Youth, Sustainability and Art: The Barrett Summer Scholars Program

Youth involvement in the sustainability movement is absolutely critical, for they will inherit and craft the future of our planet. They have the opportunity to learn to see the world as a system from day one. They can avoid the bad habits and shortsighted thinking that have plagued the generations that precede them.  And they are ready and waiting to learn what needs to be done.

Nineteen 8th- and 9th-grade students from around Arizona took a three-week sustainability intensive at Arizona State University last summer as part of the Barrett Summer Scholars Program.  There they learned that living sustainably is much more than just "being green." Each week the students tackled one of three sustainability topics: food, water, and energy. They examined each from a systems perspective and traced the connections between people and their environments at local, regional and global levels.

Their instructor, School of Sustainability PhD candidate Tamara Lawless, emphasized different learning styles during the three-hour classes. Her students didn’t just listen to her talk about supply chains, they got on the floor and put magic markers to paper: mapping the journey of every day items from raw material to disposal. They watched documentaries on environmental injustice, kept food diaries, used digital cameras to photograph campus water use and journaled their thoughts every step of the way.  Art was encouraged as a way for the students to process their role in a sustainable future. The following pieces are a small selection from the amazing work the young sustainability warriors produced.

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Contributor's Biography:

Tamara Lawless is a passionate educator from Madison, Wisconsin. While earning her Master’s degree in Environmental Education she spent three semesters traveling around the United States on an old school bus, sleeping under the stars every night, backpacking and honing her skills as an educator. Tamara is working on her PhD in Sustainability from the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University.

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