QHS students work to reduce carbon footprint

What started off as a classroom project for Shannon Gilroy’s high school biology students turned into a district-wide initiative encompassing QHS, WHBI and the elementary school.

With the goal of trying to make the harm of carbon dioxide emissions mean something to her students, Gilroy tasked her students with researching a topic of their choice and calculating what the total emission would be from that activity. Students focused on plastic bag usage, deforestation and methane production. From there, they brainstormed ways to reduce the emissions from those activities by thinking of alternatives. Gilroy says that’s when a simple assignment became something much bigger.

“It was really the students,” said Gilroy. “If they weren’t excited about the project, it wouldn’t have gone anywhere.”

Gilroy’s biology students teamed up with 15 QES and WHBI classrooms and put their plans into action. They arranged sessions during which they taught their younger peers about climate change, took part in making reusable bags out of old t-shirts, created sign-ups to reduce palm oil use and repurpose seedlings from their yards. In total, the students organized a reduction of more than 5,453 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions. To put that number in perspective, it equals 11,904 pounds!

“My students loved learning new things from older kids,” said first grade teacher Jennifer Farnan. “They were so excited to see their old shirts turn into something new and useful.”

“The collaboration between older and younger students made for a very meaningful experience for everyone,” added third grade teacher Patricia Fielding.

Gilroy’s biology students said they didn’t realize how big of an impact their work would have in helping to reduce the next generation’s carbon footprint.

“At first, we were asking teachers if we can come to their classes,” said student Sergio Castolo. “Now they’re asking us to come back and do it all again.”

While Gilroy plans to continue the project with her new biology students next year, this year’s project inspired a Climate Action Club to launch at the high school.

“In the end, the students realized they have a choice,” said Gilroy. “They can make changes in their own lives, but also educate others on how to do the same.”