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Learning about the Real Stuff

In a room filled with scientists, researchers and government officials, two seniors from City College High School, Nil Walker and Cameron Potts are answering questions about their summer research project. They explain how they collected and counted mosquito larvae, tested the water quality and velocity in local steams and counted pollinators. Potts tells how they used timothy grass immersed in water to attract mosquitoes and how they detected leaking sewage in the Gwynns Falls. “First it smelled like outdoors, then it smelled like eggs, then it smelled like the real stuff, he says, wrinkling up his face at the thought of the “ real stuff” in the stream.

IMG_0026 by Shan Gordon.
Nil Walker, a senior at City College High School in Baltimore, talks about his environmental research and his college plans at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study annual meeting.
IMG_0015 by Shan Gordon.
Cameron Potts, a senior at City College High School in Baltimore discusses his summer research with the Young Environmental Scientist program, YES-BES.

Potts lights up as he talks about this research. “If I had found out about this earlier, I would have joined as a freshman.” “I want to learn this stuff to be able to help my community,” Potts said.
Professors and researchers are leaning in, asking where they want to go to college, handing out their cards.

Bob Shedlock, a retired researcher from USGS shook hands with the students. We don’t feel like there are enough people working in our field. We want to encourage them, he said.
While Baltimore simmered through a summer marked with conflict, these students spent five weeks doing real science to help understand and improve our environment and our community.
The program, YES BES, is a youth outreach program run by the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. This summer it paid 20 students to do environmental studies in the Baltimore area.
The program is searching for funding for the upcoming summer. If you would like to support this program or know someone or some organization who would, please contact Bess Caplin at 410-455-1863 caplanb@caryinstitute.org

IMG_0008 by Shan Gordon.
Alan Berkowitz photographs Nil Walker and Cameron Potts, seniors at City College High School in Baltimore, with their poster on the ecological research they did this summer in the Young Environmental Scientist program sponsored by the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. Berkowitz is BES Education Team Leader with the Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

The Annual meeting of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study continues today at the Cylburn Arboretum Vollmer Center at 4915 Greenspring Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21209 from 9am –noon.
A reception featuring art and design connected to ecological research in the Baltimore area is 5:30-8pm at 16 W North Avenue, Baltimore, 21201

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Thinking Big: How Code in the Schools is helping kids learn to problem solve, collaborate and program computers.

posted in: Blog, Healthy Schools, Home, Multimedia | 0

aIMG_0085 - Copy by Shan Gordon.
Think kids don’t like to learn? You must not have come to the Game Jam at Code in the Schools last Saturday. Students 12 years and up worked in small teams from 8 am to 8 pm to learn programming and to solve problems as they created their own video games. Volunteers with gaming and programming backgrounds mentored each group as they developed their ideas into working video games.

Could this model of mentored learning help students learn in other fields like architecture, health, communications, construction, or government services?

Baltimore needs to think out of the school box learning model with more mentoring and learning opportunities with business, non-profit and government partners. Learning with mentors helps students understand how their learning can be applied in solving real problems and it can help connect them to their futures. What problem solving exercises could your business or agency host for students?
aIMG_0062 by Shan Gordon.
Sixth grade students demonstrate the video game they developed to the judges at Game Jam.

aIMG_9879 by Shan Gordon. Students work together to learn the programming necessary to make their games work.
They were able to reference other games and use online resources to create their own working game.

IMG_9993 by Shan Gordon. So what strategy would you use to escape hungry dinosaurs on an island?
Students had to come up with story plots, characters, game rules and the programming to make it all work as they created their games.
This is a blending of learning across subjects that few classroom experiences match.

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Ruth Ann Norton On Reducing Lead Poisoning: “The political will isn’t theirs, it’s OURS!”

Ruth Ann Norton speaks out for a major investment to educate students and to train and hire community members to remove lead paint hazards and renovate
neighborhoods. Norton was speaking at the Maryland Environmental Health Network about environmental health issues in Freddie Gray’s neighborhood.

The Other Bombardment of Baltimore

IMG_0428 by Shan Gordon.
Just beyond the spot where Francis Scott Key wrote of the bombardment of Ft. McHenry in 1814 (stars and stripes marker on the bottom right) another bombardment continues, this one 24 hours a day, every day with white plumes of pollution instead of the rockets red glare. Pollution from coal fired power plants in Maryland has killed more people than the Battle of Baltimore. A lot more.

A recent study from MIT estimates that pollution from coal fired power plants kill 1885 people a year in Maryland. In Baltimore, the study estimates that we dig 475 early graves each year for those who succumb to pollution from coal plants. Oh, say, the number of Americans killed during the Battle of Baltimore? 28. So where is our song for the 475 who lose their fight against coal plant pollution every year? In a city where we are grieving 182 murders, these 475 silent deaths go unseen, with no sirens, no blue lights, no detectives searching for the culprits. The cause of death or hospitalization will be listed as pulmonary failure, stroke, asthma, heart attack. The smoke plumes waving in the distance are unquestioned. The costs of care and suffering falls upon those who are unable to withstand the pollution, not to those who created it.

Remember how states took cigarette companies to court to reclaim medical costs due to cancer? If King Tobacco was required to pay for the damage it wreaks, why are aging, highly polluting coal burning plants still polluting for free? Why are we choosing to give a competitive advantage to plants which don’t purchase and use pollution controls over ones that do? Or over renewable energy sources which don’t pollute? What kind of capitalism is that?

Sure we need to meet our energy needs, but subsidizing inefficient and highly polluting power plants with our health and environment is unethical and unproductive. Here are some better ideas:

The Maryland Public Service Commission recently set a goal of saving 1.2 million megawatt hours of electricity per year. According to Mike Tidwell at Chesapeake Climate Action Network, meeting these goals would eliminated the need for a 460 megawatt coal fired power plant every two years.
Helping businesses and homeowners conserve energy enables us to reduce pollution while reducing energy bills for businesses and consumers.
Increasing renewable sources of energy like solar, wind and geothermal further reduce pollution while meeting our energy goals. Maryland needs to move quickly to escape it’s dependency on highly polluting coal fired power plants so we can improve the health of our citizens, our environment and our economy.