Can a Group of 7th Graders Save the World?

 

Blog post from Jason Carter, Evergreen Middle School Science Teacher

March 29, 2016

 

Last Thursday I led my first mock world climate summit based on the model created by the nonprofit Climate Interactive. The participants, instead of the usual groups of college students or business leaders who are involved in this workshop, were my 7th grade science students. For the past 12 weeks, each student has become an expert in a particular country. Through their social studies and language arts classes, they learned about the government, economy, culture, and rights of the people for these nations. In science, they have been focused on air quality issues and how climate change is affecting their countries and being addressed.

 

To culminate this large, interdisciplinary unit, I asked my co-teachers to try taking on this summit. They heartily agreed and took on roles to fully enhance the experience. We all became participants right along with the students rather than lecturers or experts dispensing information to them. All of the teachers met early Thursday morning to set up the room. The United States (represented by the social studies teacher and a parent of a 7th grader with a background in climate science), had the prime seats at the front of the room. Their table was decorated and full of drinks and snacks as well. The European Union also had a well-decorated table to sit at and cushions to make them more comfortable. The other developed nations had a table with chairs. China, India, and several of its neighbors were given chairs but no tables and seated behind the

 

tables. The developing nations (represented by 16 of the 52 students), were given one picnic blanket to sit at on the floor.

 

I asked six students to be ready to give a two minute opening address for their region of the world, highlighting issues and successes around climate change. They were given the floor to speak first and really set the tone for the rest of the summit. They were poised, prepared, and well-spoken. For a few minutes, I forgot that they were only 13 years old! Students were then instructed on the goal of the summit - to limit temperature change for the planet to less than two degrees Celsius by the the year 2100. They would be making the following pledges: the year their region would stop increasing the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, the year the region would begin reducing emissions, the percentage of decrease per year, commitments to reducing deforestation and increasing afforestation, and money that would go to a world fund to help countries in need to financially support these pledges. While negotiating was underway, three other teachers took on roles to help make the process more realistic. One was a fossil fuel lobbyist, bribing students with chips and candy to pledge low. Another was a climate activist whose bribes consisted of fresh fruits and vegetables. She appealed to the students’ hearts and sense of decency to “do the right thing” for the planet. A third was a journalist, asking students reflective questions through the lens of an interview.

 

 

I had much trepidation as a teacher going into this summit. Would 7th graders take it seriously? Would they represent their country in the process in a realistic and appropriate way? Would they get out of this process what their teachers hoped they would? Well, I had nothing to worry about. From the opening statements to the final debrief, these students demonstrated a strong balance of concern and realism in their approach to these issues. All of the students dressed up for the summit, and they each brought all of their research on their countries. I noticed them referencing it multiple times through the process of the day. They represented their countries very realistically, carefully considering how pledges on emissions or funds would affect their economies and quality of life for the people living in their regions. No one made lofty or unrealistic pledges just to try to meet the goal, but each gave careful consideration as to how best to represent her nation.

 

 

After the first round of negotiations, we broke for lunch. Students were not instructed to stay in character, but I observed many of them having private lunch meetings to continue to negotiate. We ultimately made it through three rounds of negotiations, and students managed to make pledges that brought the projects down to 2.25 degrees, very close to ultimate goal! The most powerful moment of the summit came at the end when we reflected and I could see what students truly got out of the summit. Here are some of the points these students brought up, letting me know that there is indeed hope for the next generation to continue to solve these complex issues:

 

  • Negotiation is hard. People can easily be corrupted by others.

  • Climate change can be mitigated, but it is going to take all of the world working together, the sooner the better.

  • Though much of the burden of greenhouse gas emissions lies with the US, China, and India now, the developing countries of the world are projected to far exceed them in the next fifty years.

  • Learning happens best when it is interactive and relevant.

  • Climate change is affecting every country in the world, and humans are the major driving force behind it.

Ultimately, I hope these students are inspired to make a difference, or at least think more critically about how interconnected all parts of the world are in causing but in also potentially mitigating the worst effects of climate change. I know that I have been inspired by them throughout this whole process and found a bright spot in the dark cloud of climate change.

 

 

Our Campus as a Learning Laboratory: Citizen Science at Evergreen

The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders
— Edward Abbey

How better to engage our hearts and minds to be defenders of our Earth than by becoming intimate and familiar with it?  Citizen Science is the  means for engaging students and community in ongoing scientific monitoring  projects.  Audubon's Annual Bird Count and BioBlitz happenings all over the world may Citizen Science activities you are familiar with.  

This winter, here at Evergreen, we are working in partnership with park rangers and educators from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to designate areas in our fields and woods as ongoing study sites for Citizen Science projects.  In the spring, we will launch a number of monitoring activities, teaching students and teachers across the grades how to collect data in our plots. 

The data we collect will, over time, help us better understand the relationship between organisms and the changing climate.  This is the science of Phenology.  Students will monitor many plants and animals, collect and record data and compare past records to learn  about how organisms in our environment are influenced by seasonal  and climatic changes.  

