Covestro event kicked off sustainability projects for Student Powered Solutions teams in 13 schools

Less than two weeks after attending Covestro’s Youthquake2030, teachers from 13 schools said students were excited about beginning Project-Based Learning (PBL) assignments pegged to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“I’ve got to run just to keep up with mine,” said Sue Mellon, Allegheny Valley School District’s Gifted Support Coordinator during a PBL training session for teachers who brought teams of students to the event.

In collaboration with the Consortium, Covestro hosted Youthquake2030 in mid-September to engage students in thinking about how to advance the SDGs in their communities. It was among a series of events that Covestro has organized since launching Thinc30, a corporate initiative aimed at improving sustainability in locations where it has offices and other facilities.

From Covestro’s perspective, bringing youth into those discussions is critical, said Rebecca Lucore, the head of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility. “We want to tap that fresh thinking and show the students that, as the next generation of sustainability stewards, they can not only have an impact, but as citizens, it’s their responsibility.”

From the Consortium’s standpoint, “Youthquake not only gave students a wonderful opportunity to think about sustainability, it also exemplified the kind of school-business partnership that can give students the real-world exposure they need as they seek paths and purpose beyond high school,” said Jackie Foor, Director of Organizational Development.

Youthquake2030 took on relevance for students, coming a week before Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg’s address to delegates at the UN’s Climate Impact Summit in New York. The talk touched off demonstrations at schools across the country.

Some 100+ students from 13 schools attended Youthquake2030 where they learned about the SDGs from local entrepreneurs and academics involved in sustainability and videos featuring young people around the world who are pursuing sustainability projects and advocacy.

During roundtable discussions, Youthquake2030 also gave students a chance to brainstorm with peers from other schools. They dove into the talks, adding perspectives that they brought from districts ranging from urban to suburban and rural.

For example, Aneesha, a City Charter School student at one roundtable, thought the region could cut its carbon footprint by improving public transit and working to break down what she perceived as a “stigma” associated with riding buses.

At the other end of the spectrum, Alli, a Greensburg Salem student whose family owns a farm, said she thought multiple SDGs—from ending hunger to conserving water with reduced runoff—could be advanced by expanding community gardening.

“Through agriculture, you can connect to almost of the goals,” she said.

At their PBL training session later in the month, teachers said certain Youthquake2030 presenters had planted seeds for possible projects.

A couple of teams, for example, were intrigued by the founder of Fifth Season, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff that’s creating an indoor, robotic farm in Braddock. But like others, they weren’t yet settled on a project.

Our Student Powered Solutions program, which pairs classrooms with companies willing to pose real- world challenges for PBL, will support teams as the projects unfold through the fall.  Teams will present to Covestro at the end of the semester.