Science department embeds sustainability concepts into class lessons

New lessons based on district latest sustainability goals


Daisy Calderon/Talon

Ms.Litten teaches an Honors Bio class with group shared notes.

Teachers across campus have begun to implement lessons and videos on sustainability into their class lectures as a result of changes from prior objectives and the creation of new sustainability goals.

Over the course of several years, the district has taken several measures to implement sustainability plans that reduce the district’s negative impact on the Earth.

“[Dr. Knight’s] vision is for the school district to really be a leader in how schools can lead the way in terms of building sustainable facilities and use those facilities as learning tools,” Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jay Greenlinger said.

This year, the district is not introducing anything new facility-wise, but instead, is focusing their attention on educating students as to how knowledge on sustainability plays a vital role in our development.

“[The district] is really making a greater effort to bring these things into the classroom and not just make AP Environmental Science the only place where students learn about climate change or impacting the environment,” Greenlinger said.

Over the summer, several teachers completed sustainability courses that encouraged the staff to think of new and innovative ways to ingrain the concept of sustainability into student’s minds, a concept according to Biology teacher and Science Department Chair Winnie Litten to be difficult, yet important.

“I think the most difficult [concept] to implement is the paradigm shift in people’s minds; that they’re the ones that are responsible — each of us — for either moving the scale towards positive choices in sustainability or negative and to really research and look at it and think about it. That mindset change, ownership for our own sustainability, I think that’s the hardest part,” Litten said.

Several teachers have found their own ways to embed the district’s aims into their lessons. Staff has begun asking students to recycle their paper properly, watch videos on climate change and present sustainability procedures that are plausible for communities like Oak Park. Among the faculty who have taken this initiative are Litten and Calculus, Math Analysis and Geometry teacher Robin Midiri.

“I want all of my students to be aware of the UN sustainability goals, for many reasons,” Litten said. “[The goals] help you see outside the bubble of Oak Park, it helps you think globally about your decisions, not just locally.”

These lessons have a larger purpose than what students may initially perceive.

“In my opinion, Ms. Litten’s project regarding the U.N. goals is incredibly insightful and beneficial in that it provides new perspectives on ways in which we as students can take action to help the planet. However, I also believe that there is no real way to ensure that students actually follow through on the methods provided by their peers,” junior Insiya Naqvi said. “Nevertheless, I think this project serves as a good starting point for students to further educate themselves on these issues.”

With various recent climate disasters, activists across the world, including several students in Oak Park, have taken an interest in researching and planning ways in which they can help spread awareness. Notably, one of the actions taken was a protest on Kanan, in front of the campus.

“Every community, including ours, needs to step up, educate themselves and have their voices heard— the strike was simply to show staff, anyone who drove by and especially ourselves that we are legitimately upset and that we can have the power to enact change, no matter how big or small,” senior Sam Barney-Gibbs said.

Staff at both the high school and the district have taken notice of this perspective shift occurring in adolescents.

“We’re seeing that students are pretty concerned with what’s happening with the environment and what’s happening to the climate,” Greenlinger said. “The sooner [students] understand what’s going on, the sooner one of [them is] going to figure out how to head off this kind of disaster we see moving.”