Remember your freshman year of high school? Were you concerned about going to the mall? Who to sit next to at lunch? Having your crush know your name? Or hosting a fair to educate your community about the benefits of renewable energy, eating locally and the importance of composting programs? Among her peers, Grace Jentsch, a freshman at Random Lake High School in Random Lake, Wisconsin, certainly stands out, especially in a rural town where many families are either dairy or cattle farmers.
After seeing the Wisconsin Educator Leah present the ACE assembly early last year, Grace knew that she had found the perfect opportunity to turn her love of the outdoors and passion for nature and farming into an experience that would contribute to meaningful, tangible changes in her school and community. She joined six other fiercely committed students to form their ACE action team, the Random Lake Science Club.
The community’s farming background was the inspiration behind two of the science club’s biggest projects: greening their cafeteria and hosting a health and nutrition fair.
There was a lot of room for improvement. According to Grace, “Amy, the head cafeteria worker, noticed that a lot of of the food served in the cafeteria was unable to be composted because it was so processed.” So gross. Luckily, the science club saw this as an opportunity to take action. After multiple conversations with the administration to get this project off the ground, the science club is currently planning a school garden to grow herbs and vegetables to serve in the cafeteria. They are also spreading the word about the project to local farmers. “We’re really just trying to get the word out to as many farmers as possible. After everybody responds, we’ll pick a few to work with based on the criteria laid out in the town zoning codes.” Knowing zoning codes? Spreading the word about an important issue? Not things you’d generally expect to hear about from a high school freshman, but hey, Grace is a welcome exception.
As if that weren’t enough, on Saturday, May 12, Grace and the science club spearhead the first – ever Random Lake Health and Nutrition Fair, featuring about two dozen student and community booths about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Typical high school freshman definitely don’t spend Saturdays at school, but on that particular Saturday, Grace was at school bright and early. “I got nervous because we were running short on time not all of the booths had even been set up yet,” remarks Grace. But, thanks to careful planning and setup, everything worked out.
“It was amazing for our first year. I was kind of scared that nobody would show up, but then we had a steady flow of people.” The booths ranged from ones focusing on portions and calories to local dairy booths to massage tables to model wind turbines. Grace’s favorite booth was the “Pedal Power” station: “It was a mountain bike that was hooked up to a generator that powered lights and other electronics, like hair dryers,” explained Grace.“Anybody could hop on and ride it, so it was a way to give attendees a chance to actively engage in the booths and understand how much energy it actually takes to power everyday items.”
The Random Lake Science Club employed many creative techniques to get fair-goers engaged in the booths, including getting the principal and the science club’s faculty sponsor Michael Aprill to dress up in apple and banana costumes to promote healthy eating. They also had vegetable bowling, where the pins were cucumbers and the balls were lettuce heads. We say that’s creativity at its freshest.
Grace and her team were pleased with how the health and nutrition fair went for it’s first year and they’re already planning next years to correspond with Earth Day to make an even bigger impact.
The Random Lake Science Club is a unique club because not only is run with very minimal adult help, all six members hold leadership positions. Grace says, “we didn’t vote on positions, everybody just got the one they wanted. I’m in charge of creating the website.” (Check it out!). Grace also said that she and a few of her fellow Science Club members attended an ACE leadership training where they learned communication and project management skills. By joining Random Lake’s Science Club and working with the school’s administration, community members and other students, Grace has learned a ton of valuable skills, from how to negotiate and compromise with people, to applying for grants and advertising for events.
Just imagine what she’ll do as a sophomore.