Green Schools Quest Participants Know: Where We Learn Matters!

By Fredericka Brandt,
USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

Where we learn matters! Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forestry engineer stated, “In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.” If future generations do not love the Earth, will they be willing to protect it? If they do not understand the importance of their impact on the environment, will they make positive changes for our region — and our planet? That’s where the Green Schools Quest project-based challenge of the US Green Building Council–Missouri Gateway Chapter (USGBC-MGC) comes in. 

Green Schools Quest Mentors and School Leaders teach students throughout the St. Louis region and beyond, from kindergarteners to high-school students, ways to devise and implement the most creative, effective and no or low-cost sustainable practices for their schools. This year we have nearly 70 schools participating in the 2019-20 Green Schools Quest. Students, teachers, mentors, and potentially administrators set out to achieve a range of sustainability targets while working through several phases of discovery; researching the problem, designing solutions, implementing their plans, and educating their communities. 

We got the opportunity to talk to Christa Payton of @showme_zerowaste, the school lead for KIPP Victory Academy (a charter elementary school) for their kindergarten classes. This is their first year participating yet Christa’s second as a school lead. She is drawn to the Green Schools Quest because she’s passionate about sustainability within her own life, and wanted to get more involved within the community. KIPP’s kindergarteners did not focus on this year’s theme, Environmental Justice, however social justice and racial equity is very prevalent throughout their school and lesson plans. KIPP chose to build a school garden for their GSQ project, they are basing their success of the project, “on an increase in student learning regarding correctly understanding and sequencing the steps it takes to plant a seed/grow a plant. Additionally, if they increase their knowledge around vegetable, fruit, and herb identification,” states Christa. What’s impactful for Christa is that this school garden project will not only benefit the school but KPP’s students’ families, transforming into a community project. 

USGBC-Missouri Gateway will receive school project submissions in April, which will be judged by a combination of local and national sustainability practitioners. Winners in each grade category will be announced on May 15 and the collective impact of all participants will be celebrated. We look forward to learning about students’ experiences and perspectives on the impact of their projects. 

Looking to become a Green Schools Quest mentor or have your school participate next year? For more information please visit www.usgbc-mogateway.org/green-school-quest. Christa shared, “It’s a great way to feel like you are making a big, measurable difference within your community. It’s also incredibly rewarding to watch students become excited about sustainability. There are so many unique ways to become involved from taking on small and large projects alike. I think it’s great that USGBC-MGC celebrates all the ways you can be sustainable!”

Learn more at Greenbuildingsarebetter.org.