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    Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    Norwich Free Academy teacher, students are ‘Going Green’

    Norwich Free Academy sophomore Avery Fritzsche, right, talks about the environment while freshmen Bailey Manseau, left, and Olivia Goderre, center, listen, Friday, March 24, 2023, in teacher Cary Langley’s class. The three students have participated in the ‘Going Green’ environmental science program. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Teacher Cary Langley talks about the environment on Friday, March 24, 2023, in her classroom at Norwich Free Academy. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Freshman Olivia Goderre, center, talks about the environment while fellow students freshmen Bailey Manseau, left, and sophomore Avery Fritzsche, right, listen Friday, March 24, 2023, while in teacher Cary Langley’s classroom at Norwich Free Academy. The three students have participated in the Going Green environmental science program. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Freshmen Bailey Manseau, left, talks about the environment while fellow students freshman Olivia Goderre, center, and sophomore Avery Fritzsche, right, listen Friday, March 24, 2023, in teacher Cary Langley’s classroom at Norwich Free Academy. The three students have participated in the ‘Going Green’ environmental science program. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Norwich ― For a school whose student colors are red and white, Norwich Free Academy has green on its mind.

    Science teacher Cary Langley’s ‘Going Green’ environmental science class takes place on the third floor of the Slater building, where she hopes a fraction of her passion for the planet sticks with her students.

    Langley said she began teaching the course about 15 years ago with a mission to spread the word about the environmental challenges we face today. Her love for the planet developed from gardening, composting and hiking with her father as a kid.

    Langley said she felt that not enough people were teaching the younger generations about their impact on everyday life and decided to start teaching the course.

    “When more kids know product logos than local animals, we have a problem,” she said.

    The class covers topics such as the human ecological footprint, tragedies of the commons ― when those with access to a public resource act in their own interest, such as the commercial fishing industry ― and how to create a more sustainable way of life, and it concludes with a lessons on climate change.

    The class continues into conversations about global impacts of everyday actions and what students can do in their own lives begins.

    While the course has changed over the years, Langley said she currently tries to model issues the planet is facing so students aren’t just believing what she’s saying, they have evidence.

    Through modeling projects such as using clay structures and ice cubes to visualize how land ice and sea ice contribute to rising ocean levels, students can see how the sea levels are impacted by the warming Earth, which Langley said also creates more erratic weather patterns and increases in infectious diseases.

    Students learn how their life-style choices can impact these issues and future generations.

    “I try to make it a practical course in a way of life,” Langley said.

    Langley said she’s always showing students her reusable lunch containers, water bottles and even a silicon tea bag, so they can make similar, environmentally-friendly changes in their own lives.

    And for a least one group of students, Langley has accomplished her goal. The Day spoke with two current ‘Going Green’ students and one former student.

    Sophomore Avery Fritzsche, a current student, said she’s always been conscious of environmental issues, but is an even larger advocate since enrolling in the class. She said she became vegan after the class watched a documentary on commercial fishing. She also said her family composts.

    “She’s one of those people where it’s like magnetic,” Fritzsche said of Langley. “If she’s passionate about it then you want to be passionate about it.”

    Freshman Bailey Manseau took the course in her first semester on campus and called it fun and interesting. She remembers her grandmother picking up litter when the two would go to the park. Now, after taking the course, she convinced her grandmother to start using a reusable water bottle instead of numerous plastic ones.

    Environmental career path

    Fellow freshman Olivia Goderre already has a career in environmental science planned out. Influenced by the Dolphin Tale series of films, which tells the story of a marine biologist helping a dolphin after it loses its tail, as a child, Goderre has more recently picked up Greta Thunberg as a role model after reading her books and watching a variety of other documentaries.

    The young student has written letters to Gov. Ned Lamont advocating for more regulations to protect the environment. The governor’s lack of response to her idea to filter garbage out of sewage drainage system fuels her plan to pursue a degree in environmental science or engineering, with eventual plans to become an environmental lawyer.

    “I really want to be that person who can argue with these big corporations and set laws and regulations,” Goderre said.

    Goderre sews and crochets reusable bags.

    Langley said the learning goes two ways, as her students are teaching her as well. Though she did not want to give his idea away, Langley had one student last semester who came up with a business venture in renewable energy.

    Sometimes, the learning comes through more difficult conversations, like when the class learned about sustainable fishing. Langley recalled students puzzled as to why fishermen should be required to use smaller nets and catch less fish when that is how they earn a living. One student was confused as to why a company would stop its operation if just one person opposed their unsustainable practices.

    Goderre said she helped explain the situation to her classmate and used consumer purchasing power at a clothing store as a point of comparison. She said if enough people stopped shopping at the store, it would be forced to close. The same would be true for an unsustainable fishing company if a collective effort was made. The company would either go out of business or be forced to change its practices.

    She said she’s always up for a debate, but finds arguments to be counterproductive in an effort to help minimize the spread of misinformation.

    “If somebody is saying that is incorrect, I like to educate people so they have what is right,” Goderre said.

    The trio of female students agreed that there are a lot of problems facing our planet today, and pointed to climate change, the food/meat industry and clothing industry as three of the larger ones.

    “The world is on fire,” Fritzsche said.

    Small actions add up

    The Climate.gov website says Earth’s temperature has risen by an average of 0.14° Fahrenheit per decade since 1880, or about 2° Fahrenheit in total, while 2022 was the sixth-warmest year on record based on NOAA’s temperature data. It also says the global average sea level has risen eight to nine inches since 1880 and is accelerating.

    Langley said their climate change unit is comprised of six or seven major topics that contribute to the issue, such as ocean acidification and the warming of ocean waters.

    Fritzsche said she aspires to become a journalist, but has a fear she will be writing stories about the negative impacts of climate change and what little there is left for humans to do to combat it.

    Langley and her students said they don’t see enough action on climate issues.

    A few years back, the school’s Student Advisory Board had an initiative to place more trash and recycling bins around the campus to reduce litter. While Langley said it has improved the campus, she still sees students throw trash in the wrong bin, either accidentally or out of laziness.

    “I think we’re all aware about these issues,” Fritzsche said. “I don’t think enough of us act on it.”

    Manseau said she believes ‘Going Green’ should be a mandatory class for students, which Langley agreed. She said she often has students ask if there’s a second follow-up course to take. While there is not, Langley continues to advocate for one as the topics continue to expand.

    Langley said her and her children will spend Earth Day, Saturday April 22, cleaning their garden and planting new seeds. Goderre will be selling her handmade, reusable bags at a local craft fair. Manseau said she’ll continue to spread the word of small initiatives people can take in their daily lives. Fritzsche will be doing a community clean up and taking a hike.

    They hope others follow their lead and share their concerns for our planet.

    k.arnold@theday.com

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