Lower School Students Celebrate and Work Towards Environmental Justice

Lower School Students Celebrate and Work Towards Environmental Justice
  • Lower School

Delving well-beyond the traditional celebrations about Earth Week, this year the Lower School combined the topics of environmental literacy with their ongoing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice work to study the concept of Earth Justice or Environmental Justice. 

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.

Lower School students created ecosystems, read topical books, and wrote letters to policy makers to influence positive change over issues they are passionate about. 

Here is a glimpse into some of their inspiring work.

First Grade

  • First grade students read books such as We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry, and Nibi Emosaawdang: The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson. 
  • They also watched videos, discussed environmental injustices, and created a video in which they each wrote and made pledges to help make the world cleaner, safer and more equitable.

Second Grade
Our second grade classes focused on three critical elements of Earth Justice: environmental policies and laws, deforestation, and trash and landfills. 

  • Students in Cat Parker’s class wrote letters to senators and congressmen about the Environmental Justice for All Act and the Byhalia Pipeline. They also created a series of Earth Justice posters and read books such as The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, and Young Water Protectors: A Story About Standing Rock by Aslan Tudor, Jason EagleSpeaker and Kelly Tudor. 
  • Students in Erin Morgan’s class filmed short videos and created artistic depictions of deforestation and how it affects indigenous peoples, animal habitats and the natural environment. They also read three books that look at deforestation and Environmental Justice in different countries: Seeds of Change by Jenn Cullerton Johnson takes place in Kenya; Aani and the Tree Huggers by Jeannine Atkins takes place in India; and The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry takes place in Brazil. 
  • Students in Lillian Overmyer-Wilkinson’s class focused on how trash and landfills disproportionately affect low-income families and communities. They also drew their own infographics to demonstrate the wide-ranging impact of landfills and discussed the importance of keeping trash out of the oceans.

Third Grade

  • Third grade students worked with Maker Tech and Thinkering Studio Coordinator Carol Mahoney to upcycle plastic bags after reading One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of The Gambia by Miranda Paul. 
  • They also created and performed skits and a music video about highlighting the effects of single-use plastics and demonstrating their understanding of the meaning and spelling of ecologically themed keywords such as organism, ecosystem, climate, and reduce, reuse, recycle. 


Fourth Grade

  • Fourth grade students had the unique opportunity to talk via Zoom with Key grandparent, Jackie Bugnion, who lives in Switzerland. In collaboration with French teacher Marina Becker, Ms. Bugnion was able to provide first-hand insight into how Switzerland has made efforts to maintain a clean environment. They discussed clean energy sources such as the Grande Dixence Dam in the Swiss Alps and the large network of electric trains throughout the country. Students also learned about the governmental initiative to provide containers at the local level to encourage recycling. 
  • Several students worked together on a WKEY-TV news report about synthetic plastics and how they were invented. They also discussed the effects of littering on the local community on and near Key’s campus, including its effects on Hillsmere Beach and the Chesapeake Bay.
  • All students also assisted with selecting the plants, creating the design, and planting the Unity Garden behind the Manse Addition. They learned that this garden was designed to not only be a beautiful addition to campus, but it would also improve the environment by stopping run-off, cleaning the air, and providing homes for native insect and animal species.

It was certainly an exciting and educational interdisciplinary unit taking the School’s traditional celebration around Earth Week and stewardship practices to a whole new level. Our Lower Schooler’s work will serve our campus and our community well as we all continue to learn more about Earth Justice.