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Fashion & Fun for a Wildlife-Friendly Future
It’s fifteen minutes before show time.
Twenty-four student models are lining up, anxiously waiting for the show to begin. You can tell that the students are nervous but still, they are laughing and smiling as the teachers and professional models stand by them and calm their butterflies.
On April 27, 2018, P.S. 34 – one of four Greenpoint Eco-Schools – hosted their Second Annual Eco-Fashion Show. After spending up to four months designing and crafting a garment with their families, students from Pre-K to 5th grade debuted their creations made of recycled and upcycled items, including packing peanuts, newspapers, LED lights, discarded plastic bags and cups, and more.
As National Wildlife Federation Sustainability Coach at P.S. 34, I support and partner with students, staff, and families to infuse environmental education and sustainable practices throughout the school. With the goal of increasing students’ and the community’s awareness about the environmental impacts of consumption and waste, I collaborated with the school to create and produce the Eco-Fashion Show. In addition to creating a better understanding of human impacts on the environment, the Eco-Fashion Show was meant to encourage and create an opportunity for:
- Creativity – ways of interpreting the Eco-Schools Pathway themes of the collection using “unconventional” materials
- Collaboration – students working with their families; and families working with other families!
- Conservation – learning, understanding and sharing the message of environmentalism and stewardship
Through the Greenpoint Eco-Schools program and associated curricula, P.S. 34 students have learned that landfill waste produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas; they know that litter in our streets can reach waterways and harm marine wildlife species; and they know that if they reduce their consumption, and recycle as much as possible, they can protect and improve the environment for all living things. The Eco-Fashion Show was the perfect opportunity for students to creatively showcase their learning.
It’s six-o’clock, guests are seated on both sides of the runway, and the show begins.
P.S. 34 Principal Carmen Asselta welcomed the packed room of families and guests, “I saw a glimpse of the children. I am so proud of them, all the effort and thought they put into creating their outfits”. I had an opportunity to talk to attendees about the project and also about the great strides P.S. 34 has made towards sustainability as an Eco-School, including achieving the program’s highest award, the Green Flag.
The volume of the music turns up and the show begins!
This year’s collection, based on National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools “Pathways to Sustainability,” featured five themes: Waste, Water, Energy, Schoolyard Habitats (Gardens) and Healthy Schools (Indoor Air Quality). Students wrote conservation narratives about their designs which the professional models read when they walked down the runway.
Jared Knight, in 3rd grade, considered air quality when he designed his outfit with his mom to create an idea for a cleaner future.
Jared’s theme is Healthy Schools. There are many things that pollute our air such as the fumes from cars idling. He wonders if we can create a toxic gas vacuum that suctions it away. His backpack was made from cardboard, soda bottles, some old felt fabric, and a mesh material he found at home. Jared’s “mask/helmet” is made from papier-mâché.
The closer, 4th grader Alicja Koziel, constructed a show-stopping gown out of rescued materials that called attention to the impact of plastics on ocean wildlife and our own health.
Alicja’s outfit represents the ocean and beach which is home to many different species, but it is often awfully littered by people. Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. It is important to know that plastic is in every part of the ocean, threatening marine wildlife and our own health. We can take action by changing policies and our own habits! Alicja’s outfit is made out of an old shower curtain, garbage bags, cup holders and lids, toilet paper rolls, and different packaging materials like foam peanuts, bubble wrap, and paper.
One parent said, “organizing this fashion show was so much work, similar to planning a wedding but with kids!” Indeed it was, but it was all worth it. The Eco-Fashion Show was a great way for students and their families to engage in and learn about sustainability in a non-traditional way; it created memorable moments and images that students, families, staff and attendees will never forget.
This story was written by National Wildlife Federation Sustainability Coach, Tina Wong.
Want to bring the Eco-School program to your learning community? Learn more today:Start an Eco-School Program