Sunday, July 27, 2014

The first-ever Climate Camp

It's two days after the close of the first-ever Climate Camp and my mind is full of images of this extraordinary week. I hope you don't mind I dump some of those images into this blog, as it will help scratch the itch of the need to begin to process what this experience meant.

I bet our campers, nearly 20 kids, aged 9-17, are going through a similar process.

Nearly everyone I talk to has a camp experience in their past. I believe the characteristics are similar, whatever the specific content of the camp: the awkward beginning where no one knows each other, the immersive experience of the camp, and the bonding that inevitably occurs. 

Climate Camp co-coordinators Mat Davis, Kristina Hulvershorn (with the Peace Learning Center) and myself were committed to not overbook the schedule. I hope we accomplished that!

For the record, Climate Camp was July 21-25. It was a day camp, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except we went later for our Friday showcase -- more on that, below. It was a partnership between the PLC and our Earth Charter Indiana youth program, Youth Power Indiana.

We ate vegan all week long, thanks to Indy Urban Acres, Georgetown Market and Second Helpings — whose availability to our camp was through the American Culinary Foundation, Indianapolis chapter. Our campers learned the connections between personal consumption, pollution — mostly fossil fuel pollution — climate change, and solutions for positive growth.

Enough words, in this case pictures DO tell a better story than I can express in prose.

We began our camp with a hike thru the beautiful Eagle Creek woods, where Peace Learning Center is located.

One of our first activities was to connect personal consumption with the concept that our consumer impact on the earth can be perceived as an act of violence. We did a "roots of violence" interactive lesson.
Mat Davis, right, addresses the campers.

Matt Shull, left, visited from White Pine Wilderness Academy, talking with campers about nature, animals, primitive skills and wilderness connection.

The paparazzi descend upon deer scat.
One constant theme of the camp was that nature wastes nothing. Nature in fact turns waste — poop! — into energy, and nothing is lost in the cycle. To that end, we studied the materials economy:

The materials economy works on a lineal path that creates waste and habitat destruction. Aiding in this area of study was a showing of Annie Leonard's "The Story of Stuff."

With the help of Big Car, we developed a t-shirt, modeled here by Maddie.

Campers each got their own t-shirt. As you can see the back of the shirt lists projections by the majority of climate scientists, regarding a near future of 2035. Along with a few solutions, too!
How do you visualize a pound of CO2? Why, with balloons of course! Here, Lucy, Alden and camp counselor Alexis Litz from Hanover College, work on the balloons.

On Wednesday, campers took to their bikes for a tour of The Nature Conservancy in downtown Indianapolis.

Next stop was Second Helpings. Second Helpings chefs prepared our lunches — and our Friday dinner — with a vegan approach. Our lunch at Second Helpings was amazing.

On the Cultural Trail to the Indiana State Museum, home of the annual Eco Science Fair and Going Green Fest. Some of our campers utilized the new Pacers Bikeshare system. 
Group portrait atop the Eskenazi Health Skyfarm, where food is grown for patients and staff.

This Skyfarm blew all our minds, that a hospital would put a farm on its roof!

Another stop that day was to visit the Indiana Statehouse. Jesse Kharbanda, left, from the Hoosier Environmental Council, talks with campers about climate change and policy.
Tyler Gough, of Indy Urban Acres, talks to the campers about the food he grew that contributed to our vegan meals over the course of the week. Indy Urban Acres grows thousands of pounds of food for Gleaners Food Bank, to help feed those whose who are food insecure.

Tyler talks about heirloom tomatoes, his favorite!

Tyler in the hoop house, where he can grow food year round.

This gives you an idea of what we ate during Climate Camp.
Chef Thom England, Culinary Instructor at Ivy Tech, shows us around the Culinary Arts building. There, chefs learn all sorts of sustainability actions.

Lunch at DUOs Cafeteria continued our effort to feed campers locally sourced vegan food.

The balloons are taking shape! 28 balloons = one pound of CO2.

Jonathan and Noah served as emcees for our Climate Showcase at the end of our camp. We had poetry and song and theater and visual art.

The campers created a play that day, fossil fuel vs. renewable energy. Happy to report that renewables ultimately won the battle!

Aspen, one of our older campers (17; not pictured here), created a compelling performance art piece, combining a music video about human negative impact on the planet, with projections from our t-shirts.
This performance art piece was particularly effective at both sending the warning signal regarding the destructive path we're on as well as pointing toward a way forward that helps heal our relationship to this only planet we have.

I was in tears watching these kids stand and stare at us in the audience with these placards of horror. They are asking us for our leadership in this quest to reduce human impact and enact a new, lighter, more conscious way of being, so that the future they face is not so harrowing.

