Better World Day: Grass Valley Charter School students ‘get smart, do good’ |

Better World Day: Grass Valley Charter School students ‘get smart, do good’

Emma Samuels Ezzell
Special to The Union

Grass Valley Charter School celebrated Better World Day in early May, with the other EL Education schools in their network nationwide.

EL Education (formerly known as Expeditionary Learning) is a network of schools committed to service learning and character education. Grass Valley Charter showcases service learning projects on Better World Day, and throughout the year. Here are a sampling of teaching kids to “get smart, do good,” as EL Education likes to say:

Seventh Grade: Tobacco Use Prevention and Education

When you think of seventh graders, sometimes you think of kids pushing limits and making unwise choices, right? Wrong. At GVCS, many seventh graders are running TUPE, Tobacco Use Prevention Education.

Students have chosen to educate kids about tobacco use and prevention, including vaping, e-cigarettes, marijuana, and other harmful drugs. These students are in charge of Kick Butts Day, an event involving a scavenger hunt, relay race, tar jar, a classroom lesson about smoking, and a lung display.

“I have an aunt who smokes,” said seventh grader Liliana Fouyer. “All her life she thought it was disgusting, and she never wanted to smoke. Then she tried one and got addicted. I want to help her stop.”

Seventh grader Joomkoppa Enos furthered this sentiment, “I want to be a part of TUPE because I know a lot of people and a lot of family who smoke, and I want them to stop because I know it hurts them.”

Sixth Grade: Wolf Creek

Sixth graders in Meg Learned’s class have been doing water quality testing, cutting back blackberries and picking up trash near Wolf Creek and Little Wolf Creek all year.

This program is possible through support and partnership of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance.

“I love helping our community and keeping it clean,” said sixth grader Amanda Elmer.

They’ve collected water quality data on turbidity, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and total dissolved solids and have discovered fascinating facts about the water quality of Wolf Creek over the course of the year. They determined that the water quality in the creek was not healthy in October, November and December, due to the rain and urban runoff which increased the concentration of total dissolved solids in the water. All other water quality metrics reveal a very healthy creek.

Once they arrive at the water treatment plant, students are split into groups to collect trash, cut back blackberries, and check water quality.

“It’s nice to think that after cleaning up all of that trash, we know that the creek is healthy and that animals won’t die,” Addi Haley said.

Sixth Grade: Brunswick Village Care Home

Students in Tracey Hockinson’s class are set up with an older buddy. The first time they visited the care home, they interviewed their older buddies about their lives. Back in the classroom, they began crafting biographies, including their lives and how they affect the sixth graders’ lives, and the character traits they exemplify. Now, they’re painting portraits of their buddies, with the help of artist Valerie Stuart.

“They’re always happy to see us,” Liam Crossen said of the visits, filled with games, crafts and activities.

The buddies’ impact goes beyond the classroom, and onto the playground.

“It’s fun for me. I like to see their reaction when they come. They always say, ‘My favorite part of the week is when you guys come.’ It makes my day,” said Matthew Moseley.

Fourth Grade: Chalk Art of wolf creek

The sun beat down on the fourth graders as they kneeled in the parking lot, armed with chalk and a vision. Assistant Principal Alex Ezzell and teachers Cynthia Grapel and Lauren Romney led the students to recreate Wolf Creek with craftsmanship and artistry, drawing the habitat and native flora and fauna. The creek, which started off as white chalk quadrangles, was suddenly very real, and quite striking.

So why draw a creek out of chalk in a parking lot? These fourth graders have been studying Wolf Creek in their semester-long unit of study entitled, “Bills and Gills.” They have been learning about the plight of the salmon in the Yuba, and our local watershed. In an effort to build awareness and take care of the creek, these fourth graders drew Wolf Creek, which runs under the Gold Miner’s Inn parking lot, as if it were restored to its natural state. It is a stunning vision to behold.

Third Grade: Native Plants & Reading Mountain

The third graders in Lori Davis and Karen Nelson’s classes have been busy researching native plants, and working in the garden with longtime teacher and Klingenstein award winner Mary Byles-Daly. In the Mary Byles-Daly Native Garden on campus, students learned about the native plants, and how they help the Earth. Then, they grabbed a gardening tool (nicknamed “the Crosbie weeder” after garden teacher Crosbie and his invention), and got to work weeding.

Each day, a different group of third graders is responsible for leading a reading incentive initiative, involving a large poster entitled “Reading Mountain” with various “camps” labeled on the way to the top. Students record their reading on reading mountain logs, and earn dog tags for a particular number of minutes read. These dog tags, with different colors showing which achievement students have reached, are beloved treasures by students K-3.

“I think it’s excellent that we’re rewarding kids for reading and doing good things,” third grader Luca Cowles said.

Grass Valley Charter School students contribute to making the world a better place throughout their education and the school year, learning valuable lessons in and out of the classroom about perseverance, compassion, stewardship, and collaboration. These lessons don’t just last their time at school; they last a lifetime.

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