“What’s New at New Roots Charter School?”

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Tompkins Weekly- January 17, 2011 By New Roots Charter School staff

New Roots Charter School is a tuition-free regional public high school in the heart of downtown Ithaca with a commitment to developing students as leaders in community development, social justice and sustainability.  As we approach the middle of our second school year, over 130 students in grades 9-11, hailing from 18 regional school districts, are enjoying the transformation of our learning spaces in the historic Clinton House in downtown Ithaca.

New Roots Charter School students Nicole Wetterer and Chelsea Ennis conduct an assessment of school trash in Technology and Environment class.

It is gratifying to support the long-term sustainability of a local treasure by “repurposing” it in ways that preserve and enhance its historic character and serve the community and its young people.

Our programs are expanding this year, too. We’ve established a paperless and interactive Digital Portfolio System, which allows our students to organize and showcase the wonderful work that they are doing. Through our Service-Learning and Internship programs our students read to younger children, teach technology skills to elders, work in community gardens and farms, remove invasive plant species from local protected areas, help prepare meals in a soup kitchen, learn from skilled mentors in a range of local businesses, and share their musical talents at events such as the annual MLK Jr. Luncheon at the Southside Community Center.

We are fortunate to be in a region where there are a wealth of opportunities for our students to tap into the larger sustainability and social justice movements. This fall many of our students engaged in the Bioneers “We Make Our Future” conference hosted by Sustainable Tompkins where they attended a session on climate change hosted by the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative and facilitated by New Roots Charter School Trustee Peter Bardaglio, followed by the “Climate Change Game” led by Medard Gabel of Big Picture/ Small World. Other recent experiences our students were inspired by include “Generation Waking UP” hosted by Cornell student leaders and departments including the Sustainability Hub, Cornell Outdoor Education, and the Dept. of Energy & Sustainability, attending the Reimagining New York State’s Energy Future Clean Energy Summit at Ithaca College, meeting Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo who spoke about “Green Jobs: Challenges & Opportunities”, distributing energy-saving light bulbs and educational materials to 5,000 homes across Tompkins County as part of the “Lighten Up Tompkins Initiative” and joining in the historic launch of the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Walkway.

Next week, our Urban Gardening and Farm to School Clubs will participate in the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA-NY) Winter Conference in Albany, NY. One of the highlights will be a workshop by young people entitled “Urban Aquaponics: Fish and Vegetable Production on an Urban Youth Farm.” The Club is also exploring creative ways to establish a downtown school “lab garden” that will help to provide organic produce for our Farms-to-School Healthy Meals program.

New Roots students are beginning to take leadership in developing their own community outreach programs around themes of sustainability.  In February, our 11th grade students (who will become our first graduating class next year) will launch their Vermicompost Outreach Project, during which they will distribute 8-10 worm composting systems to local elementary schools and teach younger students about how to use and maintain them. These students were challenged by their Technology and Environment teacher to build the most low-cost, efficient and effective systems possible.

Recent recognition for our sustainability efforts: New Roots is featured in Liz Walker’s recent book, “Choosing a Sustainable Future: Ideas and Inspirations from Ithaca, New York,” in the chapter “Educating for a Sustainable Future.” We recently received certification from the Tompkins County Worker’s Rights Center as A Living Wage Employer. We are proud to be one of 220 organizations recognized by Sustainable Tompkins at their “Signs of Sustainability” annual event, and to be part of a community that is providing a beacon of hope for so many others in these challenging times.

New Roots Charter School students Alex Wikoff and Maria Praschma study local forest ecosystems in Earth Systems Science class.

Upcoming events. For more information, call 882-9220 or visit newrootsschool.org:

• Spaghetti Dinner and Student Art Show 1/19, 5:30-7:30 pm, Women’s Community Building, 100 W Seneca St. Benefits our Farms-to-School Healthy Meals Program.

• Student Shadowing + Parent Observation Days: Students interested in visiting New Roots are welcome to sign up to shadow a current student each Wednesday, and parents/caregivers on Thursday mornings.

• Parent/Teen Workshop Series: Financial Literacy – What Teens and their Families Need to Know. 1/26, 5:30-7:00 pm at NRCS, 116 N Cayuga Street, Ithaca.

• For 8th graders and Families: New Roots High School Transition and Information meeting, 2/2, 5:30 – 7:00 pm at NRCS, 116 N Cayuga Street, Ithaca. Refreshments prepared by our Culinary Arts students will be provided.

• NRCS Winter Showcase 2/16/11, 5 – 7 pm, includes student debates on fossil fuels, nuclear energy and alternative energies.

New Roots Park Stewards Service-Learning group members Students Sierra Hardy, Jesse Young, Bennet Purdy, Liam Tilling and Janice Harmon maintain trails and removing invasive plant species from the Six Mile Creek Wildflower Preserve last fall.

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