To say Climate Camp created hope to all assembled is a profound understatement. The next generation of leaders stand before us, ready to make a livable world for all.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Paramount School of Excellence comes by its name honestly

I've been wanting to visit Paramount for quite some time. Many friends work there, and their sustainability efforts is legendary in education circles. I had no idea, however, the scale at which this school is engaging on multiple fronts to teach kids about sustainability and our connection to nature.

You might have noticed this school if you've traveled along Brookside Parkway on the east side of Indy, between Spades Park and Brookside Park. There are a couple wind turbines visible above the tree line. This k-8 Charter school is situated on 9 acres of land, and much of it, as you'll see, is being utilized with sustainability in mind.

I was invited by Andrew Hart, who was hired this year by Paramount to take their green efforts to the next level. Andrew and I thought I was bringing the climate reality slideshow, but once I got on site, the school, 1) I didn't want to go inside on such a beautiful day to set up my slideshow and 2) I wanted to tour the grounds, especially if the students would lead.

They agreed to lead, and so here are some photos from this extraordinary school.

Paramount students show me around their garden.

Surrounding the garden are these raised-bed growing units.

The students are even growing herbs.

Here are two of the five wind turbines on site that directly offsets their electrical expenses.

One of the largest school based chicken coops I've seen.

Students introduce me to the younger chickens.

Paramount recently added a three hive apiary to their menu of sustainability.

Andrew Hart, Paramount's new Environmental Education Director.

School Director Tommy Reddicks shows off the school's water catchment system.
You may have noticed some of the students — as well as Reddicks and Hart — wearing STEAM t-shirts. According to school officials, STEAM stands for Success Through Education Agriculture and Mentoring and is a middle school program that "utilizes the operation of the school's urban farm as the catalyst for students to learn financial literacy, business management, leadership and STEM skills."

I'll let the school say a bit more about their philosophy: "Paramount’s farm is an important way for our students to understand the cycle of life and where their food comes from. Eggs are collected daily from the chickens, some which were hatched as an annual second grade activity.  The beehives provide a means to teach students about the value of pollinators, honey production, and the entrepreneurial aspect of beekeeping. And the vegetable gardens are a natural laboratory where students can start the plants from seeds, nurture the seedlings through maturity, harvest their bounty and sell the produce at the student run farmers market."

Sounds like a lovely way to spend a summer — and run a school, year-round. The students I met this day were polite and poised and clearly appreciated their school's sustainability efforts. Hey, who wouldn't want to go to a school that spends so much time and effort outdoors.

A summer camp bus adventure to Indy Urban Acres

When Tiffany Boyd asked me to visit her summer camp in Fountain Square at the Southeast Community Services, it was about bringing in a slideshow presentation about climate change. What I've learned this summer, however, is that summer camp may not necessarily be the best context for science learning — especially in a rambunctious, adventure-oriented summer camp setting.

So upon further investigation, I learned from Tiffany that her campers — numbering nearly two dozen kids, aged 9-16 — have mastered riding the IndyGo bus system.

I began then to think of interesting destinations for these campers.

For those of you who read this Climate Chronicles blog, you know I write a lot about food, and about the connection between food and climate change. And how climate change will threaten our food security. No surprise, then, that I thought of my friend Tyler Gough and his Indy Urban Acres.

Sitting on 8 acres, Indy Urban Acres donates 100% of its fresh veggies and fruit to local food pantries thru its partnership with Gleaners Food Bank.

Tiffany agreed that Indy Urban Acres would be a great destination, given that her campers have been working the community garden located next to the Southeast Community Services Youth Center in Fountain Square. So here are some photos of our great adventure to Indy Urban Acres!

Waiting for the #22; Tiffany (left) hands out bus passes.

Discussing water bottle technology. On the left is Alexis, Youth Power Indiana intern, going into her senior year at Hanover College.

Stop one, accomplished, now walking the Cultural Trail to the bus stop.  
Awaiting the #21.

Destination. Tyler Gough greets the campers.

Checking out the community garden adjacent to Indy Urban Acres.

Tyler talks to the campers about his honeybees.

Kids love chickens.

Indy Urban Acres started growing flowers this year.

Inside the hoop house where Indy Urban Acres grows food even in the coldest weather.

Getting soil for the green bean seeds Tyler gives kids when they come visit.

Awaiting the final bus home.

I was so impressed with these young people's ease with the bus system. Truly, it was a hilarious day, as regular bus riders were largely excited to be riding the bus with all these great kids. The bus drivers tolerated it all with good humor.

Teaching kids how to use public transportation seems to me to be one of the most important skills imaginable. I look forward to working bus navigation into my own work at Earth Charter Indiana and Youth Power Indiana.