Students push for climate studies at South Tahoe High School
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Students at South Tahoe High School are asking for change from Lake Tahoe Unified School District in the face of climate change.
A senior at the school, Logan Chapman, has been leading what he’s termed as a “task force” to make changes at the school.
“I think it’s important for students to have a say in what we learn,” Chapman said.
Chapman, with the help of classmate Anthony Pedigo, has created a climate action club. They made a presentation to the school board recently, requesting comprehensive climate studies be added to the curriculum.
“We are the ones affected by the climate crisis and learning the curriculum,” Chapman said.
The school board was receptive to the students’ proposal.
“This is the best part of being on the board,” said Board President Larry Reilly. “The thing that was cool about Logan and his friends was their passion for an issue. They were looking at the world and they were concerned.”
Chapman would like, not just the science aspect of climate change, but a well-rounded approach to changes people can make.
Reilly said the board is open to making changes but the biggest hurdle will be making sure the teachers aren’t overloaded with more curriculum to cover.
Travis Steil, a teacher at STHS, has given Chapman advice and feedback and is supportive of changes to the curriculum.
“I’ve been trying to connect him with voices and resources in the community that will help carry the load,” Steil said. “I absolutely see the importance of working this into the curriculum. We live in a climate that is contentious around that idea that is clearly backed by science and as a teacher, the stakes are really high.”
Because this is a student-led initiative, Reilly said the students need to be the ones moving the process forward. They would need to arrange a meeting between the students, teachers and board to workshop the changes.
Reilly seems hopeful though. He said there are several curriculums about the topic available in the state of California that they could use to craft theirs.
“We are going to help, we just don’t know how yet,” Reilly said.
In addition to changes to the curriculum, Chapman is working with LTUSD Director of Food Services Tammy Miller to make changes in the school’s cafeteria.
Chapman is pushing for compostable plates and utensils and Miller is looking to buy condiments in bulk to reduce packet waste. Chapman also wants to see compost containers where they can make compost that they’ll give to garden at Sierra House Elementary School.
Miller is also working with Chapman to institute Meatless Mondays and to add more plant based options to the menu.
“I think we have to take in mind what they’re looking at for their future,” Miller said. “I definitely want to try to offer the options to actually keep them on campus.”
She said that many kids go off-campus for lunch because there currently aren’t enough vegetarian options on-campus.
Reilly said he is in support of menu changes and has been working since he joined the board to improve nutrition.
Chapman and his task force have a lot on their plate. They organized a trash clean-up in October, are pushing the school district to get electric busses and are working to get South Shore Olympic champion Maddie Bowman to come give a presentation on behalf of Protect our Winters, a climate focused non-profit of which she is an ambassador.
The climate crew also applied for a Lake Tahoe education grant to send students to several conferences about the topic.
Although Chapman is a senior, he hopes to leave a lasting impact on the school.
“The idea that students can guide their education, that’s really the goal,” Steil said. “You, as a teacher, want to signal you support that.”