Kayhi litter cleanup

Ketchikan High School students stand together during a recent outing where they picked up litter around Kayhi. Photo courtesy Joey Fama

Three student-run groups at Ketchikan High School have been encouraging their classmates to celebrate Earth Day by developing awareness activities, including a social media project, prize raffles, and a schoolwide spirit week.

Kayhi's Rotary Interact Club and the Kayhi National Honor Society jointly have presented the "Earth Day Challenge 2021," which encourages students to take pictures and videos of themselves completing certain environmental activities. The challenge will run through the end of the month and culminate in a video collage created by Kayhi students.

And the newly formed Kayhi Environmental Club hosted an informative "Spirit Week" with earth-friendly themes to educate and inspire students during the week before Earth Day.

Earth Day was first recognized in 1970, at the urging of then-Sen. Gaylord Nelson, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency website. Later in 1970, the EPA was formed to address environmental issues in the country.

The Daily News spoke with Kayhi Rotary Interact Club President Cade McAllister, NHS Secretary Evelyn Nutt and NHS President Maegan Chua about the events.

Kayhi senior Evelyn Nutt is a member of the both the National Honor Society and the Rotary Interact Club.  

Nutt told the Daily News on Monday afternoon that the idea for the social media project got started in February, when she brought the idea up during a regular meeting of NHS officers.

"I remember the past few years since I've lived in Ketchikan, I was always told there was an epic Earth Day clean-up that the whole school did," said Nutt, NHS' secretary. "And contrary to that view I always received, I never was a part of that clean-up. I never remember that happening while I was here. And so this year as a part of NHS and Kayhi Rotary, I decided, 'Well, let's go ahead and see if we can have people do this stuff not just one day for the whole school, but the entire month for the whole school."

The Earth Day 2021 Challenge is a list of activities that any student or staff member in the Ketchikan School District can participate in.

Some of these activities include using a reusable bag at the store, growing a plant, using a fabric mask instead of a disposable mask, or donating old clothes to thrift stores.

"They (students) participate in the challenge by completing an Earth Day activity, and we're trying to promote sustainability and cleanliness, especially with it being spring now," Nutt explained.  

Kayhi students who participate and share their photos with the Kayhi NHS or Kayhi Rotary Interact social media pages will automatically be entered into a raffle to win environmentally friendly prizes, such as a stack of reusable sticky notes or a bamboo toothbrush. Each time a student completes an item from the list and shares it on the Kayhi social media pages, they earn another entry into the raffle.

And while students or staff from other schools won't be entered in the raffle, they will be a part of something bigger that the NHS and Rotary students are working on.

"They will be a part of a community-wide Earth Day video where we'll compile all the pictures, the videos, and little snippets that we got from students and teachers and staff and put it all together into one massive, beautiful video that we can share and show everyone, around May, that Ketchikan is blooming," Nutt said. "We are keeping (Ketchikan) clean, and in the midst of COVID, we are still finding ways to benefit our community."

While the challenge was being developed, it expanded to include the Kayhi Rotary Interact Club.

"And we (NHS) also realized that Rotary Interact hadn't had a lot of projects this year because of COVID, and we invited them to do the challenge along with us, and lead the way for Kayhi," Nutt said.

Kayhi Rotary Interact President Cade McAllister — who also is a member of the NHS — said the message of the project is simple.

"I think it's really just the same as the message behind Earth Day itself: taking care of the environment and cleaning up," McAllister told the Daily News. "And I think it's bringing everybody together in a time like this. You know, we're still in the middle of the pandemic and I think the message remains the same that we need to stick together and stay strong."

McAllister said he was pleasantly surprised at the number of students who have participated in the challenge.

"I think the hardest part is always getting people involved, especially with something on social media," he said. "This year, it's been really hard to get people to in-person events, and even ones that are outside, it's really hard to get groups of people together to do something like this."

And as the Earth Day Challenge continues at Kayhi throughout the month, the Kayhi Environmental Club brought an Earth Day themed spirit week to school this past week.

Kayhi teacher Joey Fama is the advisor for the club, which just got started this past spring and has a small core of members.

"The Environmental Club has a lot of ideas and we wanted to really build projects and programs at the school," Fama said during a recent interview with the Daily News.

And so after "a bunch of brainstorming," Fama said that the club decided on creating a spirit week of events.

"We're doing kind of a spirit week, earth week," Fama said. "A little bit before Earth Day, but maybe just (to) kind of get something more of a tradition that we can build off of for future years."

Kayhi senior Megan Chua is a member of the Rotary Interact Club, National Honor Society and the environmental club.

Speaking to the Daily News on Monday, Chua said that while the club has around eight to 12 total members, and about three were active in the development of spirit week.

The goal of the first-ever Environmental Club spirit week was "bringing awareness" of issues to Kayhi students, Chua noted.

"The spirit week was really great," Chua said. "A bunch of people dressed up, which is (a) surprise because usually they only dress up for the Student Body Association (spirit weeks), like during basketball and stuff like that," Chua said.

The daily themes included "thrifted fashion," "beach day," "80's roller derby day," "farmer's day" and "earth tones day."

But it wasn't just about dressing up.

"We also had announcements," Chua noted.

During spirit week, Kayhi's morning announcements were tailored to allow students to provide environmental messages matching the day's theme throughout the school.

"Like, for 'thrifted fashion,' we wanted to talk about fast fashion," Chua said.

Fama noted that the "fast fashion" morning announcement was a discussion about "how it's not good for the environment to buy new clothes all the time, especially if they're not well made and they end up just in a landfill."

The "beach day" theme was a chance to talk about the ocean, and "80's roller derby day" brought about a discussion of gas emissions.

"Earth tones" day was to recognize pollution issues, and "farmer's day" was a chance to learn about food waste and production.

"It was just, basically we wanted to have awareness toward those issues," Chua said.

Fama noted that he also took his advisory class outside on a recent sunny morning to pick up trash and litter around the school.

He said the hands-on experience was enjoyed by the students.

"The kids were super into picking up all the litter and stuff," Fama said. "It's kind of just like, opening up the door and letting them get through that door. And that's kind of the challenge. How do we see, 'Hey, it's OK to have fun and just kind of do that?"