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Highlands students embrace being change-makers and strive to help the environment

Aerial view of Kuhlman stadium with water tower in foreground.

Every day at Highlands, students are reading, writing, doing math, and learning new skills in their classrooms. They are also being encouraged to make a difference in the world around them. When it comes to the environment, kids have stepped up in big ways.

In Stephanie Molitor’s fifth grade class, they ran a service learning project for 4Oceans, a global movement actively removing trash from the ocean and coastlines. They hosted an art sale to raise money for this project. Through the sale, and with support from the Highlands PTO, the students raised $547.92. The students were thrilled to be able to give this money to the organization and shared at their school assembly that they would be raffling off some of the bracelets they received from 4Oceans to those who helped support the cause.

Aryanna, a fifth grader, has found a passion for the environment and climate change. “I’m passionate about the environment because we live off the world. The world is how we survive,” she said. “Climate change is a problem we made. It is causing harm all over the world. Now we must fix our problem.” Aryanna became part of Project Earth – the environmental club at Edina High School – which led to the opportunity to speak at the capitol about climate change with elected leaders. “I made my speech and practiced until I performed.” Having spoken at the state capitol and Washington D.C., Aryanna continues to raise money and awareness about climate change and challenges those around her to take steps to fix the problem, such as reusing and composting.

Sabrina, a first grader at Highlands, was unhappy by the amount of trash she found in the woods behind her home and wrote a letter to the City of Edina. Her mom shared that she came home very mad and went straight to her desk to write her letter. The city wrote back to Sabrina, thanking her for taking the time to write about her concerns. They shared that they too do not like the trash everywhere and do their best to clear it away. They also thanked her for her passion and vision for a clean Edina, sharing, “We share your passion and together we can make a difference. If we start in Edina, my hope is that your vision for a clean world will expand beyond Edina city limits. Please stay strong in your passion and continue to spread the word that littering is not acceptable. We could all learn from your lead.”

With the encouragement of the staff and teachers at their school, these students understood that they can make a difference and took the steps to make their voices heard. Principal Katie Mahoney summed it up: “We are change-makers here at Highlands. If you see a problem or have an idea, we encourage all people to take action, no matter your age.”