Northfield Mount Hermon is a very engaged, collaborative place. So when a colleague and I suggested a school-wide approach to environmental efforts, the reaction was immediate and enthusiastic. And now, several years later, our Task Force for Sustainability has been so successful that other institutions are doing the same thing. In fact, NMH is a role model in the sustainability world. We helped found the Green Cup Challenge, a school competition to reduce electricity usage. Participation has gone from three schools to 150 in just four years. It’s just a bunch of individuals turning off the lights and stopping millions of tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the air, but it shows that, with coordination, our single efforts are magnified.
My role in all this is to get people talking and working together, which is easy here, because unlike a lot of other schools, department heads don’t live in bubbles. That helps us get things done, whether it’s landing a grant for solar panels, getting the Rhodes Arts Center LEED gold certified, or the forming of Ecoleaders, a group of students who do environmental projects around campus.
Conversation and collaboration play a big part in my lessons as well. For example, to study resource management in Environmental Studies we play a “fishing game” in which the students remove chocolates from a beaker. The first round is silent; they can just take what they want, so the “pond” is depleted very quickly. In subsequent rounds, they can talk to each other and even put rules into play. It demonstrates how to make a resource last longer and really teaches students the importance of communication.
One of my biggest goals is that these kids develop a voice. For me specifically, that voice is scientific, being able to express questions and ideas. But in broader terms, it is about being creative and expressive – it’s about hearing others and building unified efforts. For me this is science, this is life, this is the solution to everything.