Research and Design Lab
The Upper Arlington High School Research and Design lab is a conceptual space to explore, prototype and design innovative approaches to teaching and learning. We began conceptualizing the lab during the 2015-2016 school year and due to a very generous donation from a local family and support from both the Upper Arlington Education Foundation and the Upper Arlington High School PTO, we have been able to invest time and resources into its development during the 2016-2017 school year.
RESEARCH AND DESIGN LAB BLOG
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After her students stood before Upper Arlington High School principal Andrew Theado and assistant principal Luis Vazquez and presented a proposal to reduce waste at the high school, I pulled UAHS intervention specialist Kim Wilson aside to tell her how much I admired what she and her students were doing.
Like the humble educator she is, Wilson smiled and said, “But I feel kind of selfish. I’ve always felt like we needed to do something about the waste problem we have at the high school and so this project came from my desire to do something about it.”
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her words and the way she defined “selfish.”
The Oxford English dictionary--widely regarded as the authority on our language--defines this adjective as “lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.”
And so from one standpoint, she’s right.
Her passion about reducing waste might be a cause that tugs at her heartstrings a bit more than it tugs on other people’s heartstrings, and she might be feeling some level of pleasure or satisfaction because she is leading her students down the path of determining how to address that problem...
But that’s where the “selfish” portion of her action ends...
And where the “selfless” portion begins.
After being chosen to attend the 2017 Columbus Zoo Summitt, a multi-day workshop where students from 14 different schools gathered together to determine how to make an environmental difference within their school, Wilson and her students in the multiple disabilities class began the journey to change the way we approach trash at Upper Arlington High School.
Students had the chance to learn from both the Columbus Zoo as well as The Ohio State University about their zero waste efforts, and they brainstormed ideas about how to reduce waste in their own buildings. They presented their proposal to the committee, competing with the other schools for 4 monetary grants earmarked to help the top 4 ideas come to fruition. And despite not scoring enough points based on the presentation evaluation tool they used to assess proposals, Wilson’s students impressed the judges. Consequently, after the 4 awards were presented to the top four presentations, the Columbus Zoo found additional funds to provide Wilson’s class with a scholarship anyway.
Over the next few months, students examined graphs and data about waste within our school to learn their math skills, and they determined how much we could reduce waste by simply recycling items that could be recycled. They learned the science of how that would impact the environment, and how much money it would save the district. Wilson also brought in Social Studies teacher, Mark Boesch, who grew up in a family that was passionate about composting so students could learn about how food scraps can be composted and used as fertilizer.
Additionally, Wilson reached out to UAHS Environmental science teacher Beth Bailey so her class could partner with the Environmental Club. She wanted her students to work with students who were already passionate about the cause, and their collaboration has resulted in the distribution of over 50 recycling bins to classrooms. They need to acquire 40 more recycling bins to get one into every room.
By the end of the semester, they will be working with industrial technology teacher Dana Schoenleb and his students to build a compost bin, and when they come back from winter break, they will begin a program called “Trashless Tuesdays.”
While they realize it will be impossible to have zero waste in a place where so many outside products are coming in, her students want to get as close to “trashless” as possible. To make sure all of the recyclable goods end up in the right spot, they will put on gloves and set up shop in the cafeteria on Tuesdays. Boesch has already volunteered to help during his lunch, and so Mrs. Wilson, her students and Mr. Boesch will sort trash in an effort to ensure we only throw away what is unable to break down.
They also want to make and provide treats to everyone who choses to use reusable products rather than disposable ones, and their hope is that the commitment they demonstrate will inspire students and teachers to make more environmentally sound choices.
Based on their projections, they think they can save the district one dumpster pick up, so not only will their efforts improve the environment, it will help our bottom line.
Wilson’s “selfish” passion has the potential to impact hundreds of lives, and if she hadn’t shared that passion with her students, they wouldn’t have had the chance to be part of it. They wouldn’t have had the chance to examine authentic graphs, dig through authentic data, and present authentic ideas.
They wouldn’t have had the same chance to see how they can make a difference in their community.
And so, if that is selfish, I happen to think we need a little more selfish in our world.
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