If you were to spend two weeks changing the world, what would you do? This question was given to the CAP class at New Vista High School along with the time to make their change a reality. During the first half of class, students each brought in a current event to stimulate thinking about the broader world and our place in it. “Learning current events is…super powerful because sometimes you forget about some of the things that are going on in the world around us,” junior, New Vista High School. Brad Smith, the Sustainability Outreach Specialist for Boulder County, came to the class to introduce the E Movement, “a community wide effort to provide Boulder County youth with the knowledge, care, skills, and connection to place required to become stewards of the environment.”
As they narrowed their brainstorm list of ideas for potential action projects (Cottonwood Institute’s name for a service learning project that contributes to a better world), the students spoke passionately about the project’s need to be useful and meaningful. They kept coming back to the E Movement and what Brad had said about the need for schools to become pilot E Movement member schools so the county can refine the process to be the most effective at meeting the goals of the E movement.
“Being able to change something so quickly is truly spectacular. It’s amazing what a class of sixteen can get started in the world.” – Junior, New Vista High School
The students decided on a multi-step process to ensure that all 16 of the students could be involved and to become an example for others to follow when joining the E Movement. First, we signed up to become an E Movement classroom. This means, we pledged to spend time outside over the course of the quarter and follow the E Guidelines that take a scaffolded, whole-child approach to environmental education.
Since getting outside is a hallmark of the E Movement, we did a number of things to meet this objective. We organized a clean up day of a local park. We cleaned up trash, weeded (since Boulder County Parks do not use any chemical pesticides), and emptied the drains in the skate park to alleviate the safety issue of standing water in the skate bowls. This took getting outside to a whole new level. New Vista already had an outdoor classroom, and the CAP class decided to weatherproof the benches to ensure that if the benches do get left out in the elements, they will still be around for years to come.
As a pilot classroom, we want to contribute to the success of the E Movement program as a whole, so we interviewed teachers to get baseline information on what they are already doing in the classroom. The class wanted to contribute to the resources that schools receive upon signing up for the E Movement. They added lesson plans on native plants and pollinators to the E Movement toolkit and even made bee boxes to put up at New Vista using one of their lesson plans.
“This project changed my view on being a high schooler in the community because it showed me that not only do people pay attention to what we are learning, but they also want to help us become the best we can be in terms of being educated about current issues.” – freshman, New Vista High School
Big thanks to Brad Smith, Boulder County, and the whole E Movement team for supporting our New Vista students!
Written by CAP class instructor Amy Kopkin
View photos from the project here!