Gahanna Middle School South's Enviro Start Up Team is working to make a positive difference in the world and encouraging others to do the same.
Seventh-grade science teacher Cailin Sendelbach-Shelton, known as Mrs. Sendel, said she started an environmental club at the school this year.
A graduate student at Miami University through the Global Field Program, Sendelbach-Shelton said the club connects to her graduate school's master plan of encouraging students to become action-oriented environmental advocates through reflection, personal choice and community outreach.
"Enviro initially started as the Fourth Second Project at Gahanna Middle School South in early March," she said. "The Fourth Second Project was inspired by a video by Prince Ea called "Man Versus Earth" (as seen on YouTube)."
In his video, Sendelbach-Shelton said, the artist condenses Earth's lifespan into 24 hours and explains that according to this perspective, humans have only inhabited Earth for 3 seconds.
"He poetically goes on to talk about the impacts we've had on our planet and its species over the time we've existed," she said. "At the end of the video, he declares that only together can we make it to the 'fourth second.' And from that moment, the Fourth Second Project was born."
After the team's first meeting, Sendelbach-Shelton said, she and participating students found it important to make sure the name of the club was quick and easy for people to understand, which is why it was changed to Enviro.
"Students insisted on keeping the Fourth Second Project part of our club, so they created a club slogan: 'We are the Fourth Second,'" she said.
A group of 20 students are part of the Enviro Start Up Team that will become a school club beginning next school year.
"My goal and mission for this club as an adviser is exactly that of my personal graduate school mission: to encourage students to become action-oriented environmental advocates through reflection, personal choice and community outreach," Sendelbach-Shelton said. "I have made it clear to the students that I want this to be their club and want their passions and interests of the environment, wildlife, conservation and sustainability to be the driving force behind it, along with the current environmental issues facing us globally."
She said she hopes students can start to realize the environment is not just a wallpaper in the background of their lives, but a constant force of beauty, harmony and survival.
Seventh-grader Emily O'Connor said she joined the group because she wants to help make a difference in the way people live now.
"We live in a world where all plastic ever produced is still on our Earth, where animals are going extinct," she said. "We also can all make a change, but we aren't. That's where Enviro comes in. We try to encourage people that we need to do something. We are also a group that can do small projects and make a big change in our community."
The group recently completed its first community project by volunteering with the Make Gahanna Yours annual spring litter cleanup event April 13.
Nine students and five parents picked up litter around Gahanna Lincoln High School, 140 S. Hamilton Road.
"We're hoping to make this an annual project for Enviro Club to participate in, to help beautify the city we call home," Sendelbach-Shelton said.
The students also have decided to raise money for the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium's Adopt an Animal program.
"They are currently raising money within the group for giraffes, to spread the word about giraffe conservation and their current declining numbers in the wild due to habitat loss and poaching," Sendelbach-Shelton said. "One hundred percent of their donation will go toward food and enrichment for the giraffes at the Columbus Zoo."
Anyone who wants to donate can write out a check to GMSS PTO by Friday, May 3, or personal donations can be made on the Columbus Zoo's website to an animal of their choice at give.columbus zoo.org/adopt-an-animal.
Next year, Sendelbach-Shelton said, students hope to broaden their donation pool to a schoolwide donation toward the conservation of the African lion, the school and district mascot.
She said the students' goal is to encourage their peers to take small steps in their daily lives to help positively affect the environment around them, whether it's by picking up litter, using a reusable water bottle or ditching the plastic straw at a restaurant.
"They want others to know that they can help make a huge impact on the planet, no matter their age, race, gender or social economic status," Sendelbach-Shelton said.
South art teacher Doug Parker said it's great to see so many young people energized about an important and worthy cause.
"It makes me sad that there are animals whose habitats are being destroyed and they can't fight for themselves," said Ella Sarah Lobert, a seventh-grader. "Also, I feel that being Gen Z, I need to take a stand and help the world, because we are already past the point of no return. All in all, I want a world where my children can play and not have to worry about global warming, ocean pollution and endangered animals."
"I joined this club because Mrs. Sendel is a great and fun teacher and the environment is getting destroyed and it is my generation's job to fix it," said seventh-grader Caiden Urban. "We are the fourth second."