the economics of alternative energies and the costs of doing nothing, while another group highlighted what anybody can do to help reduce carbon emissions.

One student drafted a letter people could sent to Ohio congressmen and women and representatives about why it is important to support the advancement of alternative energies and reduce carbon emissions.

According to a NASA Scientific consensus: Earth’s Climate is Warming report, “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or  more of actively publishing climate scientists agree climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”

The presentations coincided with the arboretum’s development of a new garden installation that examines the effects of climate change on the region’s plant life.

Hershey’s ninth-grade biology students helped to plant trees for the new climate-change garden, opening later this spring.

“We greatly value the resources that Holden provides for scientific inquiry and applied science,” Doyle said.