Students at Hayes High School took a trip to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium last week to learn about conservation and sustainability.
A group of sophomores, juniors and seniors visited the zoo on Nov. 3 to kick off the Teen Eco Challenge program. According to the zoo, speakers from around the world discussed “conservation, sustainability and leadership while preparing students to create Conservation Action Plans for their schools.”
The zoo reported it will “continue to engage with the students during the school year through educational webinars” and will conclude the program with a celebration event in the spring.
The group of Hayes students was led by Jane Kovatch and Jeff Bakunas, biology teachers at Hayes. Bakunas said he heard about the Teen Eco Challenge a few years ago through the student’s group leader, Jake Stein.
“I had a lot on my plate and didn’t want to take on any additional activities, and I had never met this student who was asking me to lead a two-day field trip,” Bakunas said in an email. “However, his enthusiasm intrigued me, and he assured me that he would handle everything. As a sophomore, he put the team together, did all of the paperwork, and really led our team to a great project. As a senior, he is even more enthusiastic about the project, and since many of the original members have graduated, he has assembled a new team with only one returning member.”
Bakunas said he “absolutely loved” the presentations and the day at the zoo.
“It was a perfect blend of motivation, practical knowledge on how to put a proposal together, and amazing networking opportunities for the students with professionals who gave really insightful advice and suggestions about how the students could achieve their conservation goals,” Bakunas said. “I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with everyone that we came in contact with. Their enthusiasm for what the students wanted to achieve really ignited a fire in the students to get their project done.”
Bakunas added the trip was beneficial to students.
“I know that the students took away a much deeper understanding of what it is going to take to achieve their goals, but they have the practical knowledge now to achieve it,” he said. “They saw different groups of people, just like them, that did amazing things in their school and now they are inspired to do the same.”
Bakunas said he and the students are looking forward to attending the webinars and other events as part of the challenge.
“We are now excited to attend the webinars to get to know our community partners a little bit more, and we are in the planning stages of our project,” Bakunas said. “The students realize that it truly will ‘take a village’ to achieve this, and it is something that they need to lead, but can’t do solely on their own if they want to have a sustainable project that will benefit the school long after they leave.”
Bakunas said students are currently working on ‘elevator pitches” for stakeholders and are preparing a budget that they will write a grant for.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.