The beginning of March is an exciting time for Cottonwood Institute (CI) CAP Programs at Centaurus High School (CHS) and Angevine Middle School (AMS). We play creative games and brainstorming games as we come up with ideas for how to solve problems in our communities. Students form coalitions to lobby other students on their ideas, and we work to build consensus on how our Action Projects will unfold. The students begin to take the reins of the class and direct each other.
On March 12, we were starting to set plans in motion, but there was so much unease and uncertainty in the class that day that we decided to scrap our plans and talk about COVID-19, what the facts as we knew them were. We talked about how our Action Projects would probably have to change and came up with some new ideas. We didn’t know that we wouldn’t see each other in person again.
Like flipping a light switch, our projects, our classroom rituals, and our teaching and learning techniques changed overnight. It was more than two weeks before we would see each other’s faces again over a video screen. We had missed each other so much! To be honest, some students never quite made the transition to online learning. Despite phone calls, emails and online one on one tutorials, it was just too much for some students. Other students started to embrace the new normal and look forward to the fun activities we were doing in this new way. We sent them “Thrival Kits” full of supplies, and they wondered what on Earth they were going to do with a tarp and paracord, soil and seeds.
Students went on to build tarp shelters in their living rooms and debris shelters in their yards, hang bear bags from trees and turn recycled plastic into monarch butterflies. Together, we figured out how to make their projects effective even with stay-at-home orders in place. Centaurus students collected their families’ plastic waste, marveled at how much waste their family was producing, and made meaningful sculptures from that plastic. They also learned to crochet plastic bags and turn them into durable items. Angevine students put their Earth Day Environmental Challenge Race online to share with people outside the school community.
Things were different, but they were still good. We miss each other. We are missing so many little things—like the traditional class parties in the last week of school. But last week, we did our part to make the bittersweet end of school a little better by delivering treats to every student and mailing recognition cards to every graduate. It’s not the end of the year that we hoped for or anticipated, but we still found ways to get creative and solve problems, just like a CAP class always does.
Written by Cottonwood Institute CAP Instructor Erin Angel