November 22nd, 2005 - I arrived at New Start, an alternative school in southwest Seattle, beneath layers of fog on a cold November morning to meet students for the first time and lead them on a field trip. The outing to the South King County Treatment Plant in Renton would engage students in the issue of water pollution and the environment. Or so I thought.
I had not met the students at New Start before, and knew only one teacher. The science teacher and I shared the goal of helping students develop an interest in the environment by getting them out of the classroom. We decided first on the culmination of the project: students would plant trees around a polluted pond at nearby Lakewood Park in order to bring oxygen back into the water. To get the students to this point, I needed to figure out how to make water pollution engaging.
I planned a field trip to the South King County Treatment Plant and the Black River Forest. Half of the student group would tour the Treatment Plant, where they would learn about what happens to our sewage and the process of filtering water and creating fertilizer. The other half of the group would walk across the street to the Black River to learn about its disastrous environmental history, and then test the pH level of the polluted river. The groups would meet in the Waterworks Garden for lunch, and then switch in the afternoon. It would be a beautiful day and a fantastic field trip. The environment would no longer be something abstract and uninteresting, instead, it would be something real and require our attention! Students would be engaged in their learning in a way that rarely results from textbooks!From 2005-2006 Bethany Dearborn, Krista Colleague class of 2005, served as a Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) AmeriCorps Member in the Highline School District south of Seattle. Working with six schools as a Service Learning Coordinator, Bethany focused on creating an ethic of service in youth by designing projects linking school curriculum and community service.