The CAP (Community Adventure Program) students of New Vista High School put on their thinking caps to come up with a really unique Action Project topic this quarter: hemp! They found themselves in a peculiar place, with only one persistent student in the class knowing anything at all about this miracle plant whose uses go above and beyond what most of us could imagine! Once you get past the stigma hemp holds due to its close relative, marijuana, then you can really begin to appreciate it for what it is. It turns out hemp has many uses as a textile, building material for houses and cars, nutritious food product, oils and ointments in food and cosmetics industries, as paper, as plant-based plastic, and even as a fuel source.
Students started their project with these burning questions in mind, “What is it good for?” and “How will we convince people we aren’t talking about marijuana?” They spent the first couple weeks having their minds blown. They discovered so many uses and benefits to using hemp and how it could be much better for our planet than destroying our forests for wood. It’s a wood alternative that takes only a fraction of the time to grow. Not only does it save our forests, it’s biodegradable, recyclable, and reusable. They found out hemp was one of the first domesticated plants grown for many reasons throughout the centuries and even The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper! So, why was it banned from the U.S. in 1937? Due to its affiliation with marijuana, which is a drug. Students knew they had bitten off a lot to chew, so to speak.
They needed more information from reliable sources. They lined up speaking with a hemp expert, Chris Conrad, who is a writer and well-known activist in the cannabis industry. They also asked Colorado Hemp Company in Loveland for some hemp products they could use in educating the public. They knew their biggest goal with the Action Project was to get the word out about the awesome benefits of this plant. They decided they wanted to educate folks about it and the best way to do this, they concluded, was on Pearl Street. They set out to make pamphlets, a tri-fold poster, write songs, and gather hemp products to display and give away to the public.
Pearl Street Mall day was a big success; even if they only reached a few people, they were convinced the good word about hemp would spread. One CAP student, Jan-Niklas Kellermann, says it well, “After our Action Project, I know how difficult it is to make a change. It is difficult to get the attention of people, but I think all of our work pays off if only one person changes his/her lifestyle because, in this moment, we have helped the world.” They knew they had made a small difference and wanted to take it one step further by educating their fellow peers at school. They presented facts and research about hemp on Exhibition Day and passed around hemp products for students to feel and experience firsthand. See their school presentation: Click Here!
CAP student James McCoy sums up the purpose of the Action Project well and has a lot to say about the success of their project,
“This class, as a whole has really just blown me away at how much it can change one’s views on our world and how it works…The fact that the students can create the whole action project by themselves is just amazing. While the teacher helps out here and there, the students are the ones who really pull the whole community experience together. Personally, I wanted to do something other than hemp as our action project in the beginning. But it really taught me a lot on what hemp is and what it can be used for. When I heard the word “hemp” before our action project, my mind went straight to marijuana and hemp being a drug. But once we started getting into the project and really delved into facts about hemp, I soon realized how jaded my views were on the material. If I had never taken this class, I would never had known that you can make houses, clothing, high grade plastic, guitars, wallets, and all sorts of cool stuff just from a plant….The fact that we were able to pull this whole project together and go out on Pearl Street and put up this big gathering to teach people about hemp really struck me as a real accomplishment. And it was just us students who did almost all of it.”
So where will the future of hemp take us? Stay tuned to find out. Legislation is changing quickly and it will hopefully be legal to grow for anyone in the U.S. in the next few years. As for the students of this New Vista CAP class, they leave hopeful for hemp’s future and their responsibility out in the world to make it a better place. Student Ezra Kirschner said, “The Action Project definitely showed me that it is my job as a teenager to do something about the environment. It is the world we are gonna have to live in and the one our children are gonna live in so it is our job to protect it.”
A big thank you goes out to Chris Conrad and Colorado Hemp Company for helping out New Vista’s CAP class!
Written by: Taryn Longberry, CAP teacher and CI Program Coordinator