Midpeninsula Post

Fletcher Middle School in Palo Alto to offer new sustainability program for all students

Ellen Fletcher Middle School in March 2023. (Yoochan An)

Ellen Fletcher Middle School will offer a new choice program, “Sustainability for All,” for all students starting next school year. 

The program — which was created in part to boost Fletcher’s enrollment by increasing transfers — will integrate sustainability topics into all core classes and provide additional opportunities and electives for students to engage in the subject. 

As a choice program, all students living in the Palo Alto area going into sixth, seventh or eighth grade may apply to join “Sustainability for All.” If accepted, the student will be transferred to Fletcher for the 2023-24 school year from either their originally assigned PAUSD middle school or a private school. Students who already attend Fletcher are automatically part of the program. 

“Fletcher’s enrollment has become smaller over the years, and as a result, it’s harder to find full time teaching spots for all the teachers within a single grade,” Fletcher math teacher Becky Rea said. “There was certainly a desire among some of our staff to get the numbers up a little bit higher so that we could sort of make an easy teaching assignment for people.” 

All students will participate in sustainability-related assemblies, field trips and awareness through leadership and outreach, according to the program description. Incoming sixth grade students will take an “Introduction to Sustainability” class in their wheel class, which is a rotating selection of introductory electives all sixth graders take. Seventh and eighth grade students interested in further study can take a separate sustainability elective.

Teachers are also working to integrate themes of sustainability into core classes. In a social studies class, for instance, teachers may teach how low income countries and communities are disproportionately affected by climate change, Fletcher science teacher Tamara Wallace said.

“There should be some sustainability topics that are dealt with in English, social studies, math, science and then in the elective classes,” Fletcher librarian Kristen Lee said. “Right now we’re looking into how … each subject area [can] have sustainability as part of its curriculum.”

In math classes, students may be asked to analyze statistics about environmental change, or more specific topics like garbage or air pollution in different cities, Rea said. In the 3-D geometry unit, students may be assigned to design wastewater containers. 

“I’m also hopeful that … [we can] make the kinds of exercises that we do in math class feel a little more relevant to something kids care about,” Rea said. 

Students may also choose to participate in optional activities such as club-organized clothing drives and volunteer opportunities hosted by community partners. 

“We really hope that it brings good engagement and that connection with current events and our own responsibility to our communities and our state and our world,” Wallace said. “All those things are hopefully good outcomes.”

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