Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sprouts: Energy Lite at the Northeast Youth Summit

By Lilly

During the three-day weekend of Veterans Day, the Sprouts of Hope had the incredible opportunity to join in a day of activities and workshops with other groups at the Northeast Regional Roots & Shoots Youth Summit. In other years we’ve attended this magnificent event in Boston, but this time it was held in New York City, so we went to the city that never sleeps.

At the summit, the Sprouts of Hope presented a workshop about our book, "Energy Lite" and how it works in libraries for kids and families to borrow along with a Kill A Watt meter.

We began by introducing the members of our Roots & Shoots group — from left to right, Eliza, Lilly, Risa, Maya and Kaya.

Then we explained how we became interested in Kill-A-Watt meters and now they can measure the energy that our household appliances use. We told those who came to our workshop about our partnership with N-Star — when we tried out Smart Meters to measure energy use throughout our homes — and how they also gave us Kill-A-Watt meters to use.

Next, we explained how we put our book together — from coming up with ideas for what we’d write about to outlining it on index cards to writing its various sections. We shared the story of how we managed to get our book and Kill A Meters into public libraries in Cambridge, Boston, Medford, MA and Central Falls, Rhode Island; this is which is an ongoing project of ours and we are going to raise by crowdfunding online so we can get our book and a meter into all of the 370 public libraries in Massachusetts.

We used Kill-A-Watt meters to show how much energy three different light bulbs use — incandescent (they use the most), CFLs (less than incandescent) and LEDs (that use a lot less than even CFLs). We also showed how much energy a hairdryer uses. The answer: a lot, especially when turned on high — so try to let your hair dry naturally.

In our presentations about “Energy Lite,” we share information about energy use — and how to conserve use of it, but we also want to pass along a message that can help kids to make their ideas turn into real projects that make a difference in other people's lives. So we pass along our motto of the 3P’s — Partners, Patience and Persistence. These are the three things we keep in mind as we work to make our projects successful.

We told those who came to our workshop about our partners — our local utility, NStar, P3, the company that makes Kill A Watt meters and donated 20 of their meters to the Cambridge Public Library when we gave the library our book, and Shonak Patal, who created a local website called Swellr and came to talk with us about crowdfunding our project. We are grateful to all of them for their support and encouragement.

Our experience in working with our local library spoke to the value of partnerships in making big projects happen and about the patience and persistence that will be required of us as we try to raise money in the spring to make “Energy Lite” and Kill A Watt Meters an item that families can borrow from their local libraries across our state.

We hope people left our workshop with a better idea of how to take action. Those who came to it were very enthusiastic in what we are doing and showed a lot of interest in our book. One teacher took a copy to put into the library at her school, and two New Yorkers expressed an interest in getting our book into New York public libraries. Overall, we thought the workshop went very well and it was a great experience.

Sprouts: Stories About Chimpanzees

By Kaya

Have you ever watched a commercial with an adorable chimpanzee grinning happily and using the company’s product surprisingly well? Little do you know that this chimp is not smiling but is actually wearing a look filled entirely of fright. What looks like a smile to us is really a grimace of terror for chimpanzees.

Our lead off speaker at the Northeast Regional Youth Summit was Bill Wallauer, who shared with us his experiences of shooting video of the chimpanzees in Gombe National Park in Tanzania. He went to Tanzania 15 years ago and for all of the years as worked closely with Dr. Jane Goodall to record the lives of the chimps. He shared a horrible, yet moving, story of Lulu, a chimpanzee who was taken from her natural habitat and forced to act in commercials.

While thousands of people watched the harmless—or so they thought—commercial, poor Lulu was getting beaten for every little mistake she made —forgetting to walk around at the right moment, messing up her cue to dance, there was a punishment for everything.

A few months later, Lulu was found dead in a trash can, her body bruised and broken from the harsh treatment of her “owners.”

Hearing about such cruel treatment of these remarkable animals made the Roots & Shoots kids in the audience react with a long silence. How else could you react when you truly understood the story behind the chimpanzee advertisements you can see online or on television? Who knew those baby chimps were terrified and grimacing as they were forced to apply a fake smile on their faces?

From this opening talk — and from the summit workshops — I took home some important knowledge. The main reasons for the decrease in the population of chimpanzees include global warming and the depletion of their natural habitat, along with bush meat trade. Watch this video about what humans are doing to harm the chimpanzees.

