Earth Day, an annual celebration taking place on April 22, 2021, is a great time for students to learn about the environment they live in and what they can do to help it thrive.
This Earth Day, Samantha Lynch, dean and teacher at Westfield Preparatory High School and teacher at PrepNet Virtual Academy, was most passionate about pushing her students to recognize their scientific skills and characteristics and heighten their awareness of the need for environmental advocacy in their communities.
“Voted teacher of the month by her students, Ms. Lynch is bringing science to the big screen!” said Aquan Grant, director of school quality. “From field trips, virtual labs, and environmental movie screenings, Ms. Lynch is making sure all of her students are engaged in being responsible scientists.”
To celebrate Earth Day 2021, Ms. Lynch posted on her school Instagram account to share a challenge for every day of Earth Week and the events her students would participate in. She also included the hashtag, #WarriorEarthWeek.
The challenge included a task for each day of the week:
Monday: Meatless Monday! Try a meal without any meat.
Tuesday: Carpool, take public transport, bike, walk, and use greener modes of transportation.
Wednesday: Conserve water by turning off the water while you brush your teeth or wash the dishes, or take a shorter shower.
Thursday: EARTH DAY! Spend time outside!
Friday: Reduce, reuse, and recycle!
The events her students could take part in included planting Westfield’s garden on Tuesday, participating in social hour with Earth Day trivia on Wednesday, and on Thursday, Earth Day, participating in a viewing of the documentary, “My Octopus Teacher”.
Ms. Lynch also hosts Monday Movie Nights throughout the year so students can watch movies, like “The Bee Movie” and “The Lorax”, and documentaries that might relate to the topics they discuss in class.
“For example, when learning about ecosystems and food webs, I showed the documentary, ‘Racing Extinction’”, said Ms. Lynch. “This documentary demonstrates the impact humans have on the ecosystem by illegally hunting species and mass hunting of species for our economic wealth. Students had discussion in the chat throughout the movie identifying what they disagreed with and the solutions they wanted to see.”
During Earth Month, her students learned about renewable vs. nonrenewable energy sources. They even learned about solar energy and built a solar cooker.
“Most of my lessons are community based, putting science into my students' worlds instead of placing my students in the world of science,” said Ms. Lynch. “Science is often an intimidating area of content, but my goal is to evolve those ideas and allow students to see that they are scientists!”
Ms. Lynch believes that the simple act of pouring milk into a bowl of cereal is science, a testament to how science is everywhere. She also believes that every lesson offers an opportunity to talk about being ecofriendly.
“With my middle schoolers specifically, we have talked about conserving species, reducing their carbon footprint through carpooling, using less electricity, and we always incorporate recycling and reusing materials,” said Ms. Lynch. “The largest action we mention is being an advocate for the environment.”
Ms. Lynch is passionate about teaching her students to be responsible scientists, and the spirit of Earth Day, Earth Week, and Earth Month opens opportunities to apply science to real life.
“I bring real-world scenarios and problems into my classroom,” said Ms. Lynch. “Sometimes our conversations can be sad and upsetting, but they’re real. Through these discussions and sharing of experiences, my students and I identify how to be a responsible scientist in the classroom and at home. My students find solutions to these real-world problems that allows them to be creative and innovative.”
Her goal in life is to save the world, and she believes there is no better way to do that than by educating young people about the planet and the influence they can have. She realized her passion for sustaining the environment while teaching AP Environmental Science at Arbor Preparatory High School, another high school in the National Heritage Academies (NHA) network of schools.
“Through that course, I evolved and recognized my love for our planet, the heartbreak of the damage that has been done, and the need to conserve what we have left,” Ms. Lynch reflected.
In the past, to further her students’ understanding of the environment in the real world, Ms. Lynch has had guest speakers come into class, including someone from an oil rig and geologists from Wayne State University to talk about rocks.
One of her favorite tips for living a more sustainable life includes utilizing reusable items, like bags and mason jars, and saving glass jars to reuse for spices, candles, and more. When she gives gifts, she wraps them in reusable bags to encourage others to use them. But her all-time favorite tip is identifying where one’s food comes from. She asks herself if a food item is local, if it’s free range, and if there were fertilizers and pesticides used to grow or make it. She buys her food intentionally and makes it a point to share her knowledge of food sources with others.
Keep up the incredible work, Ms. Lynch!