Outspoken science teacher Janet Villas has a mission to make sure BFS students grow into environmentally active adults. Through her leadership in the IB Environmental Systems class and the schoolwide recycling program, she’s become our “go-to” person on all things green.
Middle and Upper School Science teacher Janet Villas has taught Environmental Systems in the Upper School for five years, but in 2012-13 it became a part of the IB curriculum for juniors and seniors. The course syllabus is detailed, and includes field trips, movie screenings, and lots of labs. “We do a lot of lab experiments,” stressed Ms. Villas. “This is lab science, not just a geography course.”
The class is unique in that it’s a year-and-half long, covering portions of two school years. “The students start the second semester of junior year after a semester of biology,” she explained. By that time many of her students are already well-acquainted with her passion. She has a long history of teaching environmentalism and environmental science both formally and informally at the school.As a teacher, Ms. Villas incorporates environmental issues into her Middle School science classes, and encourages science fair projects that explore environmental issues. Outside of class, she also single-handedly launched the Middle School student recycling program which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Every Friday morning a swarm of kids, walkie-talkies in hand, moves through the school emptying the faculty’s recycling bins into bags and hauling the bags to the first floor for pickup.
Upper School student leaders at the Willoughby Street building also started coordinating recycling pickup with the Middle School kids. Ms. Villas also works with these students on an annual drive to collect recyclable electronics such as discarded cell phones and laptops from the school community.
Why are such endeavors important as a tool for educating students? Haven’t they learned enough about the environment already from parents and TV? Like Dr. Seuss’s the Lorax – who speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler, warning of a grim future unless – Ms. Villas points to the word cloud currently hanging in the school lobby and adorning this year’s annual BFS Journal. The word cloud is the result of last year’s schoolwide Quaker Self-Study.Words like community, learning and truth stand out. This seems like a positive summation of the school’s culture but Janet takes an ominous tone when she points out a distressing fact. “The wordstewardship, a Quaker term for environmental action, is the smallest of the principles. That is to say, people in our community care the least about it.” She gave a not-so-subtle nod to Hurricane Sandy: “Yet so much is happening with our environment and it has the ability to close schools and change our lives.”Never one to mince words, Ms. Villas stressed a, well, inconvenient truth, about our culture’s overall attitude toward the environment both in and outside of BFS. “We need to learn more to decrease the powerless feeling when faced with these issues. Relying on the opinions of others is no way to create a policy that will affect our future.”