Which birds visit our campus? When? Can we find aquatic or terrestrial salamanders near our stream? What types of macro-invertebrates live in our leaf litter?  When do the wildflowers bloom? When do the trees bud experience leaf color change and drop their leaves?  These are all examples of questions that our study plots will help us to explore.

Stay tuned for more information about Citizen Science activities on our campus and ways that you can participate.

For more information, contact Marin Leroy, Environmental Education Coordinator

 

Nurturing Kids through Partnerships

This week we wrapped up our year long community outreach tutoring experience at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in West Asheville.   Evergreen first grade Academic Support Teacher, Cathe Bradshaw, worked alongside HELP Program Coordinator, Ms. Zanie Davidison, to tutor 6-10 students every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the 2014-15 school year.  In addition to tutoring support, Marin Leroy Evergreen's EE Coordinator,  provided a healthy snack for every session, giving the students an added boost of after-school nutrition as well as opportunities to try new foods. The students benefited from the extra homework help, and above all, they enjoyed the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables Cathe brought and were eager to try new things whenever they were offered.

The partnership was very successful.  We would like to thank the Rolander Foundation for helping to make this experience possible, as well as Ms. Zanie Davidson for her openness to bringing Cathe on board to work with her in her special community space.

To celebrate Cathe's last tutoring session and the end of the school year, Marin brought Evergreen's Field to Feast class to the church.

Using foods donated by FEAST and Evergreen's new partner farm, Terra Preta, we prepared an Asian Cabbage salad.

mama and child
mama and child
4ths
4ths

Everyone enjoyed learning about the different ingredients and LOVED cooking together.  When it was complete, we feasted and enjoyed one another's company.

Mia & Friend
Mia & Friend

Solar Powered Learning

I can understand the characteristics of energy transfer and interactions of matter and energy (NC Essential Standard 6.P.3)

Thanks to Joe Hallock and his Solar Powered Sound system, Evergreen sixth graders continue their journey through space and time to better understand how energy from the sun can become usable energy to power everyday household electrical needs.

 

trailer panel side

 

Sixth graders learned about all the working parts on Joe's mobile solar power trailer as the first step towards building our own solar powering station.

We wonder...

  • Can we power our laptop carts with solar energy? Our ipad cart? Our Friday grilled cheese-making?  What else can we power from the sun to offset using energy from the grid?
  • Can we build our own solar trailer to power Evergreen's sound system for community events?

IMG_4253

Thanks, Joe, for inspiring us by sharing your Solar Sound System!

 

Appalachian Journey Food Storybank Project

 

Thank you for visiting to support the Appalachian Journey Food Storybank Project.

This community-based project is a partnership between Evergreen Community Charter School and The Appalachian Food Storybank, a project of Slow Food Asheville.

The collaboration is part of the 8th-grade curriculum expedition we call “The Appalachian Journey,” through which students learn about the geology and formation of the Appalachian mountains and how the landscape has shaped the lives, history, and culture of the people who live here.

The Storybank component centers around recording oral histories that specifically include elements of mountain food traditions, which our students are conducting, transcribing, and compiling to be shared with our contributing families as well as Slow Food Asheville's Storybank Project and the local cultural archives.

The nomination process is complete and students are beginning their interviews this week.  See this post for a complete list of our 2014 nominees.  We are honored to be collecting stories from all of these amazing people.

On set with William Holcombe

Students conduct an interview with Mr. William Holcombe in our make-shift science lab studio.

Introducing Evergreen's 2014 Storybank Nominees

Nominations are officially closed for this year's round of Appalachian Journey Storybank interviews.  

Our heartfelt thank you to everyone that took the time to read about our project and nominate someone.  We are so excited to meet and interview all of these wonderful folks over the next couple of weeks.

Introducing Evergreen's 2014 Storybank Nominees:

Oso Wallman    ♥   Oso Wallman is a chef, a culinary wanderer, a teacher of world cuisine, an activist and a true Asheville character. He is, himself, a collector of food stories and will be sharing with us about his adventures as well as what motivates him to do this work. For more about Oso, read this article from BOLD Life magazine.

William Holcombe  ♥   "Wild Bill", as Mr. Holcombe is affectionately called, was born in Candler, in 1937 and raised in Buncombe county on a corn and tobacco farm.  One of the gifts his grandfather gave him when he was born was his own small herd of cattle.  He grew up here the old timer way, working together with his family to run the farm, feed the family, and barter for the goods his family didn't produce themselves.  He offers an amazing heartfelt recollection of how this area looked, felt, smelled and how it has changed over the course of his lifetime.

Mr. Darrell Campbell  ♥   Mr. Darrel says that a herd of uncles taught him to cuss as a child.  When he made the mistake of saying one of the words they taught him to his grandmother she let him have it , and he never did that again. He was born in a very rural part of KY without any modern utilities whatsoever .  They had a wood stove, a well, and a privy. There were small subsistence farms and extended family all around. His mother loved to farm.  She grew a goose bean that had been passed down through the family for generations.   Mr. Darrell bring a depth of knowledge about food preservation- canning, drying, pickling and curing.

