Each year, the girls who participate with Strong Women, Strong Girls engage in a service-learning project.  They use their voices to spotlight a cause of concern, and take tangible and proactive steps to combat the problem.  In the process, they are building leadership and civic engagement skills, along with a hefty dose of self-esteem!
I spoke with SWSG mentor Alana Clark, a junior who is enthusiastically leading the group of mentors at Simmons College in Boston, about the Trotter Elementary School girls’ choice to lessen their impact on the environment and act as leaders to protect our land and resources.
How did your group of girls pick their service-learning project?
The service learning project that Trotter Elementary is doing is Going Green.  Every week the girls learn about one of the “three Rs” (reduce, reuse, and recycle), learn how they can help improve their local environment, while also working towards the goal of buying and preserving two acres of land in the rainforest.  The girls are selling cookies in their schools and communities to not only raise money to preserve land, but also to raise awareness about environmental issues in their communities.
At the beginning of the semester we asked the girls what they wanted to improve in their community.  We told them community could mean their school, their city, the world, or anything in between.  The majority was most concerned about the environment, both locally and globally, so we decided we would use the weekly lessons to show the girls how they can help their local environment while working towards the goal of protecting the rainforest.
I understand that the girls furthered their civic engagement in “Going Green” by creating shower clocks.  How did this fit into the theme?
The shower clocks were part of a lesson in which we learned about the importance of reducing our water use.  We learned that in some countries there are many people that do not have enough water to survive or live healthy lives.  The girls saw the injustice in taking showers over 5 minutes when many people do not have enough water to drink.  We made shower timers using sand so that the girls can make sure they are not wasting time in the shower.  We also talked about the importance of preserving the rainforest because so much of the world’s freshwater is from the rainforest.
What are you hoping the girls learn from this service project?
I hope the girls will learn that there are small steps they can take to be more “green”.  Last week we planted beans and talked about how a great way to be less dependent on grocery stores, which use and waste many resources, is to plant their own gardens.  The girls really understood the importance of growing your own food and were enthusiastic about doing it on their own.
Most of all, I hope this project inspires the girls to believe that they can make a difference in their communities.  I think it is incredibly powerful that the girls picked something in their community that needs change and then we work on it and by the end of the semester we have over $100 to give to preserve rainforest land.  They will also have more knowledge and understanding to share with their peers on the importance of caring for the environment.  This project shows the girls that they can be leaders and change-makers in their communities.