Samuel Levin

Founder, The Independent Project at Monument Mountain Regional High School

Student, Oxford University

Sam Levin is the founder of two innovative, student-centered programs at Monument Mountain High School – Project Sprout and The Independent Project. In its first summer, the community garden at the heart of Project Sprout provided over 1000 pounds of vegetables to local shelters and people in need. By the time Sam graduated, produce from the expanded garden and orchard was featured in three meals a week in his school’s cafeteria and other schools in the region had embarked on similar gardening projects.

“I saw kids waking up at six in the morning to harvest potatoes. But I couldn’t reconcile the commitment and passion I saw in the garden with the lack of enthusiasm and engagement I saw in the classroom.”

The difference, Sam recognized, was stewardship – in the garden the kids had control, responsibility and ownership. With that in mind, he and seven other students embarked on the first year of The Independent Project, a student-run school-within-a-school. Although the school itself does not have any solar panels, “The Independent Project’s successes show us that giving young people more agency and authorship over their own education can unleash the hunger, curiosity, and passion for learning that is currently dormant in most students,” says Sam, “And its failures can inform our attempts to design better schools for 2030.”

School sponsored gardens are a great way to teach kids about environmental responsibility. It also teaches them about the power of the sun, and harkens to a time when our whole world was solar powered, without the modern conveniences of supermarkets and petroleum.