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Gibson Ek Students Plan City's First-Ever Sustainability Fair

Gibson Ek students Caitlin Peterson, left, and Mina Jun with a flyer promoting Issaquah's first Sustainability Fair

The upcoming first-ever Sustainability Fair is a city event, but Issaquah School District students helped make it happen.  

Gibson Ek students Mina Jun and Caitlin Peterson were instrumental in coordinating the April 16 fair with their internship mentor, Issaquah Sustainability Manager Stacy Vynne McKinstry. A Pacific Cascade Middle School student designed the logo, and another Gibson Ek student is creating a kids’ activity.

“I’m not sure if we would have pulled off this event without all of their help,” Vynne McKinstry said of Mina and Caitlin, lauding both students’ enthusiasm and creativity. 

“Mina has been a huge support for design work, vendor outreach and marketing. She brings impressive creativity, an ability to turn a basic idea into a reality, and fast turnaround with high-quality work,” she said. “Caitlin has been instrumental in student engagement and volunteer recruitment.”

Families staying here for spring break – or returning early – can check out the Sustainability Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 16, at Pickering Barn.

“It’s a fun activity that’s part of the community, with games, prizes, raffles and food,” said Mina.

For teens and adults, fair vendors will sell sustainable items, provide sign-ups for environmental volunteering, educate about sustainability initiatives, and offer a forum for visitors to share ideas. And a local artist will provide live music. For children, Mina has created a passport activity book; found a classmate – GEHS senior Violet Grunstein – to design coloring pages; and will offer other activities geared toward budding environmentalists.

Vynne McKinstry suggested the fair idea to Mina and Caitlin as a possible school project after the girls began interning with her last fall. (Through Gibson Ek’s non-traditional school model, students intern in the community on Tuesdays and Thursdays.) 

Both students jumped in to plan and recruit vendors, and Mina pitched a logo contest as a way to generate interest. The contest drew entries from nearly every district school in February. All the designs will be displayed at the fair, but the winning logo by Praya A. from Pacific Cascade Middle School was selected in part because it represented sustainability beyond recycling.

“It also has its own tagline, which we thought was cute,” Mina says. Praya’s design ("smaller footprint, bigger change") is featured on flyers and will be showcased around the fair.

Mina, a sophomore, hopes to study environmental science in college and will attend a pre-college program on sustainability at Columbia University this summer. Caitlin, a senior, is planning to major in public policy and environmental science in the fall.

Working with the city, Mina says she learned about some of the legal and policy-related red tape around event planning, and the complications involved in determining which vendors truly engage in sustainable practices.

Caitlin says the experience has taught her about communication, outreach, and event planning, “and it’s inspired me to take on more personal projects surrounding environmentalism.” 

Mina also learned a bit about communicating disappointing news after the logo contest entrants were asked to provide a parent phone number rather than an email. “I had to call parents and tell them if their child won or not, and it was a little scary!” 

Mina is particularly excited about the fair because it aims to offer a proactive and local approach to learning about sustainability and environmentalism.

“In school here it’s all about fish, or ‘the Earth is dying, and here’s the cause,’" Mina says. “But I think this is more of a hopeful event, and really personal to our community.”

The event still needs volunteers – from vendor set up/break down, to zero waste monitors, supporting craft tables for kids, answering questions from participants, and helping at booths. Email if you’d like to help.