Protecting Earth One Middle School at a Time

Take a gorgeous 75 degree California day, a group of rambunctious middle school students coming inside from lunch, and get them to focus on how the sun can be transformed into renewable energy.

No problem for Angela Duke who teaches 6th and 7th graders about the environment and where they fit into the protection of it.

Angela Duke has been teaching science at Bertha Taylor School for 11 years. And while it may seem like she’s a ‘veteran’ to some of us— Angela’s youth and energy is at least equal to her student’s’.

We first heard about Angela and her remarkable students through our friends at Green Ninja. In fact, Angela and her students are becoming so popular that our Shape of Life interview followed the filming of a PBS documentary about her classroom.

“Kids today can be so isolated and inward with all the technology. I try to teach science in a way that forces them to be more understanding of their place within the big world of natural beauty,” said Angela. “And, I encourage my students to embrace failure as part of the process of discovery and scientific research.”

“At first my family wasn’t too sure they wanted to keep a ‘trash diary’ or take a closer look at how we use electricity. But, I did notice that everyone stopped leaving the lights on around the house once we got started,” said Angel, a serious student who can teach us all a thing or two about conserving energy. “I’m pretty sure I want to be an inventor someday.”

“The thing I like about Ms. Duke is that she gets us to do stuff we normally wouldn’t—like the time we got our families to join in a neighborhood clean-up. I never thought we’d do that!”, said Emma who also likes to dance and play the piano.

Unlike many of us, Angela knew exactly what she wanted to be since she was in the third grade. 

“Mrs. Shack told my mom I talked too much in class and that it was probably because I was bored. The next day she pulled me aside, opened a cabinet full of books and I knew then that I wanted to do what Mrs. Shack did—get kids like me to shut up and read!”, added Angela with a hearty laugh.

“We work almost exclusively in groups. This is where kids not only learn about science together but they also learn respect, focus and inclusiveness-- something the world can use a lot more of. Every day I’m with my students I’m learning more about myself and science.”

Like Angela, we also believe we learn more about ourselves through the discovery of science.