Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sprouts of Hope: Passing Down What We've Learned

From Sprouts To Brotes

By Eliza

My Bat Mitzvah is in March. For my community service project, my Sprouts of Hope sisters and I are putting the idea behind Roots & Shoots/New England’s Sprouts of Hope fund into action! The Sprouts Of Hope Fund offers a way for people to donate money to help start Roots & Shoots’ groups in low-income and poor schools and communities. As the Sprouts of Hope, we contribute each year from our fundraising activities. [If you want to donate, check out The Sprouts of Hope Fund section on the right side of our blog. We did a cool video to tell why we think it’s such a great way to help other kids, and we put it on YouTube. Click on the link to take a look and listen.]

With my bat mitzvah project, however, we are helping to start a group in a different way. At a bilingual school in Cambridge, MA called Amigos a group of second graders recently joined Roots & Shoots. They named themselves after us - "Brotes de Esperanza," which is Spanish for "Sprouts of Hope." One day each month, I and two other members of The Sprouts of Hope volunteer by doing fun projects with the Brotes. We plan and lead their lessons and projects with the help of a Roots & Shoots intern and a parent of one of the Brotes.

The first time we went to Amigos was on a Wednesday in late October. We helped the Brotes make collages about the environment and then made Halloween decorations and toys out of recycled materials. We talked a little bit about global warming and how to have a "Green Halloween," since they were going to dress up the next week as either a princess or a ninja.

Then we discussed Waste-Free lunches. We'd brought in the many posters, photos, lunch trays, water bottles, and utensils that we collected and saved from our Waste-Free lunch project at our school.

We also introduced them to what we call the 6 R's (rethink, renew, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot) and explained to them why waste-free lunches are good for the environment. We passed around water bottles, trays, containers, and utensils, some of which were reusable and some of which weren't.

They got really excited when we talked about reusable lunch boxes and they all jumped up and ran to get their lunch boxes. They were also very excited about sorting through the photographs we brought that showed different ways of packaging food. Using the photos as illustrations, we debated whether a six-pack of small soda cans was better or worse for the environment than drinking soda from one bigger bottle. The kids were very smart and knew a lot about waste-free lunches and the environment. One kid even had a solar panel on her roof at home!

The next month we went there, the kids celebrated autumn by making recycled bookmarks out of leaves. Also, in honor of Thanksgiving, they all wrote something that they were thankful for on a leaf and then they strung their leaves on a homemade paper tree. During that visit we talked with them about composting and discussed why it is good for the environment. (Since we do composting at our school and have visited the composting farm where our food waste is taken, we had a lot of stories to share with them.)

We let them touch some real compost with worms in it! They loved the worms especially. They colored in posters that we designed for an event we did in October, the City Sprouts festival, where we celebrated our school gardens. The posters said in big bubble letters "WE WANT COMPOST AT OUR SCHOOL!" They colored in the posters and planned to hang them up in the halls of their school so they could convince their principal, teachers and students to get composting going in their cafeteria.

We have done so many fun projects with the Brotes. One month, we taught them about bottled water. We introduced them to Think Outside The Bottle, the international anti-bottled water campaign. We also let them do a blind taste test between bottled and tap water.

A different month, we talked about homelessness. The Brotes all brought socks to their meeting to donate to our sock drive to benefit Boston Health Care for the Homeless (

Among other things, the Brotes have learned about endangered species and watersheds.

One month, when we focused on recycling, we even got to make recycled paper with them (out of old newspapers)! It was really fun!

So far, working with the Brotes has been fun and educational for the Sprouts. The Brotes are very smart. They know more about global warming and the environment than a lot of adults. I hope that our partnership with the Brotes will continue, even though my Bat Mitzvah will soon be over. It's been fun and amazing to share our Roots & Shoots experiences with these kids -- taking what we've learned and passing it down to them: from Sprouts to Brotes.

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