For the past four weeks, fifth and sixth-grade students have been working with CS Wurzberger, known as "The Green Up Girl," designing projects that could have real impacts in the city and the world.
"They have taken so much ownership because we told them anything is possible," Wurzberger, the green movement marketing advisor, sustainability consultant, and podcaster said. "They picked something in their community, world, or life that they wanted to change or make an impact on and we fanned the flames."
Students displayed their projects at a culminating event Thursday afternoon in the Colegrove gymnasium and projects spanned from endangered animals, drug abuse awareness, to saving the bees.
21st Century After School Coordinator Wendall Nelson said the school has hosted the camp over the past several summers and students have looked at local issues and towards their own futures through Camp Optimism, Camp Courage, and this year’s Camp Solution.
"Students first came up with an issue that they felt strongly about and researched. They then came up with their own solution as they designed businesses and projects," she said. "They learned that some of their ideas were completely feasible and they had to make changes."
She added that high school students were also involved and seventh and eighth graders enriched the program as mentors. She said through a partnership with the YMCA sixth, seventh, and eighth students learned CPR and first aid and are all now certified babysitters.
Wurzberger said Camp Solution has been the largest group she has worked with and through her books and her birds she worked with students to show real environmental concerns.
"They learned that it’s not all book stuff. It is not just reading about endangered animals, it is meeting an animal face to face," she said. "They met Alma [an engendered parrot] here at three weeks old as her feathers were coming in. Every day Alma was here with them."
She said withdrawn students often connected with the birds and discussed their projects with them. She said many kids who had no idea what they wanted to do were able to find their voice and pinpoint something important to them.
"Some of these kids came in so quiet but as soon as we started asking questions they came alive," she said. "They are getting the chance to realize that their voices matter and their ideas have support from their community."
Student Xavier Pratt had enough of the garbage around his neighborhood and the danger it posed to animals.
"I like animals and I don’t like what happens to them when they eat garbage," he said. "…I asked the city to put recyclable bins at local attractions to reduce the garbage that comes out and try to organize a green up day where they go out and clean up the trash on the streets and make it better."
Wurzberger officially labeled Pratt as the "Green Up Guy" and said she hoped the mayor, who was at the event, followed up with him.
Aubrey Levesque and Kaley Goodell also had concerns about garbage. More specifically about plastic in the ocean.
"There are less than 1 million turtles left because they are endangered," Levesque said. "Because when people throw plastic into the ocean they mistake it for jellyfish, eat it, and they can’t digest it."
Carter Degrenier, Corey Bolte, Lily Marceau, and Carley Pontier looked at the drug epidemic in the community and designed posters and other media to help spread awareness.
"We wanted to do something about drug use," Marceau said. "We started researching it and we found out the facts. We did posters and a podcast."
Wurzberger said this project will be taken up through an after-school program once the school year begins.
Selena Packard, Nathanial Miranda, Jackson Liang, and Arian Tyler all teamed up to advocate for animal adoption and made posters supporting the adoption of hamsters, gerbils, birds, cats, pit bulls and even the black-footed ferret.
"We are a big group and we wanted to help sheltered animals. I chose the black-footed ferret," Miranda said. "Animals can live longer if you adopt them like the black-footed ferret in the wild they live up to 12 years but as a pet, they live up to 15."
Wurzberger said she hopes students’ worlds have been opened up and that they are now aware of environmental issues in and beyond their community.
She added that she hopes students have found a new confidence and a voice of their own.
"As kids, we are always told no and with this, we did not say no to any projects," she said. "We maybe had to tweak some of these projects or guide them but whatever they wanted to do we were going to help them figure out."
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