The amazing experience I have been given!

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Author: Reshana is a student at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, NY.

 Hello my name is Reshana. I am 12 years old and I attend Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School (MELS). This school, empowers students by helping them understand the impact of their daily actions MELS-logoas well as the actions of others. By using New York City as their extended classroom, students learn that sustainability means meeting our current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Through their authentic, project-based learning expeditions in all disciplines, as well as their experiences in science and technology, students become critical thinkers who gather information, carefully weigh their options, and make informed, thoughtful choices that effect change. Students, once empowered, will take action to maintain and create sustainable systems within their neighborhood, community, city, state, country, and world. Along with regular classes my school also has expeditions and case studies, which provide students with in-depth, investigative units of study across the curriculum that engage students in real-world learning experiences. We also have fieldwork and experts which allow student to work, serve, and learn outside of the classroom. My school is open to different things.

As I was saying before about my school having expeditions, our latest one is “The Price of Progress”. We have to give up something that pollutes the earth. For example fast food, computer, light etc. As we do this we must blog about it.

At the beginning of the expedition we watch a film called “No Impact Man”. This film was about a man who decides to give up electricity, restaurants, transportation, etc. for a year to help the environment and to show us that some of the things we use every day isn’t necessary. My ELA project is similar to “No Impact Man”. In order to do this project, first we created a list of 10 things that would be hard to give up from the hardest to the easiest. Once you have done, I recommend you pick something in the middle. After that you can start committing to your sacrifice for a month but if you are really committed to it you can do it for a year. I would advise you to keep a journal. Write everyday of how you are feeling about your commitment. I did this for my commitment. I had given up TV; I know people would say I am crazy for giving up TV, but I am not. When I gave up TV it was hard for a couple of days but then I got used to it. On some days I am tempted because those are the days my shows are showing, but I didn’t give in to my temptation, because I reminded myself why I was doing this and it worked. Since my class did the project in May and that was when all my shows were ending I was going crazy. I would try this another month in the summer because I am going to be outside mainly so I don’t have to worry about TV.

I would think no TV is still worth it. According to eva.gov/state in 2013 New York had the fourth highest average electricity prices in the United States. If you think about it, if my carbon footprint is only 25% (as a child) imagine what an adult might be and a family. Then each building in New York. Also, in 2011, New York was the eighth largest energy consumer among the 50 states. I could imagine that LA was number one, but we are so close to becoming number one with new technology coming out. We need to cut back on the products we are buying and making. According to my science class most of the products we use are made out of fossil fuel. In order to get this fossil fuel we pollute and cause destructions in so many ways. There is a lot that goes into making products we use. And when these products are discarded and thrown out we are still polluting.

With my school we are provided with many experiences that educate us in many ways. In ELA I learned that everything we use somehow impact the environment and how I can help to preserve the environment and its beauty by eliminating the things that cause the environment harm. Even though I gave up TV that only helped the environment a little. I feel like I could have helped the environment more by asking my family to do the challenge with me. In order to make a real difference we need to do this together. Our future generations deserves a better world. Don’t you think we need to save the environment and make a better future?

No Meat May!

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Author: Isabella, Student at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, NY

 In ELA class, we have been learning about how our actions impact the earth negatively. The commitments that we are doing connects to the school’s mission, because our mission is to help make the world MELS-logomore sustainable. My commitment is to give up all types of meat for the whole month of May. I chose this because giving up meat is very difficult for me. This is because I usually ate meat everyday for lunch and dinner. In MELS we have expeditions and case studies, our expedition is called Price Of Progress and our case study in ELA is called My Story Of Stuff. We learned how our actions can make a difference in the world. Eating meat has not only an impact on my carbon footprint, but also on the earth. All of our classes are connected to each other. We are learning about sustainability in all classes. Now, let’s get down to my story…

The first week of my commitment was extremely hard. I was very tempted to sneak a piece of meat into my sandwich or onto my plate at dinner. As days went by I wasn’t getting those temptations, but the savory taste of meat always stayed in my head. Since I couldn’t eat meat I tried a lot of foods with tofu or soy in it. For example, one thing I tried was tofu bacon. Since I will always remember the taste of real bacon, the tofu bacon didn’t taste very good.

Another thing I tasted was a soy sausage. I didn’t like it, but I would eat it again if I had to. My family loves meat and we have a lot of BBQs. So, when we go to the barbeques everyone always says, “Isabella do you want a hot dog?” It always kills me to say no, and then I have to explain my reason. The only part I like about that is explaining. This is because no one thinks that what they eat actually affects the earth and their carbon footprint. It’s really important because my family and I now know that our actions can negatively impact the earth. For example, www.Emissionschart.com says “ Chicken releases 6.9 kilograms of emission, beef releases 27 kilograms, pork releases 12.1 kilograms, and lamb releases 39.2 kilograms of emissions.” I found this to be a problem because everyone in my family eats these types of meats. Another puzzling fact I read on Meat Consumption, “ To make a quarter-pound hamburger it takes 1,036 kilograms of fossil fuel energy.” This connects to what I’m learning in my Science class. In Science we are learning about fossil fuels and how they affect the earth negatively and positively. In this case it’s showing a negative effect.

Another connection is to Social Studies. How would it make you feel knowing that by you eating the hamburger you’re slowly killing the earth? When I learned this I never wanted to touch a hamburger again. It’s sad to think that something so delicious is bad for the earth. Even though I had a wonderful time with this commitment, it was also hard for my family. I say this because they always had to cook something extra so that I would have something to eat. Besides that, my family was very supportive of me throughout my journey.

