On February 22nd, a group of four Earth Task Force members attended the Alliance for Sustainability Conference at the Colorado State Capitol Building. At the conference the Earth Task Force learned about current bills that focus on sustainability, climate change and the environment. Adam Stenftenagel, the co-founder and CEO of Snugg Home presented at the conference. He informed the audience about simple, cost-effective ways to improve the energy efficiency of residential homes.
After the initial briefing, students were introduced to Andy Kerr, a Colorado state senator working on green school bills. Kerr informed the ETF about a bill he recently wrote and sponsored. House bill 09-1312 allows school districts to apply for a small loan from the Colorado state treasury at a low interest rate. This bill will allow the ETF to apply for a grant that wouldn’t have been possible due to lack of funds from the school district. Speaking to Kerr in person was an unexpected, yet wonderful experience for the ETF it meant that a state senator was willing to take time out of his day to speak directly with high school students.
Andy Kerr invited Earth Task Force students to sit in on the House floor as bills were being discussed by the legislators. The students also spent their day speaking with house and state representatives. They discussed an upcoming plastic bag ban in Denver, and invited the politicians to a rally for the ban on April 13th, 2013. The unique experience provided the young activists with valuable information and tools with which to complete current and future projects. The experience also taught students that approaching, and working with local government officials is possible and a useful resource for the future.
Written by student journalists Robert Harding and Tavius Koktavy.
The Earth Task Force (ETF) is a Cottonwood Institute-supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give students an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.
Johnson and Wales University (JWU) worked with the Cottonwood Institute for the third year in a row to offer another great Environmental Leadership Summit. Eyes were opened, ideas were hatched and questions raised as the day got underway with excellent speakers and hands on activities. By the end of the day, 21 students had participated in the summit and everyone had something to take-away and apply to their own lives and career paths.
The day started and ended at Fluid Coffee Bar. Owner Jeff Aitkens presented their environmentally conscious model for running a business and introduced the group to the “triple bottom line” of sustainable business practices. Ford Church shared the story of the Cottonwood Institute, the Action Project Steps, and the Cycle of Hope and Cynicism. Adam Brock, Director of Operations at the Grow Haus in Denver spoke about urban farming, education, local food sources and the many native alternatives to common cuisine here in Colorado. After a rousing game of Ninja and some time for reflecting, the group headed to Pizza Fusion to partake of another locally owned and socially and environmentally conscious business. One of the highlights of the day was the Sustainability Scavenger hunt which sent participants through the Uptown neighborhood of Denver finding sustainable businesses, bike racks, and bus stops, picking up trash, and answering questions about local shopping opportunities. Back at Fluid the group engaged with Jessie Fischer from Alliance for Climate Education (A.C.E.) and her fantastic presentation on climate change and it’s causes and possible solutions.
The group ended the day thinking about steps they can take to make a difference in their communities and lives. Each student shared a goal they could work on over their next semester at JWU to support a more locally fueled sustainable future for us all. From environmental action clubs, to burgeoning business plans and simple actions to take on an individual level, everyone had something truly unique and beneficial to add to the work we are all doing in creating community-led sustainability initiatives. After the summit, one student had this to say: “Innovative ways to be sustainable are constantly popping up, but we rarely notice them; being educated is only the first step and these community leaders have made it so easy that everyone can take part. It is truly an honor to take part and experience the rush of knowlege again.”
Many thanks to all of our speakers and partners for a fantastic day!
The Cottonwood Institute‘s core education program called the Community Adventure Program (CAP) has received some media attention recently. Students enrolled in CAP at New Vista High School recently had an article written about their environmental service project, which involved building a greenhouse at the school in order to raise an awareness of the importance of buying local and organic produce. Amy Bounds, a Staff Writer for the Daily Camera, wrote an article called New Vista Builds Greenhouse that appeared in the paper on Sunday, October 7, 2007. To download a copy of the article, Click Here.For more information about the Community Adventure Program at New Vista High School, please visit their Class Website.
