The Earth Task Force (ETF), a student led environmental action team at New Vista High School (NVHS) coordinated an annual event that provides a locally sourced lunch to staff and students. For the fourth annual Local Lunch, The Kitchen, a Boulder restaurant that works with local food producers, collaborated with ETF to create a gourmet menu and coach students on culinary skills. Students within the action team reached out to local farms to get donations of ingredients, and with the help of the culinary resources at The Kitchen, prepared the food. This locally sourced lunch was served to the NVHS community free of charge on Friday, September 20th, 2013.
The driving reason behind organizing the Local Lunch was to educate student peers and the community about the impact of local versus non-local food on the planet: eating locally reduces carbon emissions, fuels the local economy, lets you know where and who your food comes from, and gives eaters a chance to connect with growers. By making this a free event and having the students and staff bring their own plates and utensils ETF not only created an educational experience about local food, but also encouraged people to reduce their trash. This was a truly zero waste event.
Donations for the lunch were received from many local farms including Cure Organic Farm, Munson Farms, Haystack Mountain Goat Cheese, Oxford Gardens, and Red Wagon Organic Farm and for the first time this year NVHS used many ingredients from their own Learning Garden! The meat was provided by Cure Farm and Locavore, a delivery system that procures local meat from surrounding farms and sells it to customers in the Boulder area. Various other locations, such as 63rd Street Farm, offered to donate food, but were unable to due to the violent flooding of their location during the county’s recent wet weather. Despite the huge difficulty it presented to the providers of the local food, the aforementioned farmers still donated. The event would have been impossible without their help. It was an incredible opportunity to combine the voracious appetites of adolescents with delicious local food, farmers, and chefs in order to create an educational and fun experience.
The Local Lunch event was held on Friday, September 20th, 2013 from 12:05pm to 1:05pm for students and staff at NVHS. The local farmers who contributed to the meal were also welcome to come and enjoy the product of their donations. The sunny weather allowed the community to congregate on the grass by the NVHS Learning Garden, where students and staff sat on blankets eating the food served to them by ETF. The atmosphere of the event was amiable and relaxed, and the local food was well appreciated. Despite the evident lack of reusable plates brought by students, many individuals could not refrain from eating their lunch and so were served food on their binders and ultimate frisbees. Overall, the 2013 Local Lunch was a successful event and brought the community together through the delight of eating delectable local food.
About Earth Task Force: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.
Written by Juliet Luna and Cassidy Lam, ETF students
On April 20th at the Base Camp Bash, Cottonwood Institute awarded Camille Lauer with the 2013 Ripple Effect Award! The Ripple Effect Award is awarded to an outstanding Cottonwood Institute student each year. Local artist Bryan Buikema created the beautiful award piece, which will be displayed at the recipient’s school each year. Below, take a look at a video of the award ceremony and read a transcript of Paige Doughty’s heartfelt speech to Ms. Lauer.
One of the best parts of Cottonwood Institute’s programs is that they not only give students experiences in the natural world and in their communities, but they also give students the opportunity and support to take and make informed action in their communities.
No program more so than the Earth Task Force (ETF). As an adult mentor of the ETF I help facilitate a lot of difficult discussions about complex environmental and social issues that don’t have clear answers, or simple solutions.
As a result teachers and mentors in the field of environmental education often use a metaphor of a small stone thrown into the middle of a pond. “Your actions,” we tell students, “are that stone, and the ripples that it makes when it hits the surface of the water, even when the stone is long gone from view, are the effects of your action. The effects of your actions echo out into the world in positive ways you don’t even know about.”
This is how the Ripple Effect Award came to have its name. It is an award that is given to an outstanding student and passed on to the next outstanding student from year to year. In 2013 the Ripple Effect Award was given to one of ETF’s leaders and most loyal members, Camille Lauer.