The experience that this commitment has given me is incredible. I’ve learned so much from it, the big picture that I learned is that one action has a bigger effect than anyone can imagine. In the end, when I reflect on this commitment I really think that I have become more flexible regarding what I eat. This commitment was definitely worth it, and now I know that not only do my actions reflect on other people, but also on the earth. Since I had to explain to everyone about my commitment, I think that I can make a big impact, because if someone in my family might also do this, and if they talk to other people about it, it would slowly spread the message. I have learned a lot throughout this expedition and I hope that you have learned something too.

Fair Trade

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Author: Megan, student at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, NY

 Sustainability has been a common topic in all of my school classes. For example, a sacrifice to cut out one non sustainable activity/thing from our lives in ELA, fossil fuels and their impacts in science, sustainable packaging in math, and how sustainable the current clothing system is in social studies. Sara Ziff (a model who founded an organization called Model Alliance who is also working on a film called Tangled Threads) came into my social studies class to speak about her visit to Bangladesh and her discoveries about the current clothing industry. A summary of her presentation is that the fashion industry as a whole is built on the backs of young girls who are mistreated, over worked, underpaid and work in unsafe conditions. Her presentation inspired me to find a better, more sustainable way to make products. In social studies we learned that there are three types of sustainability: social, environmental, and economical. I did research to see if fair trade items are more sustainable in all three ways than a regular, non-fair trade items.

Socially, fair trade items are significantly more sustainable than regular items. For example, I found out from www.stylewithheart.com/category/fairtrade/  that workers get a fair amount of money for the work they do. Not only do they get a salary, they also receive a premium that goes towards things in their community like giving them access to clean water or building a school. Plus, according to http://fairtradeusa.org/blog/win-win-win-consumers-farmers-and-environment the quality of life can also be improved by fair trade. “Fair trade is an organized social movement that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. It advocates the payment of a higher price to exporters as well as higher social standards.” That evidence is from http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Trade, On the other hand, regular non fair trade items don’t pay workers fair wages and they don’t treat workers fairly.

Environmentally, fair trade is sustainable. According to http://fairtradeusa.org/blog/win-win-win-consumers-farmers-and-environment fair trade items reduce water usage and help to reduce pollution. That means it is better than regular items because it uses less water and reduces pollution. That makes the environment a better place. Fair trade is a movement that has higher environmental standards than regular items. That evidence is from http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Trade. With higher environmental standards fair trade is more environmentally sustainable. According to http://www.triplepundit.com/2012/04/protecting-people-protecting-planet  fair trade helps farmers to be better stewards of the land. Without fair trade some farmers struggle with money so they use cheap agricultural practices that aren’t good for the environment. I learned in science and math class that burning coal to make electricity pollutes CO2. CO2 gets put into the air and comes down to pollute the water 7 years later. With fair trade polluting less it stops the cycle of pollution in the air and then to the water. That means they don’t only keep water clean by not putting chemicals in the water, but also by not putting pollution in the air. Without fair trade the environment is being compromised. Fair trade is environmentally sustainable.

Economically, fair trade is sustainable. According to http://www.equalexchange.coop/about/fair-trade/faqs/does-fair-trade-coffee-cost-more-consumer, fair trade items/ products don’t have to cost more than regular items. Compared to organic or specialty grade coffee it normally costs the same or less. Even if it did cost more people are willing to pay the extra dollar or even as much as 40% more! I know this because when Sara Ziff came in to speak to my class she said that she did an experiment. There were two boxes of the exact same socks except one box was labeled “Fair trade.” The fair trade box was marked up 40% more but most people still bought the fair trade socks. Plus, in social studies class I learned about subsidies. According to http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/subsidy.asp a subsidy is “a benefit given by the government to groups or individuals usually in the form of a cash payment or tax reduction.” That means that when fair trade farmers get subsidies, it isn’t coming out of the consumers pocket, it is coming out of the governments.

In conclusion, fair trade is a way to meet the needs of our generation without out sacrificing the needs of future generations. If everyone did one small thing differently/more sustainably then the world would be a better place where future generations’ needs are still being met. This is essentially what we are doing in ELA. We have all given up one unsustainable thing for a month. Instead of giving up things that are very hard to give up like television, restaurants, meat, and electricity we could give up something simple that will still have a huge impact. The thing that we could give up are non-fair trade items. People, companies, and factories should realize that fair trade is the key to a more sustainable society. Over all, fair trade is a more sustainable alternative to regular items socially, environmentally, and economically.

Author’s statement:

MELS-logoThis research paper clearly meets the learning targets: I can evaluate the impact of my choices on the world and I can synthesize my learning in other classes to connect to real world experiences.

I met the first learning target by showing how the fair trade system currently affects people, consumers, companies and most importantly the environment. Plus, I showed that the choices you make now can affect people in the future. For example I wrote “Without fair trade the environment is being compromised.” I wrote that because if we choose to buy non-fair trade items the pollution and chemicals from those regular items make could hurt the environment. One small choice has a huge impact and I showed that by writing about how choosing fair trade items you can impact the environment for the better.

I met the second learning target by supporting the idea of fair trade with evidence from other classes. For example I wrote about Sara Ziff from social studies to show my inspiration that made me want to write this paper. I also wrote about her to show how non-fair trade factories treat women/people. I backed up how pollution can affect all places in the environment with evidence about fossil fuels from science and math. Also I spoke about a sacrifice in ELA to show that giving up non-fair trade items is simple but still has a big impact.

That shows us that everything we do connects to one another and everything we choose to do or not to do has an impact whether it be big, small, negative, or positive.