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LPHS freshmen tackle sustainability in Big Sky

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Lone Peak High School freshmen present on microplastics in local watersheds. The science class was divided into six teams, and each chose unique local sustainability issues to anchor a project on. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER.

By Bella Butler EDITORIAL ASSISTANT

BIG SKY – Freshmen students from Lone Peak High School presented to a community audience Wednesday on local sustainability projects they had worked on throughout the spring.

In the fall, a community member suggested that secondary science teacher Dr. Kate Eisele apply for a grant to support such projects for the students. Eisele, who has tailored her ninth-grade science class to focus on environmental science, found the idea complementary to her syllabus and applied for a grant through the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation. She was awarded $2,675.

Eisele’s class separated into six groups, each one aiming to tackle a unique sustainability issue in the Big Sky community. Upon completion, the student groups presented to a panel of judges comprised of a YCCF representative, a school employee and a community member working on a sustainability issue. The judges chose three winning groups whose projects they found to be the most influential, and the winning students received cash prizes divided up from the grant.

The students identified issues from water conservation to microplastic pollution. Each group set a general goal and lined out an approach. One group of seven students focused on the unnecessary use of single use plastics. Their primary goal was education, particularly of young kids, which they achieved by creating a recycling game for elementary students.

“The best way to educate the community is to educate the people who will soon be our future,” one student said during the presentation.

Another smaller group presented on their initiative, titled “Splash,” which looked to address the problem of overexertion of water resources in Big Sky. The semi-arid climate of Big Sky leaves the community to rely heavily on the snowmelt from the previous winter, but with more and more residents and individual overuse, the snowmelt is being used quicker than it can be replaced in the town’s aquifer, the students told the audience. The group surveyed students in the school to find out how aware classmates are of the “Big Sky water crisis,” as the group called it. Their survey showed that approximately 60 percent of youth in the school was unaware of the issue.

In order to provide information to the community, they hung posters around Big Sky, interviewed for an article in the Lone Peak Lookout and brought in Stephanie Lynn of the Gallatin River Task Force to present to their class on water conservation.

Eisele was happy to offer the monetary incentive to her students, but she hopes the semester-long endeavor will leave a more lasting impact.

“I’m trying to influence young people, because if they develop good habits and awareness now, hopefully that’s going to continue into their future and hopefully they can get their families and their friends to make changes, too,” Eisele said.

YCCF added an additional $100 to the cash prizes to accommodate the larger winning groups.

The winning projects and group members are listed below:

1st: “Micromission.”  Team members: Kassidy Boersma, Ace Beattie, John Chadwell, Madison Perdue, Carly Wilson, and Robert Pruiett

2nd: “Splash.”  Team members: Samantha Suazo, Dani Cristando, and Deryn Bagley

3rd: “Stay Hydrated.” Team members: Nate McClain, Sophia Cone, Libby Flach, Rayna Smith, Tristen Clack, Sirle Garcia, and Charlotte Wilson.

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