This young woman has dedicated countless hours of her time to organizing sustainability event and projects. She has helped create and serve all local lunches at her school in order to educate students and staff about the connections between the industrialized food system and climate change, she has arrived early at school to check her peers in for Transportation Transformation, a student-run program which rewards people for using alternative transportation, she helps facilitate student retreats and that’s just the beginning!
During the 2012-13 school year Camille Lauer took the lead with five other Colorado schools to organize plan and execute the “Ban the Bag Rally” in Denver on April 13th. If you were walking on 16th street Mall that day you may have seen 40+ students performing an anti-plastic bag flash mob performed to “Gangnam Style!” This coalition of youth groups has been writing letters to city councils and congress to encourage Denver to implement a bag ban or fee on single use plastic bags. Camille was one of the leaders of this action and event.
Camille’s spirit of fun, passion for life, and ability to inspire others motivate everyone around her. The Cottonwood Institute is so pleased to honor her with the 2013 Ripple Effect Award!
Speech written by Paige Doughty.
Take a look at even more pictures from the 2013 Bash Camp Bash by clicking here!
Although snow covered much of the compost when students arrived at school earlier this spring, but that didn’t stop a brave and motivated group of New Vista High School advisory students from shoveling and moving compost, clearing our gardens out of a foot of snow, digging weeds and spreading compost over all of our gardens! Just in time to take advantage of the moisture brought in by the next spring snowstorm!
Many beautiful vegetable and herb signs were designed and painted by students in Marco Demartino’s Advisory Group. The signs will be proudly displayed in our Learning Garden as well as in our “Garden Against Hunger.” Our Garden Against Hunger is a collaboration with the Boulder Food Rescue and we will help tackle their mission to put an end to hunger by growing and providing food for those in need in our local community.
We launched the New Vista Gardening Club that met once a week on Thursdays for the last month of school. Members helped prepare the Learning Garden beds for planting and they later planted one of the beds with colorful varieties of carrots and beets.
One of the intentions behind the Learning Garden was to develop an integrated curriculum across all disciplines at the high School level. Martin Park’s Pre-Calculus class brought this vision to life. Martin designed an exciting project for the students with an end goal of raising awareness for the school gardens. In our pilot lesson, we discussed variables that effect plant growth and then headed out to the Learning Gardens to plant. Several varieties of Lettuces, along with spinach, radishes, arugula and calendula flower seeds were planted. Students have been monitoring and watering the beds and taking data on variables such as soil moisture, soil temperature, and air temperature and have been collecting data on plant growth. Their results were presented along with photos, at the End-of the-Year Student Exhibition!
Students in Vanessa’s Gothic Literature Class studied Graveyard Poetry and following their poetry lesson, students were brought out to the garden to learn about earthworms. The earthworms were to serve as inspiration to write their own graveyard poems. Students didn’t have to dig deep to find an abundance of earthworms in our Garden Against Hunger beds, a great sign that our soil is thriving and full of life! Students learned about the significance of worms in the garden, as well as the role that worms play in creating compost to minimize waste in landfills and to feed our soil. Students gathered organic matter in varying stages of decomposition from in and around the garden and added it all to our new vermicomposting worm bin. Our red wiggler worms are happy in their new home, working hard to create nutrients for our gardens’ soil!
The Earth Task Force planted the remaining beds in our Learning Garden. Several varieties of kale, as well as swiss chard, carrots, beets and flowers were planted and our gardens are well on their way to providing food for ourselves and for those in need in our community!
A huge thank you goes out to Eco-Cycle for donating a truckload of beautiful compost to New Vista High School, which is now a Green Star School! The nutrient rich compost, which arrived in coordination with New Vista’s Service week, will help our gardens produce an abundance of deliciously healthy vegetables and herbs for our students and community! And thank you New Vista Staff for helping to engage our students in our school gardens and thank you New Vista Students for helping to get our gardens off to a happy and healthy start!
Summer Vacation is here and our school gardens need your help! Meeting times, dates, and planting days for student volunteers are currently being scheduled! Community Experience Credits are available for those who dedicate some time to help maintain our gardens over the summer. Please Email Melanie Goldbort with any questions or if you would like to be involved!
