"These students inspired us." - Taking action with Camas students

"These students inspired us." - Taking action with Camas students

While Clark County Green Schools focuses on providing assistance and resources to help schools with waste and recycling, we aim to support schools in all of their sustainability efforts. That can mean connecting schools to community partners and resources, assisting with project planning, or even getting our hands dirty!

On Friday, December 14th, Carly and I joined Camas High School seniors, their teachers Ali Coker (who was the Green Apple award winner this year) and Charlotte Waters, and Steve Marshall, Director of Educational Resources for Camas Public Schools, to plant trees at the district bus barn and Skyridge Middle School. 

Students expressed their feelings that news from the environmental field hasn't exactly been inspiring a lot of optimism lately, but Carly and I shared that we're hopeful for the future of our environment, which largely stems from seeing first-hand all of the wonderful, affecting, inspiring efforts by schools around Clark County. Carly and I were both born and raised in Clark County and have witnessed amazing environmental stewardship in our own lifetimes.

We hope that you, the youth and educators of Clark County, continue to be hopeful and keep working towards a healthier environment. Keep up the great work, Camas High School, and all Clark County Green Schools!

To exist as a nation, to prosper as a state, and to live as a people, we must have trees.

Theodore Roosevelt
Click to enlarge

How did they do it? 

One of the goals of this project was to inspire other schools to get their hands dirty doing an environmental action project, in spite of the challenges and obstacles that might exist. We asked Steve to give us some details about how the project came to be, so that other schools could feel empowered. 


Clark County Green Schools (CCGS): What were the goals of the project? How did you connect the project to student learning goals? 

Steve Marshall: One of my responsibilities is to create learning opportunities for students - the kind that are engaging, relevant, and extend what students learn in school. Camas is developing and development involves a kind of "trade": neighborhoods for natural spaces. So this project aimed to contribute to the restoration of the tree canopy in Camas city limits, which aligns with our state's sustainability and climate change learning standards as well as the mission of the Green Team. Teachers Ali Coker and Charlotte Waters were interested in giving students a chance to apply what they have learned in science as well as activating the Green Team, which for whatever reason did not have the same momentum and membership it had last year. Ali also connected the goals of this service project to one of her student's senior project. 


CCGS: How was the project planned? What were the challenges and how did you find solutions? 

SM: This project was planned in a couple of after school meetings in November involving me, Ali, and Charlotte. The credit goes to these two ladies. I asked if they were up for collaborating on an extended learning opportunity and they immediately said, "Yes!" As with most ambitious projects, we started with lofty goals. We wanted to plant one tree for each member of the graduating classes of 2019 at Camas High School and Hayes Freedom, in one day. But we encountered a number of obstacles. Tree donations fell short of expectations, trees we ordered did not arrive in time, and we could not find any other nurseries or outlets where we could purchase seedlings. But we decided to persevere and count this day as a "Phase 1" that will hopefully be followed up with a second planting in the early spring. The expenses of the this project are covered by a combination of donations, ASB funds, and business partnerships (for instance, two local restaurants gave us 2-for-1 meals for the student lunches). Most of all the seedlings planted were relocated from another district property where they were planted too close together to survive. Student volunteers helped us harvest seeds from fir cones, which Ali plans on germinating this winter with her students and planting next fall. 

Don't get hung up on the obstacles. Every undertaking is going to face them. This project faced multiple forks in the road where we could have stopped and tried again later. But we - as a community, as a state, and as a nation - are at the point where we need momentum. And momentum needs a catalyst. So, it is critical that we simply do something... anything that will give students a chance to apply what they have learned, act on what they believe, and change the current story line relating to climate change. 


It is critical that we simply do something, anything that will give students a chance to... act on what they believe.

Steve Marshall, Director of Educational Resources, Camas School District

CCGS: What did students learn from this experience? What did you learn from the experience? 

SM: A number of seniors had talked to Ali and Charlotte throughout the fall about their concerns regarding the United Nations report on climate change. The report concluded that unless countries adopt aggressive "green" policies and practices in the next decade, the world's climate will irrevocably change. It predicts that weather will become more unpredictable and extreme, which will have far-reaching effects on every facet of our lives - our food, health, and political and economic stability. We decided to create this opportunity for them to make a difference, so the service day had three parts: a review of current articles on climate change, a discussion on how they can effect change, and the tree plantings. The hope is that seniors who volunteered for this day have a better context of the challenges we face as well as the avenues for addressing those challenge. The students learned how to get involved and how, when others get involved, you can accomplish a lot. 

I was reminded of how - like the proverbial boulder on top of a hill - young people have a lot of latent potential. Opportunities like this help to unleash that potential. Students want to know the context of what they are learning and when the purpose connects to a larger cause, that connection is much more clear. An enormous problem like climate change is intimidating, and discouraging. We hope that activities like this tree planting reduce the scale to the here and now and that the small step encourages students to take another step. And if their activism inspires other people, then we will have a cumulative response that might make a substantial difference and change our current course. 

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