Southport High School: Learning through teaching

In early September, Southport High School science teacher Amanda Schnepp invited me to visit her freshmen students to help with a project. Her project idea was for her students to hold a sustainability fair for a nearby preschool.

Frankly, I felt I would be little help in this idea, as we tend to focus on older kids, starting at age six. Three and four year olds? Certainly can’t talk climate change to that age group. Nevertheless, I said yes. I like an ambitious project like this, and so I accepted the invitation to spend the day at Southport High School.

After that day of brainstorming, I did not hear from the school again until I was invited to the sustainability fair, first week of October. I attended and came away with a more solidified vision of what education can and should be.

You’ll see below the brilliant displays and games the freshmen students devised. But the real beauty of the experience was how the students grappled with early failures as they realized the displays and lectures and games weren’t necessarily hitting the mark. Remember, it was 3 and 4 year olds! The students continued to make adjustments throughout their sessions: Bringing the displays down to the floor level; breaking up into small group units; starting with the activity/game, and integrating the instruction into the game.

More reflections below, but here are some images from the fair.


I loved all these displays and was so proud of these kids’ spirited instruction. The above photo represents a particularly good idea: The activity was on recycling, and to the left you see one of the students discussing a follow up project with the pre-school teacher to now take their instruction to the pre-school classroom and start recycling.

As always, I’m processing the climate crisis as I experience school-led projects like this, and what I find of value is how it forced these freshmen to adapt to the situation and make the necessary adjustments. The climate crisis will be nothing but an onslaught of curveballs hurled at these kids as they grow up. Shouldn’t school be the place where students learn to work together and — in real time — deal with surprises and make necessary adjustments?

I don’t know about you, but I learn better by doing. And these students definitely understood their subject areas more deeply because they had to teach younger kids. I’m sure this took extra time for Ms. Schnepp; it’s hard enough for teachers to keep a normal bead on curriculum demands. But like so many teachers I know, she went the extra mile, and supported this extraordinary fair.

She, like me, was nothing but smiles as we observed the sustainability fair.


Andy Fry