This article was written by Melanie Goldbort, Learning Garden Coordinator.
The Learning Garden is a Cottonwood Institute-supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO made possible by a grant from the Utah Society for Environmental Education and the US EPA Region 8 Small Grant Program. Learning Gardens are a product of The Kitchen Community in Boulder, CO.
Citizens of the United States represent about 5% of the world’s population but produce 30% of the world’s garbage. The Earth Task Force (ETF) was shocked by this amount of waste production. For years the ETF has searched for ways to reduce waste production at New Vista High School (NVHS) and save precious natural resources. Past projects have included recycling campaigns, reuse campaigns and a student-run composting program. Now they have been rewarded for all that hard work! At the beginning of April 2013 ETF partnered with Eco-Cycle to help NVHS become the first Green Star High School.
Eco-cycle’s Green Star Schools program works with schools with the goal of zero waste. The end goal is that none of the school’s waste is thrown into the landfill. Green Star Schools is a comprehensive program that involves educating the staff and student body about what goes where and it includes an industrial composting system!
For the last 4 years the ETF had been using an on site compost where compost was taken by the ETF’s members to an area at the back of the school. Unfortunately, it meant that not all products, like meat and dairy, could be composted and compostable flatware and silverware still had to be thrown away. Because of ETF’s hard work running the backyard composting program, they were thrilled to become a Green Star school and gain the ability to expand the compost program with an industrial level system. The industrial composting from Eco-Cycle now allows many different kinds of items to be composted at New Vista further reducing the waste we produce.
The Earth Task Force and Ecocycle hosted a Green Star School launch on April 3rd, which included a student written skit performed by students and staff to educate the NVHS community about the importance of conserving our precious natural resources. Eco-cycle introduced the new recycling and composting systems. At the end of the presentation representatives from each classroom came to pick up trash, recycle, and compost bins for each room in the school. The launch was fun for the entire school and a great way to start off the Green Star School program. Students are happy about the new waste disposal system and the amount of foodstuffs being composted rather than thrown away. The office staff has decided to host zero waste events with financial support from the Earth Task Force.
Written by student journalist Allison Bell.
The Earth Task Force 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.
The Cottonwood Institute welcomes the newest member to our team, Melanie Goldbort! Melanie is taking on the role of Learning Garden Coordinator at New Vista High School. Melanie will work closely with students and staff to develop an integrated learning garden curriculum for the high school level. As the snow begins to melt, you’ll find her at the New Vista High School garden planting, watering, weeding, and teaching others all about gardening.
Melanie has been in the field of education for over 10 years. She received her Bachelors in Applied Psychology from New York University and her Masters in Teaching from Montclair State University. She is a licensed Special Education teacher and has taught in New York, New Jersey and Hawaii. In recent years, she has combined her passion for healthy food, outdoor education, and community-building to help start a farm with an educational focus. She co-founded Boulder Family Farms, a local food company dedicated to growing, providing access to, and educating about organically-grown produce and humanely raised animals. The 3 acre farm on Cherryvale Road, which is home to two friendly goats, has chickens raised for organic eggs, produces vegetables for a small Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA) and an on-site Farm Stand. The farm also provides educational opportunities for people of all ages.
Did you know that only 30% of households in America recycle!? Even worse only 10% of them compost? At New Vista High School, with the support of the Earth Task Force (ETF), we do things differently.
Every year ETF hosts the highly competitive Recycle Relay. This relay consists of a race in which the homeroom classes (called advisories at NVHS) compete against each other to see who knows the most about what is recyclable, compostable and what must tragically be sent to the landfill. An advisory scores points by putting the right item in the right bin. They must choose between: recycling, compost, and trash. The competition lasted two days and it was long and hard. People laughed and cried, they ran and walked, they guessed and if they paid attention they knew where the items went.
