The Outdoor Club, a Capital High School (CHS) club focusing on public service and environmental issues, began in August 2015. The club consists of 20 motivated students, led by teachers Kelly Phillips, Jen Bakevich and Reid Burgess. Throughout the 2015–2016 school year, students have raised school and community awareness on environmental issues. The club is improving school recycling efforts, maintaining local neighborhood trails, raising native trout and revitalizing the campus greenhouse for food production.
School-wide recycling has dramatically benefited through the club’s efforts. The number of recycling containers tripled. The club made “How to Recycle” posters and placed the Santa Fe Recycling Guide on each bin. Environmental Science students are investigating the decomposition rate of compostable lunch trays. Our goal is to have students composting their food waste and lunch trays for use in the greenhouse.
The teachers have reinforced the importance of serving the environment, as well as the community. The club has been involved in a variety of “Get Outside!” activities. Trout in the Classroom is a program that allows students to raise native trout for release into the Río Grande. The club cares for baby trout, known as alevins, as they mature to the fry and juvenile stages. The students are responsible for feeding the fish, cleaning the tank and completing weekly water-quality tests to maintain the appropriate level of nutrients. The club has learned about the trout’s habitat in preparation for a release party in April. Teachers and the club will camp prior to the event in celebration of a local forest biome.
Last September, the club learned about trail maintenance in the Tierra Contenta neighborhood. Through trail restoration, the students demonstrate to the community the importance of preserving outdoor spaces. In October, the club hiked the Norski Trail in the Santa Fe National Forest to observe trail-system design, identify foliage and take in the magnificent vistas. In January, the club snowshoed Aspen Vista Trail to further witness seasonal trail usage and benefit from healthy exercise.
At CHS, the greenhouse has sat vacant for nearly a decade. The club’s plan is to repair structural damage, beautify the space and plant vegetable starts. The club wants to donate extra starts to families in need, so that they can have fresh, homegrown vegetables. This is a large project that the club would like to improve upon over the next five years. We are looking to expand our growing space by building small hoop gardens. Ideally, the club could be growing fresh greens for the CHS cafeteria and continue to support students and families who would like to volunteer in the garden in exchange for fresh food.
The Outdoor Club has made great strides in its first year to get students excited about being outside and living a healthier lifestyle, for themselves and the planet. At a school of 1,300 students, we will happily continue to promote environmentally responsible choices and attitudes.
Kelly Phillips, M.A.T., is an environmental science teacher at Capital High School in Santa Fe.