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Sustainability Programming Connects with High School Students

Office of Sustainability Expands Educational Offerings to College Prep Scholars

Established in 2014, the WashU College Prep Program provides low-income first-generation students the opportunity to attend an immersive, on-campus learning experience every summer between their first-year and last-year of high school. In 2017, the Office of Sustainability started collaborating with College Prep to introduce the scholars to sustainability via a series of interactive activities.

This summer, the Office of Sustainability continued its partnership with the College Prep Program by further expanding the eveloped in 2017, thanks to the support and leadership of this summer’s team of associates. With help from other environmental initiatives on campus, the team led the scholars through a variety of sustainability-oriented activities, from a tour of Hillman Hall and WashU’s recently-certified Arboretum to a simulation of the United Nations climate change negotiations.

Tour of a LEED Platinum Certified Building (and East End Tour)

Continuing with tradition, the Office of Sustainability guided high school sophomores through a tour of Hillman Hall‘s rain garden and solar rooftop, after which they heard from Andrew Petty, an architect from Cannon Design who specializes in virtual reality simulations of designed spaces. As he explained how technology has the potential to advance sustainability in the practice of architecture, students were able test a simulation for a green elementary school. The scholars also took a tour of the new East End Development, led by Phil Valko, the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Sustainability, and interns Lizzi Kehoe and Alexis Tinoco, who helped explain how the new architectural developments incorporated sustainability.

Mock-Climate Negotiation

With the help of Tai Huynh and Brianna Chandler, Environmental Studies intern Sydney Welter hosted the mock-climate negotiation activity for rising high school seniors. The activity was modeled after the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties, an annual meeting for countries to negotiate on the collaborative effort to limit global temperature rise to a maximum of two degrees Celsius. Once the scholars began the activity, they stepped into their roles as ambassadors. While representatives from some countries disagreed throughout the two rounds of negotiations, what most surprised students was that their proposed “I’m hopeful that our generation is going to work harder than older generations.”

Arboretum Discovery Activity

The Office of Sustainability team offered a new session for the junior cohort this year: an opportunity to learn about WashU’s efforts to cultivate a diverse community of trees on campus. WashU is proud to be a certified Tree Campus USA college and is now recognized as an accredited Level 1 Arboretum. The many trees around campus come together to form a public museum with 56 species of trees to discover, with plans to add more trees in the future. After an introductory presentation from interns Lizzi Kehoe, Tai Huynh, and Brianna Chandler, students met Focal Pointe account manager Cody Azotea, a landscape specialist for WashU. In a “Q&A” type format, Azotea spoke about his career path to becoming a landscape specialist, his lifelong love of trees, and a couple of lesser-known tree facts (Did you know that moss typically grows on the north side of trees in the northern hemisphere?). Afterward, the scholars were split into teams and given a set of clues to identify various trees in the arboretum outside of the Olin Library for an Instagram contest, with prizes awarded for most aesthetically pleasing, most informative, and best overall.

“We actually ran over time during Cody’s interview because there were a lot of hands raised,” said Chandler. “The scholars were very excited to explore the arboretum. One scholar even came up to us to ask how he could get involved with the Office of Sustainability in the future.”

Beyond College Prep

After successful completion of the College Prep Program and high school graduation, the scholars are eligible to apply for a summer intern position in the Office of Sustainability.

Tai Huynh and Brianna Chandler, two graduates of the College Prep Program, are currently interns at the Office of Sustainability. As part of their professional responsibilities, they share their knowledge with next generation of scholars by running the program series.

“It’s a unique and rewarding feeling to be on the other side of the classroom and teach the scholars what made me interested in sustainability because it all started in College Prep,” said Huynh.

By expanding sustainability messages to broader audiences and engaging our next cohort of leaders, we can all preserve, protect, and procure the future with more confidence and dedication.