Sierra Institute for Community and Environment partners with Greenville High School to organize a Sustainability Institute*
Plumas Unified is very fortunate to have partnerships with a variety of different local community agencies and organizations that create rewarding and enriching experiences for our students to enhance their educational opportunities.The following article highlights Plumas Unified’s partnership with Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, a local nonprofit located in Indian Valley, who has been a beneficial school district partner for over ten years now. Last year Sierra Institute partnered with GJSHS and IVA to organize a Fire Institute on campus, which was the ‘pilot institute’ for this years multi- series Sustainability Institute for Greenville Junior-Senior High School. The first part of the Sustainability Institute took place January 30th – February 1st. The following article is a reflection written by current Sierra Institute intern, Kira Miller.
What do beef jerky, an old Ford dealership, and a perpetual motion machine all have in common? In some form or another, they are linked to sustainability – sustainability of a community through food preservation, a vibrant local economy, and the idea of cycling energy. But what does sustainability really mean? And what does it look like in the context of Indian Valley? These are questions that the students at Greenville Junior-Senior High School began to explore a couple of weeks ago in their local community.
Sustainability is a complex topic but can be thought of as the ability of a system or community to meet its needs without compromising the needs of future generations. With the goal of providing a thematic learning experience focused on a community-relevant and place-based topic, and with a special interest in relationships to local natural resources, staff at Greenville Junior-Senior High School and Sierra Institute partnered together to create the 2018 Sustainability Institute Series.
This series, which will continue through the remainder of the 2017-2018 school year, consists of three two-day events that involve speaker presentations, field trips, and hands-on activities exploring sustainability as it relates to Indian Valley. The goal is to encourage GJSHS students to examine the diverse components of sustainability by studying Indian Valley’s past and present, and thinking about potential ways to build rural community resilience in the future.
Part One of the Sustainability Institute Series kicked off on January 30th with a presentation from Sierra Institute’s Executive Director, Jonathan Kusel, who introduced the topic of sustainability and its three key pillars: environment, economy, and community.
The following two days focused on understanding these basics of sustainability and learning about Greenville’s history. On day one, students heard from Lorena Gorbet and Ben Cunningham about the important balance between people and the environment in the Maidu community.
Jim Hamblin and Travis Rubke led a tour through downtown Greenville, walking students through local history that included a local power company, a Chinese restaurant, and even a Ford Dealership in downtown Greenville! Kest Porter provided students with information about a slightly wider arc of the community, leading a bus tour exploring old mill sites and mining operations in the valley.
Day two brought learning into the hands of students as they built their own “perpetual motion” machines and thought about sustainability in terms of energy and maintaining a balanced system. A lesson on tracing personal spending allowed students to practice budgeting their purchases, while becoming mindful that where purchases are made has implications for their local economy.
The afternoon provided an array of activities highlighting the theme of sustainability in everyday life. Students heard from Dave Hamilton about the importance of sustainability in hunting, practiced yoga postures and meditation techniques from yogi Nancy Presser, and worked with Mr. Brown to seed plants in the GJSHS garden. These plants will feed students in the GJSHS cafeteria in the upcoming months. Students also studied food preservation by making and canning pepper jelly with Mrs. Dolphin, and explored the process of preserving meat with Riley’s Jerky owner, Kaley Bentz.
Students and volunteers alike walked away from these two days with surprising facts about local history and an expanded view of sustainability. “I learned about this town’s history and how its ever-changing nature has helped it sustain itself through the hardest of times,” reflected one GJSHS student. “I learned the effects that different industries coming and going had on Greenville, and how sustainability was involved in most aspects of life,” reflected another. While these first two days only began to tap into the complex topic, the rest of the series will dive into present-day Indian Valley and encourage students to generate ideas for the future. GJSHS and Sierra Institute look forward to this continued exploration and finding even more links to sustainability across curriculum.
The Sustainability Institute was supported through Plumas National Forest Fire Settlement dollars, which help support the development of natural resource-focused curriculum, as well as by Bread for the Journey and Indian Valley Thrift Shop, who provided funding for activity supplies and communal meals during the Institute. GJSHS and Sierra Institute would like to thank all the community members and volunteers who helped support this event.
Written by Kira Miller and Nina Martynn
*This article was published on February 14, 2018 in all Plumas County newspapers as part of the #EducationMatters section.