Sustainable Seeds of Change: Empowering Young Minds through Recycling Education
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Sustainable Seeds of Change: Empowering Young Minds through Recycling Education

The Climate Leaders Fellowship program teaches students about climate change and environmental sustainability, and guides them in designing and launching a project in their own communities.

The fellowship is offered as a collaboration between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

Read about Prajanya’s impactful experience below!

Prajanya Kannan
Quarry Lane School
Dublin, California

I am Prajanya Kannan, a senior from Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. When I’m not researching neurological disorders, you’ll find me grooving to infectious Bollywood or Jazz beats, drawing comics, taking a nature stroll, and jamming to my favorite tunes on Spotify. During the spring of my junior year, I was thrilled to be selected as a Climate Leader Fellow at Rustic Pathways.

My journey of observing and learning from nature began in the regional creek park surrounding my home. During the COVID pandemic, I founded JoyBowls—a venture to promote mental health in care centers and spread joy by bringing nature to people’s desks. Situated on a green belt, yellow daffodils, squirrels climbing trees, and blue jays singing are familiar sights.

And so was plastic litter.

Even though there are laws for littering and regulations for handling waste in Alameda County, both in my neighborhood and at my school, littering was a problem. There is sometimes trash left out on sidewalks or green spaces. Sometimes, there are no visible trash cans.

From Left to Right: Grishm, Prajanya, & Ria – Quarry Lane School.

Recognizing that recycling and reusing plastics could address pressing environmental issues such as pollution, climate change, and habitat fragmentation, I felt compelled to take action. I connected with the organizer at Rustic Pathways and my counselor to get the email IDs of two other climate leader fellows from my school. Together, we formed a team, united by a shared goal to tackle the school’s waste problem. As the leader, I ensured we regularly met as a team in zoom and in person at school.

We surveyed lower school (K-5) students to understand challenges and also gauge student awareness. Using the information, we devised an educational campaign targeting elementary school students. We presented our proposal to school management and, with their consent, sent out an email with our proposal to lower school teachers.

Our presentation to third graders at Quarry Lane School.

Our efforts found enthusiastic support from a third grade teacher. She was keen on adding our Reduce and Recycle Waste campaign to the curriculum. Our proposal included lectures to 80 third-grade students over two weeks that culminated with a hands-on workshop where students built reusable structures with plastic waste. Finally, the student projects were showcased at the lower school administrative building.

Participating in the Climate Leaders Fellowship made me feel great. We received weekly mentorship from the program. Executing the project gave me hope that even young students can be made aware of Climate Change and how small actions like recycling can make a significant impact. We tried our best to make the presentations and workshops fun, so the learning experience stuck with the young minds. Everyone was amazed at the student’s creativity. The project had a lasting impact on me. Now, on my family walks and nature hikes, I make it a point to collect thrash, diligently disposing it in dustbins.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.