Saturday, May 16, 2009

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose?

We've had eight visitors! The nice thing to see is that the average visit is thirty minutes long, so people are actually reading. Maybe one day someone will comment even! I'm just happy I finally figured out how to embed videos.

Looking through an old yearbook yesterday, a colleague came across a picture of the Environment Club of 1993-4. I was pregnant and wearing a striking wool sweater with a zigzag pattern reminiscent of Charlie Brown. Our club had five teachers and a pile of students. We even took the gang camping at the end of the year believe it or not.* Fifteen years later, our club currently has two teachers and three students, and two of the students are graduating this year.

The teacher showing me the photo remarked that we seem to start fresh over and over again. We build up a group, get some energy behind us, and then slowly dissolve and fizzle right out. Then we have to begin again. After a few teachers retired or moved on, and I stayed home a while with little ones, the school didn't have an environment club for several years. It certainly does seem that we do a lot of reinventing the wheel. But we never go entirely back to the beginning. Each time we start a club, and get the students fired up (or, more likely, they get us going), and get new projects in place, we've built a little on what was there before. And now maybe this blog will help us track it, so we, and others, aren't starting from scratch.

I started composting after a chance encounter with the teacher who formerly ran the composting program. One day, as I was walking down the street, he happened to drive by me and stopped to chat about environmental issues. Eventually he turned off the car and walked me through the ins and outs of what he had done. He also started our recycling program at our school, which, fortunately, has been continued by a few different teachers along the way.

When I look at the crowd in the picture and all the teacher support, I have to remind myself that it was several years in the making. We're only in the second year of running OneEarth. There are many other teachers who are encouraging, but busy. I have a good fifteen years until retirement. I'll have to make certain I pass the torch before going.


*These days I can't get permission to let a group of students play acoustic guitar for each other in the new gardens of our school. I'm not sure what it's like elsewhere, but here and now I can't imagine trying to get permission for a celebratory camping trip that's not directly tied to curriculum. What if they drink? What if they get hit by a car? What if they drown? What if they don't learn anything significant? Most importantly, what if we get sued?

And so it goes.


Teresa Brown said...

I strongly believe that, even if the lessons we try to teach young people SEEM like they're not "taking" right now, they will some day. It's vital that young people are exposed to healthful and responsible ideas and practices. Even if it's somewhat frustrating now to have (what seems to be) only a few interested kids, rest assured that your club's existence serves a more far-reaching purpose: planting seeds of ideas in more kids than you'll probably ever know.

How do I know this? 'Cause I'm a product of the 1970s, when we were soaked in environmental messages. At the time, I shrugged and went on with the far more "important" things in my life at the time -- but now, thirty years later, I have raised my own kids with the same messages, and try to live as responsibly as possible.

So ... it IS working.

Marie said...

Thanks for commenting Teresa!

It's not even whether our ideas keep going as the students leave the school for broader horizons, but whether our ideas are able to keep going within one school over time. We keep forgetting why it's all so important. We keep losing track of what others have done in the past.

It's like after the fall of the Roman Empire when people forgot how to read and the importance of sanitation. The leader retires in one way or another, and the people wander off in different directions. And it takes positively ages to get them together and on the same page again. It's curious how that happens over and over throughout history and even within my own life span at school.

nomoregarbage said...

Hey Marie. I really like your site. I agree with Teresa. I too am a product of the 70's and 80's. We had a traveeling environmental group come through the school in grade three and then in grade 7 we watch sea of slaughter 3 times (it's the reason I'm vegetarian. Now I cna't understand how people can think of the environment as a seperate entity from themselves and I do "CRAZY EXTREME" things like living withoug garbage and flushing my toilet with the bath water. There's kids who will never forget what you have done and will go on to accomplish more than we could imagine. You may be teaching the next David Suzuki!:)

Marie said...

Hi NMG - I grew up the same way. Actually I remember more the "Give a hoot, don't pollute" owl. I couldn't imagine throwing garbage on the ground. But then that went away. Ads stopped and consciousness stopped (for the next group of kids). I still don't litter, but tons of people do who didn't get indoctrinated between Saturday morning cartoons. It's frustrating that we have to make efforts to keep those messages out there forever or people unaffected will almost immediately revert to more destructive, convenient, or self-centered ways.