The Community Adventure Program was recently replicated at P.S.1 Charter School, an urban public school in Denver, CO. CAP students at P.S.1 have been working on their environmental service project to sell reusable grocery bags in order to raise an awareness of the environmental impact of plastic grocery bags. To help students spread the word, Nicole Danna from the Colorado Daily wrote an article called "It’s In The Bag" on November 5, 2007. To download a copy of the article, Click Here.
For more information about the Community Adventure Program at P.S.1 Charter School, please visit their Class Website.
Guiding Question: When articles about high school students appear in the media, they normally have a negative spin: school shootings, drug use, vandalism, etc. What wisdom, advice, thoughts, comments, words of encouragement, etc. would you say to students in the Community Adventure Program who are getting out in their communities and making a difference in the world?
The Cottonwood Institute recently hosted a screening of Freedom Writers, starring Hillary Swank, for our latest "Change the World Movie Night." The movie chronicles a new teacher in a recently integrated public school in Long Beach, CA during the early 1990′s, following the Rodney King beating and LA riots when racial tensions were high. Erin Gruwell, played by Hillary Swank, was deeply committed to making a difference in the lives of her 9th grade English class and to transforming the way she taught and inspired students that most of her peers, teachers, and administrators had written off. Despite a lack of resources and support from her Department Chair and Principal, she taught these students all four years of their high school career and they all graduated high school. Guiding Question: Like Erin Gruwell, if we are deeply committed to changing something, we can be unstoppable. What are you committed to changing in your school, your job, your environment, or your community?
When I teach a Cottonwood Institute course, I typically begin by asking students what they think about volunteering and community service. Very consistently, students tell me that community service is what their parents make them do, what their school makes them do, or it involves a parole officer. Using community service as a punishment tool is not exactly the best way to inspire a service ethic among our youth.
I was inspired to give back to my community because I was greatly influenced by my parents and grandparents. I remember my brother and I being pulled down the street by my mom and dad in a Radio Flyer red wagon as we picked up trash and participated in the New Orleans Clean City Committee. My mother, Beverly Church, helped revitalize a children’s amusement park called Story Land. I remember hearing stories about how involved my grandparents were in the New Orleans community and all of the local organizations they supported.
To inspire students to become active in their communities, the Cottonwood Institute’s Community Adventure Program makes service fun and exciting. Through the use of adventure, we teach students to comfortably and competently explore the outdoors, we teach essential camping and wilderness survival skills, and we go on overnight camping trips to practice our skills. Through the use of the outdoors, implement a technique called Service-Learning to make service fun and engaging. Students brainstorm environmental issues, choose and issue to tackle as a class, collaborate with other organizations, coordinate all the logistics, and implement an Action Project to address their issue in order to make a positive impact in the community.
Question: If you currently volunteer, work for a nonprofit organization, serve on a nonprofit board, or serve your community in any way, what specific events or people in your life helped inspire your service ethic?
I started a non-profit organization about a year ago called the Cottonwood Institute, whose mission is to teach students how to change the world through an exciting blend of adventure and service. I have dedicated my life to inspiring the youth of America and I continually hear my mom say, "where did he come from?" However, to me, it is very clear where I came from.
My mom, Beverly Church, is a New Orleans civic activist, community leader, author, lecturer, event planner, and a primary source of my inspiration to be committed to my community. She recently helped organize a group of women called Women of the Storm to help rebuild the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated my hometown at the end of August 2005. They boarded a donated charter flight bound for Washington D.C. with a cross-section of women from New Orleans who were affected by the storm and who are deeply committed to rebuild the historic city. Their goal is to invite members of congress to visit New Orleans to see the devastation first-hand so they will be more likely to vote to save the city.
The term activism can conjure up negative images of almost militant people fighting extreme causes. But for those who have been ignored or oppressed, many times activism is the only card they can play. Activism does not have to have a negative connotation. Gandhi was an activist; Martin Luther King, Jr. was an activist; Mother Theresa was an activist. But these examples set high standards that paralyze many of us from ever getting involved. Let us instead be inspired by the average citizens like Beverly Church and the Women of the Storm who have the courage to exercise their voice and take a stand for what they believe in.
Question: When have you taken a stand for something you believed in?