On March 29th, our school revisited our topic of racism with the documentary, “I’m Not a Racists, Am I?” The website linked has many resources for those wanting more information.
Many students felt uncomfortable with the title and the movie in general. They felt like just watching the movie would not change beliefs. I have to disagree. I think many people are almost unconscious when it comes to racism. They don’t think they are racist because they have one friend. Or they don’t think they are racist because they are nice. The movie goes into the system of racism and how prevalent it is in America. In the movie they use Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack to show the students what privilege looks like. They also play a game similar to Life that shows how discrimination works. To me, if we don’t have these conversations and open everyone’s eyes to what is happening, we are going backwards.
Think about how you talk about race to students, your own children and co-workers. Keep the discussion going.
On April 20th, 2016, the Fountain Valley School changes it schedule to donate the day to Earth Day. We lined up FuturePointe to discuss the history of food and agriculture in America.
We had a break for lunch, then the fun activities began. The list below were our sessions for our students to choose from:
GMOs – Are They Debatable? – What is a GMO? How many GMOs do you eat? How can you tell if you are consuming these organisms? Work with Future Point leaders and take a side. Debate the pros and cons and decide if we should be doing more by taking one of these two opposing perspectives. “The right to know what’s in our food-GMO” vs. “Labeling creates unjustified beliefs that what’s in their food is harmful-when it is not.”
Trashion: Wearable Recycled Art – Many of the materials used to wrap up the things we
buy end up in landfills or floating down sewers until they get stuck swirling in a vortex in the ocean. Work in small teams to create awesome upcycled wearable sculptures out of plastic bags, bicycle inner tubes, pop cans and other non-biodegradable materials.
Adopt-A-Waterway, Fountain Creek Clean-up – It’s up to each of us to keep our waters clean. That’s the idea behind the Adopt-A-Waterway Program. Fountain Valley School has partnered with the The City of Colorado Springs Stormwater Engineering department by formally adopting a ½ mile section of Fountain Creek, for the purpose of protecting and improving water quality in our region. Each year we do our part to clean up trash and debris that is washed into the Fountain Creek Watershed. You will be amazed at what a difference we can make, together!
Aquaponics and Local Food – Eat locally, think globally! FVS strives to be more sustainable, buy purchasing food from local vendors who provide fresh food without transportation costs and environmental impact. Come learn about aquaponics, a food production system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as in fish tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. Take a tour of Daily Harvest Aquaponics, a local source of produce served in our dining hall.
Adopt-A-Road, and Perry Mirrors and Solar Panels – We’ve all seen litter scattered along the roads that border our FVS campus, but do not think of it’s impact other than as an eyesore. These items can include tires, furniture, carpeting, construction debris and other household trash, old appliances, paint cans, batteries. Anytime it rains or snows the precipitation and wind carries waste into the watershed or percolates through the debris carrying pollutants directly into groundwater. Additionally, many of these items can collect water and eventually breed mosquitoes. Research has shown that trash attracts trash, and when a community is clean, it tends to stay clean. Each one of us has the ability to make a difference for our neighborhood and clean water. It starts by picking up the next piece of litter we see. Let’s put trash in its place! The Perry Dorms were designed to provide passive solar energy and reduce energy use for lighting and heating, and recently underwent a major overhaul. Come learn how they work, and help with the annual maintenance needed to keep these important resources running efficiently. The Science building was outfitted with solar panels which supply additional renewable energy into the power grid, and help to lower our school’s carbon emissions. Come learn how they work, and help with the annual maintenance needed to keep these important resources running efficiently. During the last part of the day, you will assist the FVS facilities managers in resetting the dorm mirrors to optimum angle for the spring sun angle and will clean the solar panels.
Butterfly Garden and Bench – Come learn about native pollinators and their habitats, and help create/expand the butterfly and bird garden adjacent to the science building, which was established two years ago on Earth Day. Bring your shovel ready hands to plant/transplant attractive species of plants that do not require much water and provide a valuable resource for wildlife on campus.
Adams Mountain Cafe – Visit Adam’s Mountain Cafe in Manitou Springs to learn new
vegan or vegetarian recipes. Students make one recipe each and then share food with each other.
Vegetarian and Plant-Based Cooking on Campus – Learn about the impact you can have on the planet if you eat vegetarian just one day per week. This workshop will guide you through meat protein alternatives and end with a cooking lesson where you can create your own plant-based dish.
