How a Small Scottsdale Charter School Inspired Big Dreams
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How a Small Scottsdale Charter School Inspired Big Dreams

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  • Jamar Younger, Arizona Charter Schools Association

Last Year’s Grand Prize Went To Elijah From Mount Carmel High School In Chicago. The Re-created PSA Ran Across Discovery’s Family Of Networks .

Educators have the ability to inspire students to think beyond their school walls, and Mission Montessori Academy has made that their mission.

The K-8 charter school in Scottsdale provides a global education, even sending students to New York City, Chile and China to attend conferences and discuss methods for conserving resources and protecting the environment.

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Mission Montessori Academy students attended the Montessori Model United Nations Conference last year in New York City. From left to right: School Superintendent Deborah Summers; students Jackson Knight, Jackson Camarata and Tanti Felli; Global Citizens Initiative & MMUN Director Patti Sandler; and students Lilli Offenberger, Jordan Wright and Evan Sweeney.

Emboldened by their teachers, a group of seventh-graders have taken a local approach to solving problems and raising awareness of these issues, hoping to change the lives of their community for generations to come.

The students have created their own Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) dedicated to creating a more sustainable environment and helping to influence the lives of those in their communities.

Here are their stories:

Zero Waste Kitchens
For Jordan Wright, food waste is a huge global issue that negatively affects the environment and global hunger.

“Food is wasted by so many people in large amounts and people globally are starving,” she said. “We have to provide food to people who need it. Right now, it’s going to landfills.”

Wright and her partner, Lilli Offenberger, have created Zero Waste Kitchens, which aims to educate the public about food waste while teaching people how to make waste-free meals.

The two are creating YouTube videos to share examples of waste free recipes.

They are also building a website and will reach out through other social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

In addition, the students are asking people to take a pledge by making one waste-free meal per week.

There are numerous ways to save and reuse food, ranging from making meals from leftovers to using egg shells and coffee grounds for garden compost.

“If you use half of a tomato, you can use the other half to make sauce for spaghetti,” she said.

The students have started with the videos, as well as the Mission Montessori community, but plan to reach out to local restaurants and the wider community in the next few months.

Wright’s perspective has changed since she and partner started researching the effects of food waste on the environment.

“It’s really changed my perspective on how we really live our daily lives because it can be unconscious,” she said. “Like, there could be a banana peel and you could just throw it away, but every time someone thinks that way, it goes to the landfill.”

RAW Foundation
Jackson Camarata and Tanti Felli understand that water is a precious commodity in the desert.

To that end, Camarata and Felli’s created the RAW Foundation, which stands for Reclaiming Arizona’s Water. The NGO will focus on reclaiming water and teaching people how to use rain barrels.

The students plan to hold seminars at all five Mission Montessori campuses to demonstrate how to use the barrels, and are looking to partner with the Salt River Project for donated barrels or work with local businesses that could provide discounts or grants for the barrels.

In addition, the students are working with a local water consultant and environmental engineer to learn how to integrate the barrels into homes.

“Arizona is always in a state of drought and we’re constantly needing water” Camarata said. “Even though Arizona doesn’t get rain often, it can be very widespread. If it rains like that again, then everybody could get a couple of barrels of water a day.”

The prospect of changing people’s lives through environmental awareness is exciting to the students, who have learned their own lessons through their experiences.

“Before, I thought I had all the water in the world.” Felli said. “Now, I know I have to do more to reclaim water.

As a state with plenty of sunshine, Evan Sweeney and Jackson Knight believe solar and renewable energy is the path forward for Arizona.

The boys created an action plan to raise awareness of Arizona’s most renewable energy source: solar. The plan includes using a mass email, brochures, social media, educational videos on YouTube and live-stream video to reach out to Mission Montessori families.

They are also planning an event where they will ask representatives from APS and Solar City to educate the public on renewable energy.

Arizona’s climate and abundant sunshine provides opportunity for people to save energy and reduce fossil fuels, Sweeney said.

“Since it’s so hot, we use so much air conditioning. We’re one of the top fossil fuel users in America” he said. “It’s really significant to our area.”