Every team tried hard to win but in the end there can only be one winner. The school called an assembly to announce the results and in the end the teacher whose class was the fastest and which had the most knowledge, was Joel’s advisory. “We never win anything!” remarked one of the students. “We are so excited.”
The winners received a hand-made trophy, crafted by the ETF and constructed of recycled goods. Their prize was a $50.00 check to spend in their homeroom. The trophy is theirs until their title is challenged during the recycle relay of Fall, 2013.
Written by student journalist Sassan Kermani
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.
From Thanksgiving to New Years Day Americans throw away 25% more garbage than any other time of the year!
That extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of trash. Did you know…If each family in America wrapped only three presents in re-used materials it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields! In preparation for the holidays, Earth Task Force started a “Green Your Holidays” campaign. The students created fabulous posters to hang around the school showing different ways for students and staff to make their holidays greener. Methods included: using recycled materials to wrap presents, using reusable decorations at parties, and finding an alternative to cutting down trees.
The ETF used information from ecocycle’s green holidays website and created the posters out of recycled cardboard. The posters educated the New Vista community on how to waste less on the holidays while still having a good time. The ETF had a fantastic time creating the posters and they hope that students and staff had just as much fun greening their holidays.
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.
We are wrapping up another incredible programming year with the Cottonwood Institute and have been blown away by the students we have served and the Action Projects they have taken on to improve their schools, the community, and the environment.
In 2012, we served over 375 youth, logged over 15,000 program contact hours, and recorded over 6,500 service-learning project hours “changing the world, one adventure at a time!”
So what were our students actually up to you ask? Here is a list of our Top 10 Inspiring Stories from 2012:
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation before December 31, 2012 to help make sure we have the resources to continue to deliver amazing programs in 2013 by Clicking Here.
Happy Holidays from the Cottonwood Institute!
On September 19th, 2012, the Earth Task Force started the beginning of something amazing. Students collaborated with The Kitchen Community to bring a brand new garden to the front of New Vista High School! Being one of the first high schools to receive one of these Learning Gardens from The Kitchen Community, it was a pretty exciting event. The Learning Gardens themselves are easy and affordable gardening systems designed to be an extension of the classroom. At New Vista, the event itself really strengthened the sense of community.
On the day of the event, everyone was so enthusiastic to finally begin the process of creating and planting the garden after lots of hard work and planning. The students in the Garden Workshop, taught by Hilary Sueoka, were some of the main contributors to the process of filling the beds on September 19th. The event was full of smiles and laughter. There was a hula hooping area which was loved by all, a drumming circle as well as food and painting. The event started at 12, and the beds were filled and ready to be planted by 3! On the following Thursday, and the next Monday, Advisories at New Vista took 15 minutes out of their class time to come help plant. Within a week of the garden install every student in NVHS had interacted with the new beds. To learn more and check out stunning photos of the project, go to: https://www.facebook.com/thelearningardenatnvhs.
Everything went smoothly and now there are happy little plants growing in the brand New Garden! Now it is the Earth Task Force’s job to fundraise in order to support a garden coordinator position and an integrated garden program at their school. To make a donation to support the garden, go to: www.givingfirst.org/learninggarden.
Written by: Leah Muller
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
Eight months ago, Cottonwood Institute embarked on a new journey, Mini CAP, with a group of sophomores from FAST Tracks, a dropout prevention program at Lakewood High School. Mini CAP is a spin off of our core curriculum at New Vista High School in Boulder, the Community Adventure Program. We took our CAP curriculum and revamped it into a mini curriculum to include all of our core components including a student led action project and outdoor skills. By doing this we are able to connect more kids to the outdoors empowering them to discover their reason for caring about the environment. Students met twice a week during the 2011/2012 school year with a Cottonwood Institute instructor and embarked on many adventures throughout the year.
