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!
“Ask Questions, Make Mistakes, and Get Dirty!”
In the second half of the 2011-12 school year the Earth Task Force (ETF), sponsored by the Cottonwood Institute, teamed up with the Science Adventure Program (SAP) for games, mentoring, and exploration.
SAP is an after school program for elementary school students, which inspires student to: “Ask questions, make mistakes, and get dirty!” The idea to team up with a younger group of students grew out of the ETF Fall retreat when ETFers expressed interest in tiered learning and mentoring, in order to connect more with their world. This year the multi-generational group of students went on three different adventures together to explore their community.
In February they went to the C.U. Museum of Natural History for an afternoon of fun, games, and education. After a name game outside they headed into the museum to explore dinosaurs, pine beetles, smog, pollinators and more.
Both the ETF and SAP members shared ages, favorite projects, and why they love nature. Aaron Fox (ETF alumni) showed off his famous super hero costume and explained how ETF teaches students about the importance of the environment while being fun and silly. All of the SAP members shared inspiring reasons why they love nature and told the ETF about the time they saw their teacher, Ms. Muskrat’s, python eat a whole rat! Both the high school students and the elementary students were nervous to meet each other. The nerves didn’t last long though…
In March, ETF and SAP met up on SAP’s home turf near their elementary school. SAP students challenged the ETF to a nature scavenger hunt and ETF challenged SAP to clean up the creek as they walked along. At the end of the outdoor exploration, the students returned to SAP headquarters to meet Freddy Mercury, the Ball Python, the backyard hens, and more.
In April, ETF and SAP celebrated spring with a hula-hooping lesson on New Vista High School’s front lawn. Any tired teachers leaving school at the end of that day had their spirits lifted by multi-generational hula-hooping tricks!
ETF plans to continue their relationship with SAP into next year, expanding on this great new program with new mentoring ideas, shared service projects, and more.
Learn more about the Science Adventure Program here: http://www.scienceadventureprogram.com/
Written by Remy Barrows-O’Neil and Paige Doughty
On February 27th, 2012, attendees of the Green Schools National Conference came to visit New Vista High School (NVHS) and the Earth Task Force (ETF) got a chance to show off in a good way. About 50 people from all over the nation participated in the tour. The ETF visit was part of a larger tour of Boulder Valley School District’s sustainability efforts, but the organizers of the tour specifically asked to visit the Earth Task Force!
The work ETF has done at NVHS is significant because the story of their building is the story of many schools across the country. The NVHS school building is old, inefficient, and an energy hog! There’s little money, lots of issues, an old boiler, but lots of enthusiasm. The tour of NVHS, designed and run by students in the ETF, highlighted changes schools can make without large-scale capital improvement. The tour consisted of 5 stations that highlighted the ETF’s fundraising and grassroots efforts: solar panels, low-flow toilets, the school
garden, vending machine misers, and the student-run compost.
At each station, ETF members talked about the projects and then took questions
from attendees. At the solar panel display, people on the tour furiously scribbled
down the names of various energy contests. At the garden station, tour members
read the colorful signs from about the space, by the compost they oohed and aahed! In between stations, ETF members leading the tours pointed out stickers on light switches around the school that say “Turn Me Off. How would you feel if someone turned you on and left?” As one attendee put it, “that might not go over so well at an elementary school.”
The Earth Task Force received lots of positive feedback about the tour attendees
at the larger conference in Denver called it “The highlight of the week.”
Written by Seth Blum, student reporter, edited by Paige Doughty.
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.
Earth Task Force and Cottonwood Institute Present at National Green Schools Conference
The Earth Task Force (ETF), the environmental club at New Vista High School in Boulder, sponsored by the Cottonwood Institute (CI), took part in a whirlwind of events, workshops and speeches at the National Green Schools Conference in Denver February 27th-29th. A tremendous amount of environmental sustainability topics were covered throughout the conference including the Earth Task Force story and vision presented by our very own ETF members in a breakout workshop. They also listened to nationally-renowned keynote speakers, participated in a student summit, and heard stories of other like-minded organizations and schools; not to mention the talking robot named Mrfy, made out of recycled and reused materials!
On the first day, members of the ETF participated in a student summit; connecting students from around the country who are committed to addressing environmental issues within their schools and communities. Each ETF member went to a breakout session that covered different environmental sustainability topics. After having fantastic brainstorming meetings, all the groups at the student summit heard Alec Loorz, one of the leading young voices in the US on the issue of climate change, speak about the global issues that are happening due to climate change. He spoke eloquently about his own personal story of becoming a climate change activist at the age of 12.
On Tuesday, ETF members returned to Denver to partake in the many different breakout sessions and events. They listened to inspiring tales of positive social and environmental change from a great keynote speaker and had a delicious and eye-opening experience during lunch. The lunch, put on by the Boulder Valley School District’s Director of Food Services, Ann Cooper, showcased how unhealthy the average school lunch is; did you know pizza is considered a vegetable! After participating in more afternoon breakout sessions, ETF members went home to prepare for their big presentation.
On the final day of the conference ETF members, mentors, and the Cottonwood Institute Adventure Coordinator presented on CI’s successes at New Vista High School. All were nervous standing in their silly superhero costumes amidst the fancy digs of the Hyatt lobby, but the team gathered their supplies and took a collective deep breath. The presentation involved interactive activities to simulate the incredible experiences students and adults have during CI’s programs, as well as telling the story of success through the individual perspectives and experiences of those working with ETF and the Community Adventure Program (CAP), another CI sponsored class held at New Vista where students connect to the outdoors.
As the session wrapped up, the Green Schools Conference Team felt they had accomplished their goal of spreading CI’s vision and the ETF’s mission to others involved in environmental sustainability. The conference left attendees inspired and reinvigorated to continue to do what we do best: saving the planet in fun, creative ways!
Written by ETF intern, Aaron Fox
Edited by Paige Doughty, ETF mentor
Click here for a slideshow of the whirlwind of activities!