A trip to Catalina Island off the coast of California gave Poudre School District middle school students a chance to serve others and make a difference in another community while having fun and learning about the environment. For many students, it was a life-changing experience.
“Catalina changed the way I saw the whole world and I never thought I could change so drastically, so quickly,” said Sage Walton, a student at Kinard Core Knowledge Middle School.
“I learned that you need to look at the view,” said Isabel Chalona, a student at Lesher Middle School, an IB World School. “If you just charge through life, and never stop and look. Life is not as meaningful.”
Twenty-six students from the Kinard CARES (Community Action Results Environment Service) program and 25 students from Lesher Middle School’s IMPACTS class traveled to Catalina Island in November to participate in an environmental leadership program. Kinard CARES and Lesher IMPACTS are two student organizations that focus on environmental awareness and making positive changes in the community. While on the island, students engaged in an experiential-based outdoor learning curriculum that taught them important principles about the environment. Using one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet as their classroom, students explored a giant brown kelp forest and climbed to the top of the highest mountain peaks to learn important environmental concepts.
"I'm always impressed with the impact of providing students with an opportunity to engage in an authentic, outdoor learning environment,” said Chris Bergmann, Kinard teacher. “These are valuable experiences and lessons that you can't get from a textbook."
“This trip opened my eyes to how our community affects our world,” said Alexis Young, Kinard student. “I learned how to be a stronger leader and care more for our environment. This trip taught me how to bring all my knowledge from Catalina and use it in my everyday life.”
While the trip was filled with adventure, it was far from a vacation. Students participated in a variety of service-learning projects to enhance the Catalina Island community. The primary objective of the service-learning component was an ecological restoration project designed to help protect the biodiversity on the island. Students removed invasive plant species and planted new native plants in their place as a part of the regenerative process. Another service project taught students about healthy food choices and composting principles while working in the organic garden on the island.
“The thing I remember most is how beautiful California is and that we need to keep it that way by being more sustainable, and that we can make a good and or bad impact on our world,” said Jadon Kankel, Lesher student.
“I learned about the environment and how to be a good world citizen,” said Cleo Anderson, Lesher student. “The enthusiasm made everything we did so very exciting, whether it was fennel pulling, or gardening, or hiking.”
For Kinard student Joshua Lee, the Catalina Island experience was transformative, giving him chance to go beyond his comfort zone by participating in activities he had never done before. “Experiencing new environmental activities such as removing invasive species and gardening opened my eyes to how beautiful nature is and how important it is to live sustainably back in Colorado,” said Joshua.
In addition to learning about sustainable environmental practices, students enhanced their leadership skills and personal growth through team-building activities that included activities like ocean kayaking, a high ropes course, and night snorkeling.
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