SEEDS Volunteers – Seeds Community Café is a nonprofit that provides a sustainable alternative to food, employment and local economic insecurity through a “pay as you can afford” café that provides the general population and specifically those living on the economic margins, healthy and locally sourced meals; employment training and apprenticeships; healthy living, shopping and cooking education classes; volunteer engagement opportunities; and empowerment. Come learn more about what makes a community cafe so beneficial both to the local population and environment.
Harlen Wolfe Ranch – A trip to Pikes Peak Urban Gardens at Harlan Wolfe Ranch to see how they compost, tend the beehives, and grow plants in their greenhouse. After the educational portion, students will assist with some trail building activities.
Redstone Castle Kinders – Dan/Gail Stewart P ‘09 – Visit a local family who is producing a lot of their own food in Manitou Springs. They raise goats, chickens and vegetables. Learn to milk goats and help get their garden composted, planted and ready for the spring and summer.
The Edible Schoolyard at the Mountain Song School – Cooking Arts and Agricultural Arts classes co-teach in a seed to table curriculum focused on organic plant-based nutrition with a focus on seasonal locally sourced foods and growing and cooking one’s own food as an important life skill.
Celebrating the Good and Spreading the Word – FVS is doing a lot of green–more than you may think. Working in small groups, students will star in and create a 60-second Public Service Announcements about our sustainability and our connection to the land. At the end of the session, the group will choose one video to show at the final wrap-up of Earth Day.
FVS Community Garden – It’s time to get the FVS community garden ready for summer! Working closely with the faculty, you will prepare the soil, till in the home-grown compost, set up the sprinkler system, and plant the corn, pumpkins, and flowers that will be harvested next Fall, and set them up for success by covering them with DIY cloches made from recycled water bottles.
FVS Trail Maintenance – Working with Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, you will help renovate a portion of FVS’s prairie trails by building water diversion swells and redirecting an existing trail around wetlands on the back prairie.
On March 5th, I traveled to Montecristo, Dominican Republic with a co-worker and 13 high school students. Some of our students have never been out of the country. Other students are seasoned travelers. We were to spend 7 days with the organization Outreach 360. The first day was orientation and lesson planning. This was a service learning trip where our students taught an English Immersion class to 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders. They taught for about 4 hours for four days. They also amused many of the children during their recess. As a former teacher librarian in an elementary school, I was a little nervous that Outreach 360 did not prepare them enough. The students were given objectives for each day and each grade level. There were some sample ideas or workbooks that could be used. There was also plenty of supplies from Play-Do to construction paper to large flash cards. The students completely stepped up their game. They had energy and fun during their lessons.
When not planning lessons or teaching, Outreach 360 showed us around the town to local museums, the beach and the salt flats. We did a sunrise hike to the beach cliffs and spent another afternoon relaxing at the beach. We met to discuss our reflections during the week of what we were experiencing at the school. We took a day trip to the Haitan boarder and watched a movie on the relationship between the two countries. We also watched the movie “In the Time of the Butterflies”. When there was free time, many of our students used the time to go to the park and play with the local students.
After our our week with Outreach 360, we relaxed for two days at Cabarete, a tourist beach town. There we went on a ecological jungle tour to learn about the local area. We practiced our Spanish the whole time and reflect again on the differences between Cabarete and Montecristo. If you have time to go by yourself or with a school group, Outreach 360 is an amazing organization.
Here is a video of our time in the Dominican.
Last week Dave Mochel (@applyattention) joined us at Fountain Valley School for the second time. Dave had started working with us in November during a staff meeting (read my notes from that training). Here are my rambling notes from the March inservice.
As a society, we have gone from being worried about “character” to worrying about our “personality”. This shift points more to the individual and less to what we do for others. We need to have a personal practice to cultivate mindfulness. Cultivation has to do with our attention, emotion and energy. We need to respond with being present, important, and effective. With every choice we have in life we can SPIN (complain, go in circles), LET IT DROP (forget about it) or TAKE ACTION. Deliberate practice is not the 10,000 hours like Malcolm Gladwell discusses in Outliers, but it is defined as practice that is consistent, with feedback, and on the edge of your ability.
