Tessa Monti, a first grade student at Park Avenue Elementary, received a piece of mail with a notable return address recently, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue! It all began last year, when Tessa reached out to the White House to share an ecologically conscious idea she’d devised – to make PPE masks from more easily biodegradable materials, as a way to mitigate the impacts of this new type of litter.
Tessa said she noticed that some people were just dropping their PPE masks everywhere, and thought that President Joe Biden might want to hear her concern about the unfortunate detritus and her idea to help keep the earth clean.
“My suggestion was to make masks that, if people throw them on the ground, or if they blow out of people’s hands, when you put water onto it, it disappears. It goes back into the Earth,” said Tessa.
She came up with the idea as part of a kindergarten project last year.
“The letter was written because of a special project Tessa did when she was in Ms. Canfield’s class,” explained Tessa’s teacher, Donna Berghahn. “She thought of a way to help make the world a better place, and she wrote her suggestion to the President.”
Tessa was confident she would hear back from President Biden, but started to wonder when it took a little while.
“But then, he wrote it back,” Tessa said. The letter arrived two weeks ago. In it, President Biden shared his gratitude for Tessa’s idea and that both he and Vice President Kamala Harris shared her concerns. Having her idea acknowledged, Tessa said, “made me really proud of myself.”
Sharing her idea with President Biden was a special activity Tessa undertook on her own with Ms. Canfield’s help.
“Tessa is a really great writer who can commit her ideas in a well-organized manner,” said Ms. Berghahn. “I think that’s why the President wrote her back, because he really understood what her thoughts were, and how important it was for her to try to make the world a better place.”
Ms. Berghahn also described Tessa as a good thinker and problem solver, someone who is a great STEM worker. She said Tessa exhibits those skills that every twenty-first century learner should have. Tessa’s favorite areas of study are science and math, which is partially where her interest in environmental matters comes from. Tessa has also always enjoyed nature shows, and said the more stuff she learned from them, the more she liked the topic. What she particularly enjoys about science, though, is employing the scientific method.
“In science, I like trying to test things out,” she said, adding with a smile and laugh, “and seeing stuff explode sometimes!”
Her teachers consider Tessa a classroom leader, especially in her STEM studies with Ms. Mellica; she always contributes and helps build things. Right now, the STEM students are creating a hand pollinator, and using the scientific method to identify the right item to use to pick up and redistribute pollen.
“So we’re using baking soda as pollen, and testing things like pom poms and marbles to see if they drop a lot of pollen and if they pick up a lot of pollen,” said Tessa.
Tessa, who already has three years of ballet under her belt, also participates in theater at Warwick Performing Arts. When she joined and showed an immediate knack for remembering her lines, Tessa was invited to work with an older group of actors and, this spring, performed in the cast of Matilda at the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center.
Tessa loves music and doesn’t rule out the possibility of becoming a music teacher. She is thinking about starting to learn guitar and really looking forward to fourth grade, when she can take up violin and join the orchestra like her sister.
“The future is bright with students like Tessa on the path,” beamed Ms. Berghahn. “She’s going to help make the world a better place for all of us and keep it healthy.”