Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NAIS Challenge 20/20 reflection

Casady Challenge 20/20 was a roller coaster ride, worth the price of admission, of youth voice, choice, and process from its inception.

Our Challenge 20/20 exploration started when Andrew Griffin’07 was a freshman. His idea was to import children’s art from remote villages, sell it and use the proceeds to meet educational needs. NAIS paired Andrew with a Ugandan high school and a museum youth board in Ollantaytambo, Peru. The relationship with the school was short, but the high school’s Headmaster has visited Oklahoma City and our campus several times. Our community has supported his school’s needs for several years. Andrew’s search for a local partner culminated with World Neighbors (WN). Andrew discovered that a relative of his was the founder of WN. WorldFest, their yearly fundraiser, sold imported goods from villages with proceeds supporting projects in those villages. This made World Neighbors a perfect Challenge 20/20 project for Andrew. He became a founding member of the WN Youth Board. In the two years that Andrew led the Board, they raised $20,000. Casady students still participate in World Neighbors WorldFest activities.

Andrew found fertile ground for his vision in two younger creative students, Leann Farha’08 and Ankita Prasad’08. Leann organized a grassroots Walk the World OKC’05 benefiting the United Nations World Food Programme, School Feeding. She participated in Walk the World 2005 debriefing in Rome, Italy. Upon her return from Italy, Leann led Walk the World OKC’2006-2008 raising $25,000. Leann’s efforts led to an increased number of walkers every year and became a citywide outreach. She was also an active WN Youth Board member. Her work continued in June 2009 when a group of freshmen boys led by Graham Bennett’12 had their first Walk the World OKC 2009. Leann believes that four years with the project enabled her to overcome insecurities and transformed a shy girl, terrified of public speaking into a confident leader, an effective communicator, and organizer. She stated, “I received more than I gave fighting to eradicate childhood hunger.”

Our relationship with the museum youth board in Peru started very simply with their bilingual exposure to the book High Noon. The museum’s youth board sought collaboration with a local elementary school of Ollantaytambo, Peru. They joined Leann to raise awareness of global hunger. They hosted a Walk the World,Ollantaytambo’06. Manco Inca Elementary School became our Global Service-Learning Education partner after the walk. In June 2008, the first group of Casady Service-learning students arrived in Ollantaytambo. In June 2009, the second group followed. Fifteen Casady students and three faculty members traveled to Peru to participate in a combined service, language immersion, and homestay experience managed by World Leadership School. In collaboration with other independent schools such as Lakeside of Seattle (in its 8th year in Ollantaytambo) and Groton School of Boston, Casady students are transforming a pile of rubble into the ecological playground –“LAND OF CHILDREN”- designed and maintained by the children. The children with guidance from US teens have also developed a full recycling program for their school and are expanding the program to their homes and town. The teens from the United States have gained knowledge of the Quechua language, enhanced understanding of fair trade practices, and an appreciation of a slow pace of life that reverances nature. The Ollantaytambo “Land of Children” is being documented via donated digital cameras and blogs. In June 2009, Casady students presented their experience in Ollantaytambo at the Second International Service-Learning Conference in Teacher Education in Galway, Ireland. Casady students will return to Ollantaytambo in June, 2010 when they will promote the creation of a trilingual picture book of the Ollantaytambo, Land of Children experience. The faculty leader of the second Ollantaytambo trip, Kari Bornhoft, stated, “When asked to take a group of students to Peru, I had mixed emotions. I would have the chance to see one of the great wonders of the world (Machu Picchu), to experience another Latin culture, to spend time with a group of students in a way no other educator can in normal conditions… The two weeks I spent in Peru were exhausting. It was an incredible learning experience for both the students and faculty. We grew as a team and did equally as individuals. All of us had our highs and lows and as we were stretched found our capabilities mentally, physically, and emotionally.”
During her freshman year, Ankita Prasad’08 wore a “can costume” to motivate lower division students to donate for our canned food drive. As Ankita learned about related global issues of poverty and the problems with consistent communication with our partners, she realized that perhaps the best focus was the creation of global issues youth councils following the guidelines for Global Issues Networks described in High Noon. She promoted the idea with our partners in Uganda and Peru without success. Ankita attended the Challenge 20/20 leaders’ conference in Boston and became a member of the Students against Hunger Youth Board at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and of the World Neighbors Youth Board. She was also a “priceless” summer intern at World Neighbors and she became the preferred youth advisor when organizations explored youth board possibilities for their institutions. As the leader of Challenge 20/20, the canned food drive became the Casady Cans Do Project. Casady Cans Do quadrupled our whole school contribution to the Food Bank during Ankita’s tenure. She added learning components such as categorization games and canned sculpture competitions. She promoted “Food Bank Lunches” to raise awareness of what meals the Food Bank provides from donations and inspired ceramics classes to make bowls for auction during the Food Bank lunch as a reminder of the kids whose bowls would be empty in the evening. Proceeds of the Empty Bowls Silent Auction went to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma Food-4-Kids Program. She was also part of Walk the World, but her goal was to seek funding and awareness of the hunger problem in Oklahoma City. Ankita presented Casady's NAIS Challenge 20/20 at the First International Service-Learning Conference in Teacher Education in Brussels and developed an informal partnership with one of the conference participants, a history teacher, from the American School in Brussels. She also presented the NAIS Challenge 20/20 opportunity at the Department of Environmental Quality-Earth Day 2008 Celebration at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Ankita stated, “Service Learning is a great way for Casady students to give back to their community. I believe that participating in service learning not only benefits our community but also broadens student’s outlook on life. Service Learning has given me so many opportunities to change my school, my community and finally my world. Projects like Challenge 20/20 help Casady students become connected to schools across the world and discuss local problems in a global setting. The Casady Cans Do project has raised awareness and collected funds to help eradicate hunger in Oklahoma. No matter what your passion is, you can find a service learning project that is right for you.”

During Ankita’s senior year, members of the Class of 2011 shifted the focus of the Challenge 20/20 project to awareness of the human print in global warming and climate change. Rebecca Roach’11 and Josh Ou’11 are the current Challenge 20/20 leaders at Casady School. In the past two years, they have read High Noon, have seen The Inconvenient Truth, contacted Sierra Club representatives and Casady faculty to raise awareness and help promote recycling in our school. Josh and Rebecca wrote and were awarded a Facing the Future grant to provide cameras to document climate change in OKC and Peru. Our international discussion collaborators in the area of Global Warming/Climate Change challenge were the school in Brussels, Mount Saint Mary School of Pennsylvania, and the Cloud Forest School in Costa Rica. These efforts were not very successful, yet Josh created a website and we learned how to have SKYPE teleconferences with Costa Rican students.

Rebecca and Josh have focused on recyling and awareness and reduction of carbon footprint and water conservation. One of the adult sponsors of this project is also interested in awareness of ecological footprint and energy conservation. Thanks to an "informal partnership" with the Oklahoma Green Schools Pilot Program, Josh has obtained recycling bins to promote recycling of cans and plastic and he is in the process of developing a stronger collaboration with the Casady Environmental Club and the Casady administrative efforts in turning our school greener. Josh stated, When I first joined the Challenge 20/20 group my freshmen year, I was completely oblivious that I would become the president of this group my junior year. During the early stages, we would have only dreamt of having a cans and plastic recycling on a regular bases; we are also in the process of constructing two new LEED buildings on our campus.”
Our new partners this year are a school in China and a school in New York. We board our new ride thrilled about the possibilities.

Carmen Clay
Rainbolt Family Service-Learning Chair
Casady School
9500 North Pennsylvania, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73120

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