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Building a Sustainable Future Starts with Real and Relevant Academics

The Project Hilltop Executive Report and Stakeholder Conference at Kents Hill School

Like so many incredible things in life, this story begins with a large-scale dirty job to be done. Last February a joint effort was made by Dr. Wilson Onu’s Entrepreneurship class and Andrew Deaett’s Sustainability class to inventory and categorize the types of waste being generated at Kents Hill School. 

Together, they sorted through a day's worth of trash, differentiated the different types of material in our waste stream, and calculated the relative percentage by weight of each category. While this effort alone generated lots of interesting findings and report-worthy metrics, the Entrepreneurship class took it to the next level with the Project Hilltop Executive Report and Stakeholder Conference.

The Project Hilltop Executive Report and Stakeholder Conference was an opportunity for our students to present in front of a panel consisting of Head of School, Chris Cheney, Associate Head of School, Meadow Davis, Sustainability Coordinator, Andrew, and Senior Food Service Director, Sherry Chretien where they provided a real report filled with achievable, researched-backed solutions to campus waste issues. Each stakeholder was presented with the report in advance, listened to the presentation and took notes, and then asked questions about the processes and implementation options. One thing is certain, this project was an exemplary example of project-based learning, which we are proud to promote through our Four-Dimensional Academic Curriculum (4D). 

Dr. Onu says, “I'm very proud of the work they've done, it was a challenging but rewarding experience for each and every one of them. I have never had a class come together as these students have, even the four learning remotely joined us at odd hours (there's a 12-hour difference with Beijing and Shenzhen, China) to work on the executive report and practice for their presentation. Besides learning how to conduct an inquiry and consultation, I think their biggest takeaway was teamwork.”

Stakeholder Impressions 

Cheney says, “The presentation was professional, college-level or beyond and it demonstrated relevant real-world problem-solving, solution-based research, and strong critical thinking and communication skills. These students proved that they are prepared for anything and that they are ready to make an impact at Kents Hill, but also in the world at large.”

Davis was blown away. She says, “Though I knew the students standing in front of me well, watching them on stage as they made their presentation, I had to keep reminding myself that they were not actually environmental consultants. They were articulate, they had done their research, and their ideas were well thought out, creative and feasible.  To say I was wowed is an understatement.” 

Andrew says, “What impressed me most was the deliberate and respectful collaboration demonstrated by students on stage. Those skills will serve them well as they enter an ever-changing, and demanding world full of problems to solve.”

Hope for the Future 

Tengxiao (Jerry) L. ’21 says, “Although I'm graduating this year, I wish to see that the solar panel project can come true. I hope I can see those solar panels on the roof of Alfond when I come back to the U.S. and visit Kents Hill in the future.”

Camren K. ’21 says, “I hope that Kents Hill will take this and take positive steps in the right direction in order to better our community for the students who will follow after us”

Adam R. ’22 agrees, “My hope is that Kents Hill will use some of our great ideas and implement them into the school.”

Lessons Learned

Teamwork is one of our Core Values at Kents Hill, and Jerry believes it was a major part of the project’s success. He says, “The most valuable thing I learned from this project is the importance of collaboration. A single person could never accomplish this and our final presentation was the masterpiece of everyone's hard work.”

The Next Step

At the conclusion of the conference, the stakeholders asked the student presenters what they thought we could do to make an impact quickly and efficiently. While many things were suggested, the consensus was that ramping up and making recycling and awareness of recycling was a solid area for us to focus on. 

Chretien says, “You can tell that they worked very hard on this and can't wait to see what we can implement on campus soon!”

Cheney says, “I think what I really appreciated about the project from a maturity standpoint is that oftentimes students just go for the expensive answers and these students had different levels of solutions from low-lift, low expense to some high-lift high expense and those kinds of choices will allow us to really act on some of them.”

We look forward to reviewing the students’ scholarly work in detail and making real changes and improvements so that together we can keep making a difference in the world.

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