• Faith
Caring for our Common Home: Listening to the Words of Pope Francis' Laudato Si'
by Lauren Winkler, Middle School Religion Teacher
Lauren with Middle School students.

Ms. Lauren Winkler and students.

Ever since Pope Francis issued his first encyclical, Laudato Si’, in 2015, Grade 6 students at Stone Ridge have been learning about what it means to “Care for our Common Home.” In religion class, students read and interpret the Old Testament creation narrative and understand that our role, as humans, is to become stewards of God’s creation. They also learn that the key points laid out in Laudato Si’ align with Sacred Heart Goal III criteria. In Laudato Si’ the Pope asks us to “hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” by being “protectors of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and the environment.” The encyclical further guides us to live in harmony, listen to one another, care for nature, and engage in our communities. Sacred Heart Goal III commits us to engage in social awareness that impels to action by thinking about our values and acting for justice; serving and advocating for others; reaching out to the poor, the suffering, and the marginalized; being informed, active, and responsible citizens; and being stewards of the earth's resources.

After students are introduced to various issues that are contributing to or effected by climate change, such as water pollution and waste, food waste, the plastic crisis, use of fossil fuels, animal and plant extinction and general over-consumption, they choose an area of interest and work in small groups to research their topic and create a presentation. Their work includes understanding the causes, effects, and social impacts of climate change and taking actionable steps to be part of the solution. This year, Grade 6 students have conducted awareness campaigns on topics such as water waste, food waste, the plastic crisis, recycling, and composting at Stone Ridge. They have led a drive to collect gently used books and toys for donation to A Wider Circle, participated in the fund drive “Trick or Treat for UNICEF,” and raised $300 to support children worldwide who are suffering from the effects of climate change.

After learning about composting and discovering that there is a Montgomery County commercial compost program, students Jamie Russell ’28 and Charlotte Mahon ’28 met with our Director of Facilities, Andrew Harrington, and presented their slides and information, and requested that Stone Ridge participate in this program. Mr. Harrington took their request to the Stone Ridge Management Team meeting and approval was given to create a campus-wide Sustainability Committee. There will be faculty and students representatives from each of the three divisions. Jamie, Charlotte, and I look forward to representing the Middle School and hope that others will join us.

Students wrapped up the unit by watching the PBS documentary, Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World. They learned how much impact one young person can have when they are dedicated to a cause.