Evan Thompson / The Record — Kari Hustad, with microphone, sings during the Climate Arts Project’s performance on Wednesday morning in South Whidbey High School’s auditorium.

South Whidbey High School’s Earth Day event hailed as ‘best’ to date

Lynda Moran wasn’t sure what her classmates and peers thought of the Climate Arts Project’s assembly performance in South Whidbey High School’s auditorium on Wednesday morning, but she felt it was profound.

Because it included members of the school’s Green Team and Drama Club, Moran could understand and relate to the messages surrounding climate change and what young people can do about it.

“Normally, I just hear straight facts,” said Moran, a 10th grader. “But, this was more of an artistic way and more of a presentation. For some people, I think it’s helpful.”

Organizers of the event included Kari Hustad, Chloe Hood, Amelia Hensler, Kyle Kaltenbach and Skye Telleen. All of them are seniors.

Together, they orchestrated the event from scratch. Over the past several months, the team acquired a $2,500 grant donation from the South Whidbey Schools Foundation, enlisted the help of over a half dozen mentors in the community, organized an activities itinerary that included a panel Q&A with elected officials and local community leaders, and set up a volunteer fair with eight environmental non-profit organizations.

It all culminated with Wednesday’s event which began with a 55-minute performance in the auditorium. There were six spoken word poetry pieces, three skits, two original songs, interpretive dancing and live paintings.

Following the performance, students broke into groups and rotated between several activities, including the panel, volunteer fair, a workshop on writing letters to elected officials, art activism and a garden work party at the high school’s new garden on a lawn near the school’s main entrance led by South Whidbey School District Garden Coordinator Cary Peterson.

Included in the panel were Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, Langley Mayor Tim Callison, singer/songwriter Dana Lyons, Hearts and Hammers founder Lynn Willeford and representatives of the Climate Arts Project.

Volunteer opportunities with the Whidbey Island Conservation District, South Whidbey Tilth, Whidbey Camano Land Trust, Waste Wise Program, Washington State Parks, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group, The Whidbey Institute, Orca Network were also available to students.

The student organizers considered the event to be a success.

“I think that it really encouraged people to be involved on the larger scale and be involved in more of the political side of environmental activism.”

Kaltenbach said that their message was received because it came from peers, instead of previous events where they presented information in lectures that “kids our age couldn’t relate well to.”

“Compared to past years, we tried to make it a lot more student-oriented and a lot more interactive,” Kaltenbach said.

“I thought that our message really was that it can be more applicable to our lives and more about the student perspective,” added Hustad.

South Whidbey High School principal John Patton called it the best Earth Day celebration the school has ever had.

“In the past, we’ve had wonderful guest speakers, but I really think with our own kids it’s really more impactful,” Patton said. “I was just amazed at the talent of the poems and the songs, and almost all of them were original. It just shows what a great group they are.”

Evan Thompson / The Record — Marla Kelly, center, performs the skit “Witness The Cyclical” on Wednesday morning in South Whidbey High School’s auditorium.

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