We started with a question: Can one person change the world? At the beginning of this course the majority of the students simply said no because it takes more than one person and left it at that. But at the end of the course – 7 months later – there came a deeper understanding of the same question. One student summed it up well, “I know I can change the world. But I also know I can’t do it by myself.”
This realization did not come easy. We worked through sarcastic comments, pessimistic thoughts, and even behavioral challenges getting to that point. We read stories, watched movies, hosted guests, wrote poems, played games, went on field trips, participated in team-building and nature awareness activities, learned survival skills, discussed controversial topics, wrote in journals, learned about environmental issues, and completed an action project around water conservation and pollution.
While we started with only a question, we moved rapidly into personal skills and team-building and then put these to the test on our first field trip to tromp through the snow near Conifer where we built a quinzhee snow shelter and had an epic snowball battle. Taking the outdoor skills we learned back into the classroom, we worked more on understanding environmental issues and why we should care about these issues. From there we began to formulate our own ideas and interests leading us into our action project.
After hosting guest speakers on a variety of topics from school environmental clubs to water education, we chose to focus our efforts on water conservation and pollution. This involved everything from tracking our water usage for a week, studying other countries’ usage, playing a water relay race, and creating awareness posters on conserving water, bringing us to our culminating project: working with the City of Lakewood Parks and Recreation to continue their cleanup efforts at Main Reservoir, one of 3 reservoirs for the city of Lakewood. We also toured Marston Water Treatment Plant, giving us a more complete understanding of how water is processed to ensure safe drinking water. This entire process, from education to awareness to action, provided a circle of understanding as to why conserving and caring for our water is important for the safety of not only our community, but for the world.
Some may see cleanup projects and posters as mundane work, but in the word of one student, “Yes, I can change the world. Cleaning the park as a class made the park cleaner. There might still have been some trash, but that’s one less animal that may die from [pollution].” I recently heard a story about a man throwing starfish back into the sea as they wash up on shore from the tide and another man says that there are too many starfish washing up on shore to make a difference. The first man then replies, as he tosses yet another starfish back into the sea, “Made a difference to that one.”
We fought pessimism through the entire course as many of the students see the world and themselves as being selfish. While this was difficult to work through, it was rewarding for all when we broke through this cloud and realized that we can only do what we can do and by our actions, others may follow in our steps. We talked a lot about motivation and inspiration and what makes people take action and while these students may or may not be the next movers and shakers of the world, they will move and shake you. Their words and actions are quite powerful. This is what inspires them:
“People that have nothing in life and they find a way to make it.”
“What inspires me is family, friends, and situations in general. And I want a good future. That’s inspiration!”
“My family inspires me because they are always telling me that I can do anything if set my mind to it because anything is possible.”
With inspiration and support like this, watch out world, these kids are going to create change! And with additional support from programs such as Mini CAP, devoted educators, and adult and peer mentors, the change they create will be welcomed by all. What do you think: Can one person change the world?
I will leave you with this poem from a student, and then ask yourself one more question: Is it worth it?
- I AM…a talker and keep to myself
- I WONDER…what can I do to change things in my life
- I WANT…to help
- I AM…only one person who tries to help
- I FEEL…helping people makes me feel better
- I WORRY…when my family worries
- I CRY…when my family struggles or when there is no end in sight
- I SMILE…when the people I care for smile
- I AM…optimistic
- I DREAM…of a better world for my family
- I TRY…to see the world in a different point of view
- I HOPE…that one day my family will be happy
- I AM…an outgoing person
A huge shout out to all those that made this program possible: Cottonwood Institute, Wildland Education Awareness Institute for use of its land, Shane Wright of Groundwork Denver, Cottonwood Institute’s Earth Task Force, City of Lakewood Parks and Recreation, Denver Water, Alan Polonsky of City of Denver Department of Environmental Health, and J.D. Prater of Alliance for Climate Education (ACE). A special thanks goes out to both Lakewood High School and teacher extraordinaire, Mr. Robert Giusto! You rock!
Click here for a slideshow of all the adventures we had throughout the year!