Feedback should be frequent (at least every 10 days), authentic and supportive. Try to connect with people by asking “What’s going on?”, “Where is your focus?” and “How can I help?” When there is resistance, is it resistance from conditioning or resistance from evidence? It is important to have the uncomfortable conversations where you think about “What’s present?”, “What’s important?”, and Question, Concern and Requests. When discussing, clarify what the discussion is about by asking “Do you want my opinion or do you just need me to hear you?”
When you are planning for meetings, make sure you assume you can only get one thing done. Normally we fill meetings with things that are just announcements. With any meeting, have a transparent outcome, be solution focused and let exploration take place. Use meetings to move forward. High function groups ask more questions about the Why? and How? and don’t get stuck on the What. IDEO has the motto “Fail Fast in order to succeed sooner. Effort is the energy needed for the task. Struggle is the resistance.
10-10-10. Take 10 deep breathes in the morning. Take 10 deep breathes throughout the day individually. Take 10 deep breaths in the evening.
Fountain Valley School of Colorado was founded in 1930 at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and serves boarding and day students in 9th to 12th grade. Fountain Valley’s 1,100 acres have always been central to the School’s mission and identity. The land serves as an outdoor classroom, a venue for athletics and recreation, and an open space to harbor wildlife. A measure of the land’s health is the wildlife population, which is abundant at FVS, including the nesting pair of bald eagles and numerous owl species that have become icons of the school. The views of Pikes Peak offer daily inspiration to all who learn, live, work and play at Fountain Valley School.
Classes and study sessions are often conducted in the many outdoor spaces that accommodate our students. The Peaks, Prairies and Plateaus class takes students into the field to learn by doing. Students study the prairie’s ecosystem in this interdisciplinary course and travel to locations like Rocky Mountain National Park and the Picketwire Canyon Dinosaur Tracks to examine their natural and political history. As part of the ecosystems unit for the AP Environmental Science class, 23 students completed the first biodiversity audit of Dillon Pond on campus this year by surveying fish, invertebrates and algal coverage. This fall, the Field Ecology class assessed the population of local grasshoppers and discovered several different species thriving on the prairie. The AP Literature class regularly convenes at one of the two outdoor classrooms built by FVS students as part of a senior project. The Geology elective takes nine field trips into our surrounding area, and students put their hands on more than 2 billion years of rock history. And in September each year, the Western Immersion Program takes sophomores to the Mountain Campus located in the foothills of the Collegiate Peaks to explore the local ecosystem through science, history and art.
In addition to academics, the FVS Dane athletic programs take advantage of our acreage. The cross country team, mountain biking team, outdoor education program, riding program and fitness training all utilize the miles of trails traversing the open space. The prairie is also widely used by the entire community for recreation, and it is not uncommon to see cross country ski trails dotting the landscape after a fresh snow.
All students attend an Interim during one week in March. This year, Fountain Valley School offers a number of trips that include sustainability.
- A Puerto Rico trip entitled Eye on the Rainforest
- Flavor & Savor in the Colorado Springs and Denver area, which includes environmental issues with food
- The study of marine biology, botany, oceanography, ichthyology and subtropical ecology at a research field station on a sparsely populated island 140 miles off the coast of Florida
- A sailing trip around Catalina Island in Southern California to perform ocean chemistry lab work, including boarding a sea explorer to use oceanographic equipment
- A Florida Keys excursion including a visit with current researchers in order to spend a day in the life of a marine scientist
- A Winter in the Rockies Interim that travels to Crested Butte, Colo., and partakes in many of backcountry winter activities
- Yosemite Nature Trek to study human impacts on nature, build confidence, and form new connections with each other and the natural world.
Each year, Fountain Valley School dedicates a full day of activities to celebrate Earth Day and promote best land management practices on campus.
- Students have erected raptor poles to naturally rein in the prairie dog population.
- They built a new dock on the pond to create better access for studies and recreation.
- To connect the trail systems, students built a bridge across one of the water irrigation channels.
- FVS has adopted a stretch of local road along the edge of the property along with a portion of Fountain Creek.
Along with the opportunities this land so generously offers comes the responsibility to protect it. The new strategic plan and campus master plan, along with holistic land management practices, work together to help sustain Fountain Valley School’s acreage and ensure its continued health. Ranch Manager Tyson Phillips coordinates irrigation rights to produce hay for the horse herd, and he regularly involves students in ranch work and activities. Our hope is that our students learn an appreciation for nature and understanding of sustainability.
(article I wrote for Green School Alliance)