Rachel Brownlee  ♥   Rachel is a young person advocating for the preservation of heritage foods, farming and tradition in the Appalachian region. She has been making a living at this advocacy for the past few years.  To read Rachel's writing as well as a wealth of recipes and techniques for your kitchen, visit her Girl In An Apron blog.

Bob Bowles   ♥   Bob Bowles has always been interested in food. As a youngster, he taught himself to bake bread. Years later, he helped found a local chapter of Slow Food, an organization that educates communities about the benefits of fresh, locally produced food. He eventually serves as Slow Food Asheville's president.  Bob is very committed to the community aspects of food in our lives.

Marc Williams  ♥  Marc Williams is an Ethnobotanist and preserver of wild edible food foraging traditions.  He has studies the edible plants of the Appalachian mountains and knows them intimately.  He will be bringing an interesting perspective to our storybank collection, as he has insight into the ways settlers in these mountains learned about and used plants for food and medicine, which will help us gain insight into the resourcefulness and deep connection early Appalachian people had to this landscape.

Barb Swell  ♥  Barbara has been on the Slow Food's Appalachian Food Storybank committee for years and is an invaluable resource for her experience and knowledge of Appalachian culture and food history.  She writes books and teaches classes out of her cabin kitchen.  To read more about Barbara, visit her blog, Log Cabin Cooking.

Jodi Rhoden  ♥  Ms. Rhoden is well known in our community as the Short Street Cakes lady.  Her cakes are 100% made from scratch and represent classic southern cake making traditions.  To see more about her work and her shop, visit Short Street Cakes website.

Van Burnette  ♥  Van is the seventh generation of Burnettes to live in the North Fork Valley. He grows medicinal herbs, native plants and apples on his land. He grows hops and blueberries- and is involved with monarch habitat preservation.  Van used to produce a local cable TV series called "The Trail Explorer". He also writes outdoor articles for the Black Mountain News, in the tradition of his great uncle, Fred M. Burnette, who was the author of "This Was My Valley," an important resource on local history.

Anthony Cole  Anthony and his family are the 5th generation on their family farm.  He raises cattle and sheep, and has chickens for eggs.  He grows corn as well as most every other vegetable.  He has offered to share stories from a life that's grounded in the every day practice of running a farm, from sheep shearing to food preservation, Anthony's knowledge and experience is deep and wide.

Annie Ager  ♥  Annie grew up in Fairview, born and raised at the historic Sherrill Inn, and lives there now as steward, farmer, and storyteller.  She manages the horses at Hickory Nut Gap farm, grows a huge garden, and continues to preserve the history and rich culture  of this special region in our mountains.  Visit the Hickory Nut Gap website for more about the Ager farm family.

Joe and Debra Roberts  ♥  Joe and Debra are great examples of people who are connected to the land in a very deep and personal way.  As a kid, Joe had to share a room with his brother and he got so tired of it he started digging out the partial basement to create a bedroom for himself. When he was 13 he started working on cars and had three 1937 Chevrolets that he worked on to restore one. He was always a great gardener, coached by our grandmother.  Joe is currently a stone mason and master gardener producing a tremendous amount of food for his family.  Debra is a beekeeper and a teacher about bees.

Now that we have our list of nominees, we are excitedly preparing for the interviews.   8th grade students are spending time in class participating in an Oral History training to learn skills and techniques for conducting successful interviews. They have been assigned the nominee they will be interviewing and have started gathering background information to prepare for their interview and final written piece.

Stay tuned for more updates!

 

Appalachian Journey Storybank Project- Nominations are OPEN!

Thank you for visiting to support the Appalachian Journey Food Storybank Project. This community-based project is a partnership between Evergreen Community Charter School and The Appalachian Food Storybank, a project of Slow Food Asheville. The collaboration is part of the 8th-grade curriculum expedition we call "The Appalachian Journey," through which students learn about the geology and formation of the Appalachian mountains and how the landscape has shaped the lives, history, and culture of the people who live here. The Storybank component will center around recording oral histories that specifically include elements of mountain food traditions, which our students will conduct, transcribe, and compile . To do this, we are seeking people who have stories to tell from their life (or the life of someone whom they knew) that has been rooted in the land- through the growing, processing and/or cooking of food.

If you know someone who may be willing to be interviewed, please nominate them by filling out this NOMINATION FORM. Once production is complete, students will present a copy of the oral history interview to the families who have participated in this special project. To see examples of similar interviews, go to the Appalachian Food Storybank website, http://appalachianfoodstorybank.org/.

We (the teachers and mentors) will not share the information you provide us with except for the purposes of doing research and completing this project. We may contact you to ask for further help if you indicate below that you are available. If you are a Google Apps customer, you can return to this form and edit your responses later.

Otherwise, please contact us at marin.leroy@evergreenccs.org to make changes or ask questions.

Thank you for helping us with this dynamic learning opportunity!

Appalachian Journey Food Storybank Nomination Form