Innovating and Problem Solving for the Future: Burnet Middle School

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 3:23pm

By Jill Capotosto, Volunteer Engagement Intern

They might be a couple years shy of 16, but the Green Teens at Burnet Middle School know plenty about cars—solar cars, that is. The students built and tested their own solar cars as a hands-on way to learn about renewable energy, one of the many topics they explored in their weekly Green Team meetings with their teacher, Hector Hernandez.

Burnet Middle School students build solar cars to explore the power of renewable energy.

Hector started a Keep Austin Beautiful Green Teens program at Burnet Middle School in 2014 to engage his students in meaningful service on their campus and in their community. During lessons, the Green Teens explore environmental issues ranging from waste management to erosion, they then develop and implement solutions to these challenges.


Student's work to plan new seedlings in the campus garden, and remove litter from the grounds. 

Motivated by their meetings with Hector, the students decided to apply what they were learning to create change on their own campus. With support from the Burnet Student Council, the students started the Keep Burnet Beautiful campaign to beautify their school. Since the beginning, the campaign has received enthusiastic support from students, community members, and local businesses. In the spring of 2016, 92 students participated in the campaign. Over three work days, more than 20 community members and 35 students helped landscape the campus, install edible gardens, and build a chicken coop. In addition to resources secured by Keep Austin Beautiful, Burnet teachers garnered donations from Lowes, H-E-B, and Dan's Hamburgers to support the project days.

A special moment with a pollinator in the garden. 

Though the students stay busy with their ambitious and successful campaign, they also find time for other projects, including maintaining a monarch butterfly garden. During their meetings, they will feed the campus goats, weed and water the garden, and take care of their vermiculture compost. The group has gone on field trips near and far, from Burnet’s Outdoor Solar Classroom all the way to Pace Bend Park.

The Green Teens, with the guidance of Hector Hernadez, harnessed the power of the community to make their school a more beautiful and sustainable learning center for years to come, and Keep Austin Beautiful is pleased to present Burnet Middle School with the 2016 Texas Disposal Systems Education Award. Almost 400 people joined us in recognizing their achievements at Beautify Bash, Keep Austin Beautiful’s celebration of its Annual Award winners which was held Thursday, November 17th at Umlauf Sculpture Garden.