Fox teaches elementary students environmentalism

At Ocean Air Elementary School, Zoe Fox (12), then a fourth-grader, leaned forward in her seat.

In front of her was an awe-inspiring presentation in the eyes of someone her age, a demonstration of runoff represented by car oil traveling down an intricate city model. It was a lesson about the impact that humans have on the environment, and the changes that we can make to save it. Little did Fox know that one day she would trade places with the presenter, teaching her own group of fourth-graders.

Growing up, Fox had always been environmentally conscious within her home, whether it was from separating the trash from the recycling or raising chickens.

Although she loved learning and science, Fox wasn’t entirely aware that environmental science existed until she exposed herself to the AP Environmental Science (APES) class at Westview during her sophomore year.

“I was always passionate about science and once I found out the actual facts behind all of the changes that are occurring I started to educate myself on it,” Fox said. “I found it really interesting and I became really passionate about it.”

Upon furthering her education and joining Advocates for a Better Environment (ABE), Fox started to dedicate herself to speaking up for the environment. As ABE’s projects have been centered around gardens, Fox said she wanted to create a program that approached helping the environment in a different way.

“For me, environmentalism is much more than plants and gardens,” she said. “I find it to be more about getting involved and speaking up for the Earth itself.”

Fox was inspired by the trips to elementary schools that AP Biology classes take and had the idea of bringing a program similar to ABE with the help of APES students.

Fox, along with the vice-president of the program, Laura Sepa (11), started communicating with Deer Canyon Elementary School to put together their first outreach event. Fox, Sepa and the Deer Canyon principal planned for Westview students to reach 20 classes over two Wednesday mornings, Dec. 6 and Dec. 14. ABE club members and APES students had the opportunity to visit classes, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade, and teach a brief lesson related to the environment. The lessons were about subjects such as ocean systems, energy, matter and water cycles. They also talked to the students about how they should play their part in helping the environment now because it’ll have a bigger effect in the future.

The presentations put together by ABE and APES were reviewed and critiqued by Fox and Sepa before they could be sent off to Deer Canyon. Fox and Sepa oversaw the whole event and helped out in classrooms that were missing student instructors.

Teaching the environmental subjects that Fox herself is passionate about, she said that she could see a potential passion growing in the students.

“The kids were all really excited to learn about everything,” she said. “If we show them the excitement about taking care of the environment, we know that it will stick to them as they grow up.”

Fox said that she has committed herself to spreading awareness about the environment and environmental issues, and said she believes that starting with teaching kids is the most effective way to do it.

“We figured we could get the most impact if we got this program going and have it directed toward kids,” she said. “It’s looking toward the future.”

While teaching the kids, Fox couldn’t help but reminisce back to the day when she was just like them.

She sat in a miniature desk just like them, attentively watching the speaker go through a unique presentation. She also knew that seven years ago, she was exposed to problems that she never knew existed.

“I remember watching the demonstration on how car oil goes into the ocean,” she said. “As a fourth-grader, I just never knew that was a problem so I think that opening the kids’ eyes to environmental problems should change how they act as adults.”

Fox plans on visiting more elementary schools throughout the rest of the year, and is relying on Sepa as well as other ABE members to carry on the outreach for years to come. With a large group of students exposed to the concepts of environmentalism at a young age, Fox said she hopes some are inspired to make an effort to help the environment.

“I hope that they become passionate about [helping the environment],” she said. “I hope the program inspired them to act upon themselves and take initiative.”