Home Schools MSMS_Sustain Student Newsletter, June 2024

MSMS_Sustain Student Newsletter, June 2024

From left, Main Street Middle School students Saanvika Addenki, Lia Walsh, Asia Tang, Mason Bryant, and Dex Reich spend time in their garden (owned by a community member who granted the middle schoolers a plot). Photo by Hannah Bryant.
Editor’s Note: The following newsletter is produced by Main Street Middle School (MSMS) students on the MSMS_Sustain leadership team, and their teacher, Don Taylor. The Bridge has partnered with the team and is publishing their quarterly newsletters through the end of the current school year. Parts of this newsletter have been edited for brevity.

Small Changes Make a Big Difference: MSMS_Sustain Leadership 

This year’s MSMS_Sustain Leadership is a growing group of 23 students who run several committees and are working toward the creation of a more sustainable community. Using their accomplishments from the 2023–2024 school year as a launch pad, MSMS_Sustain leadership is brainstorming and planning for next year. Each year, MSMS_Sustain leadership grows into a bigger and more influential group. The group formed alongside the MSMS Sustainability class and started as part of a Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability Project with Shelburne Farms. 

This year has seen some notable additions to our activities. The Terracycle committee was started, aimed toward preventing plastic waste from going into a landfill. Another addition to our plans this year is the Social Justice committee, inspired by the Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR) group at the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School in Burlington, which focuses on justice and equality in our school. One of our committee continuations from last year was the garden project, which is working to develop a network of community gardens. 

In our last retreat, MSMS_Sustain Leadership collectively came up with our game plan for next year. Some programs, such as the YES conference and our quarterly newsletters, will be repeated. We have now started recruitment and planning for next year, and we hope to grow our group even more with rising seventh graders. The rising freshmen are excited to take their mission and education to the high school. 

— Elena Guadagno

Norwich Leadership Summit

On April 17, eight students from MSMS, along with Sustainability assistant teacher Drew McNaughton, went to Norwich University for a youth leadership summit. We introduced icebreaker activities for each workshop that was led by other students. Katie Ingraham and Pat LaClair from the Up For Learning program helped facilitate the day. Students from Cabot, Champlain Valley Union High, Saint Johnsbury, and Shelburne were there, along with cadets from the Norwich Leadership Class. 

The workshops and activities were based on one of five leadership modules: Encourage the Heart, Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act. We participated in activities that each taught these different leadership strategies. 

After the summit, MSMS students got a walking tour of the campus, as well as a training obstacle course used by the Norwich cadets. 

This summit was a great opportunity to learn from other student leaders. It was an insightful experience and made us into better, more thoughtful leaders. 

—Elin Benoit and Astrid Kim

K-Cup Recycling Sustainability

In recent weeks MSMS_Sustain Leadership has learned that our school is creating plastic waste through the use of K-Cups. While convenient, K-Cups add to our waste stream. The MSMS_Sustain Leadership group has identified this as a sustainability issue and we began to explore options to address the problem. We started by looking at the Terracycle website and found that the cost to purchase a Terracycle box to recycle K-Cups is $119.95. According to the K-Cup website, the box would need to be replenished every two-three weeks, an expense that would not be possible with our budget.

Our second action step was to gather opinions from the adults who use the Keurig machines for coffee and tea. The MSMS_Sustain Leadership group is investigating whether buying a new coffee maker to reduce waste in the school is an option that we would want to invest in. This would create a noticeable drop in plastic waste because we would no longer be using K-Cups. 

The committee is still speaking with staff to find more sustainable options. Currently our waste stream is sending too much material into the landfills. We are striving to find more innovative ways to reduce and reuse the materials in our daily lives. 

—Valerie-lynn Hlivkova and Lila McLernon

MSMS Garden Newsletter

The MSMS_Sustain Garden on campus features six raised-bed garden boxes, which we try to fill with products to benefit our local pollinators as well as provide food for our Cooking for the Community Program. With the gracious donation from Kiara Skidmore’s plant starts, we were able to fill almost all of the 3 by 10 foot beds with veggies and flowers. The current list includes bok choy, onion, garlic, sage, oregano, thyme, cucumber, tomato, beans, radish, and squash. We’re hoping to get some potatoes in the ground this week!

On the flower front, we have zinnia, sunflower, calendula, and marigolds. We are supporting pollinators also with the addition of two new mason bee hives utilizing dead knotweed stalks and repurposed No. 10 cans.

—Drew McNaughton