Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Redefining a kid's relationship to knowledge

Youth need to see that they are an influential and vital part of the community. When we don't include our youngest members of society in conversations of innovation, we loose an opportunity to cultivate a great mind. Today's schools need to tap into the creative and collective mindshare of kids who have already identified an ability to strengthen their community vision and inspire change.

I am proud that Tara Treffry, Community Research Coordinator at KooDooZ, was invited to speak about her career in teen empowerment to the students at the Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) for the Third Annual Environmental Awareness Career Day (10/26/09 ). Of special import to ECHS students is how different careers impact the environment and the world’s resources. The goal of the day is to further the school’s emphasis on college readiness, environmentalism and social justice.

ECHS believes in the power and passion of youth and has created a program that fosters and engages its students. The school sports a never ending list of accomplishments highlighting their committment to the idea that education outside of the classroom is just as valuable as education in the classroom.

ECHS holds students to a high standard of social responsibility, requiring 80 hours of community service before graduation. Students are encouraged to develop meaningful relationships with non-profits and organizations in their community as a way to complete their hours.

Public charter schools educate 1.25 million students across 4,300 different campuses throughout 40 of our United States. Chartered with building on the academic strengths and passions of their students, schools like ECHS have been redefining a teen’s relationship to knowledge by teaching him and her to make the world a better place.

Since its inception in 2000, ECHS has integrated environmental education in its' curriculm – though back in the day, the school held classes in the basement of a local church. Now 460 students rich and with a 50-year lease from the Lawndale Elementary School District, students in 9th through 12th grades have the space to use the compost corner and nurture a self-sustaining vegetable garden, which they tend entirely on their own, even using the edibles as part of their lunch program. Leftovers are often converted into biodiesel.

Required for all students to take during their 10th grade year, the Green Ambassadors class is a grassroots program with the aim of empowering youth to be agents of change in their communities and the world:

  • One Billion Bulbs: this project involves youth empowering youth to imagine the possibilities of mobilizing the world to replace one billion standard incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs.

  • Plastics are Forever: is another initiative where youth empowering youth create cleaner oceans by banning plastic bags and Styrofoam (polystyrene) in Los Angeles with Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Bring Your Own, Heal the Bay and other non-profits. Most notably, in 2008, students finished building a “Flotation Machine” and earned first place for having made it out of 800 used plastic bottles. Did you know their vessel actually sailed from Santa Barbara to San Diego?

  • Public Recognition: Green Ambassadors are trained in Biofuels, Organics, Biodiversity, Remediation of our soil, and constructing buildings and structures out of earth friendly materials. The school’s students and teachers have won EPA awards, Environmental Hero awards, urban poetry awards, and many more. Of import here is the “Big Ideas for a Small Planet” documentary series which presented forward-thinking designers, products and processes that are on the leading edge of a new green world. Each episode revolves around a different green theme as it spotlights a specific innovator or innovation that has the potential to transform our everyday lives.

  • Environmental Educational: includes trips to places such as Catalina Island, Joshua Tree National Park, the Sespe Wilderness Reserve, and multiple green enclaves around Los Angeles. In 2007, students raised funds to go to Brazil and studied the giant river otter with the group Earthwatch.

KooDooZ hosted a booth and engaged with students who have proven that they have developed a life balance of heart, mind, body and spirit -- a balance KooDooZ hopes to inspire more kids to find.

Other invited speakers included Lisa Sarno, Executive Director at Million Trees LA ; Ana Maria Sanchez, Program Coordinator at Generation Earth / Tree People ; Lisa Cox Wildlife Biologist at Fish & Wildlife Service ; Gretchen Lewotsky VP State and Local Government Affairs and Environmental Operations at Fox Entertainment Group ; Juan Devis Director of Production at KCET ; and two dozen other speakers from socially conscious organizations.

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