| Sarah Rudeen

Food, Fracking, and Pollution: Action Projects by KIPP Montbello CAP Students

The two 9th grade Community Adventure Program (CAP) classes at KIPP Montbello Collegiate High School have wrapped up their classes and action projects for the semester and are proud of what they have accomplished! Out of the two classes, three groups were formed around different issues: food deserts and lack of fresh whole foods in their communities, fracking and the risks to the environment, and litter pollution in local waterways.

Action Project (1)One group of students became passionate about the lack of fresh foods in their communities of Montbello and Green Valley Ranch. They were excited about the prospect of creating a school garden to provide fresh food for the students, an opportunity for students to learn about food and to grow their own, and to be utilized as a teaching tool for other subjects. Shannon Spurlock from Denver Urban Gardens came to speak with the class about all the aspects and decisions that go into starting a garden. This challenged the students to think through their ideas even more and they were then able to come up with a more comprehensive plan. The class realized that they didnt have the time to physically build the garden, but that they could do all of the background work and present it to the school administration who was already on board with the idea. Some in the group spoke with the school building planner to better understand the future development plans and therefore where a garden could realistically be placed, also considering things such as sunlight, access to water, and space. They were able to narrow it down to three possible locations and from there the whole group agreed on one. Other members of the group created a survey for the rest of the students in the school to better understand the interest in a garden and what types of fruits and vegetables students may like to eat. A PowerPoint presentation was created with all of their suggestions, research, and survey results. The administration is committed to starting a garden – possibly this summer – and will utilize all of the groups hard work in the process!

The other half of the class felt strongly about local concerns around fracking and wanted to educate more people in order to participate in the voting and decision making processes. Although they were disappointed that they couldnt vote themselves, they recognized that they could still have an influence on the adults in their lives. This project required a lot of research from a stakeholder perspective, both about why some believe fracking is a great option and why it can also be harmful. Although there are many groups in Colorado working on these issues, it was a challenge for the group to get in touch with someone. Finally, Tyler Vankirk from Food and Water Watch came to talk to the class about their advocacy work around Measures 75 and 78 and to help the group think through how they could be most effective in the discussion. The students created their own educational flyer, prompting people to vote for these measures and directing them to various websites for more information. They planned and practiced and then did a presentation about their findings to the whole school, including staff and students. They also included their flyer with the weekly school newsletter that goes home to all parents, and each took a stack of flyers home to pass out in their neighborhoods.

Action ProjectThe third group was very concerned about litter and water pollution that they had noticed throughout the community. They took some time to pinpoint a specific location that they felt was a significant problem and chose Parkfield Lake at the Montbello Recreation Center. Both Donny Roush from Earth Force and Justin Twist from Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) came to talk to the class about local water and pollution issues, and to give them tips for their project. The students were dedicated to going out to the lake and doing a clean-up of the area, but then realized the need for education and more action to ensure that their good work would continue and the lake would not return to its current polluted state. The students also realized that the more people they could get for a clean-up day the better, and so they each did presentations for their advisory classes. The presentations included education about pollution and watersheds and recruitment of students to come out and help while also offering service hours. Although they didnt have much time, the students really pulled this project together well. Justin from ELK let them borrow tools, bags, and gloves. In addition to the CAP group, 13 other students showed up to volunteer on an early Saturday morning. Over three hours the group collected one full garbage bag of trash and two full garbage bags of recycling, collected data regarding number of trash cans and lack of recycling bins, marked and counted dog poop, and each led a group of non-CAP students while doing this. With this new found data the class proceeded to come up with tangible suggestions in order to reduce litter pollution at the lake. They wrote a letter to two council members and to the director of the Montbello Recreation Center describing their data and suggestions and called 311 to make a formal complaint with the city.

Overall the students accomplished a lot and utilized various forms of action, working with the community, and utilizing their resources to make an impact. The fruits of their labor will be realized much longer than their class time and what they learned will be carried on throughout their lives!

Written by: CAP Instructor, Carri Katonah

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Categories: Community Adventure Program, Cottonwood Institute News, KIPP Colorado, Program News

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