But chimpanzees are also endangered when people “innocently” claim and force chimps out of their natural habitats and whip them into becoming the pets or performers they want them to be.The fact that people could knowingly kill an innocent chimpanzee makes me furious. An estimated 6,000 chimpanzees are slaughtered each year, mainly due to the bushmeat trade. But they also die when people take these innocent chimps out of their natural habitat—only to kill them later when they get bored and tired of the responsibility of taking care of them.

Chimpanzees have not captured us to control and then kill us, so why are we displaying such disgusting treatment towards them?

Leadership: Teaching, Learning, Sharing

By Maya

In the second time slot of the summit, the New England Youth Leadership Council members—including Eliza and me—helped run a workshop on youth leadership. There was a great turnout with many more people than we expected.

To break the ice, we started out with a fun game of Ninja. After loosening up we gave a short overview of what we were going to do. To begin, we talked about the “leadership compass.” It displays four different styles of leadership, using the directions of north, south, east and west. I am west—analysis, and Eliza is east—vision.

Find out what kind of leader you are by looking at the 4 major leadership styles, below.

Each person chose the style that suited him or her best. It was fascinating to find out the amount of diversity in leadership styles in just one room. When we divided ourselves into groups — based on our style, we discussed the qualities and aspects of how we lead. This activity gave people a chance to analyze themselves as leaders and discover how they best interact with other leaders.

As a small challenge each group also had to write a haiku describing their direction. After this exercise, the youth leaders talked a bit about what it means to be one as well as some of the things we have all taken away from the experience.

Anyone would be able to see how dedicated we are to the job of being a youth leader and how we have formed unbreakable bonds with one another; we are truly able to understand and relate to one another.

The workshop went extremely well. Everyone worked hard, yet it felt very relaxed and comfortable. Since the workshop happened, some participants have contacted me about thinking of joining the council. Out of the whole day of activities, the youth leadership workshop was probably my favorite!

Here is a photo of the Youth Council Leaders who were at this regional summit. Serving on the Roots & Shoots Youth Council is a lot of fun and a great learning experience.

4 Major Leadership Styles

North: Action

  • Assertive, active, decisive
  • Likes to determine course of events and be in control of professional relationship
  • Enjoys challenges presented by difficult situations and people
  • Thinks in terms of “bottom line”
  • Quick to act or decide; expresses urgency for others to take action
  • Perseveres, not stopped by hearing “No,” probes and presses to get at hidden resistances
  • Likes variety, novelty, new projects
  • Comfortable being in front
  • Values action-oriented phrases, “Do it now!”, “I’ll do it”, “What’s the bottom line?”

South: Empathy

  • Understands how people need to receive information in order to act on it
  • Integrates others input in determining direction of what’s happening
  • Value-driven regarding aspects of professional life
  • Uses professional relationships to accomplish tasks, interaction is a primary way of getting things done
  • Supportive to colleagues and peers
  • Willingness to trust others’ statements at face value
  • Feeling-based, trusts own emotions and intuition, intuition regarded as “truth”
  • Receptive to other’s ideas, builds on ideas, team player, noncompetitive
  • Able to focus on the present
  • Values words like “right” and “fair”

East: Vision

  • Visionary who sees the big picture
  • Generative and creative thinker, able to think outside the box
  • Very idea-oriented; focuses on future thought
  • Makes decisions by standing in the future (insight/imagination)
  • Insight into mission and purpose
  • Looks for overarching themes, ideas
  • Adept at and enjoys problem solving
  • Likes to experiment, explore
  • Appreciates a lot of information
  • Values words like “option,” “possibility,” “imagine”

West: Analysis

  • Understands what information is needed to assist in decision making
  • Seen as practical, dependable and thorough in task situations
  • Provides planning and resources, is helpful to others in these ways and comes through for the team
  • Moves carefully and follows procedures and guidelines
  • Uses data analysis and logic to make decisions
  • Weighs all sides of an issue, balanced
  • Introspective, self-analytical, critical thinker
  • Skilled at finding fatal flaws in an idea or project
  • Maximizes existing resources - gets the most out of what has been done in the past
  • Values word like “objective” “analysis”

Sprouts: Making Music To Inspire Others

By Eliza

Before we reached the school where the Youth Summit was being held, we came upon the site of what was then Occupy Wall Street, so we wandered through it. The next week the police arrived and forced the protesters to leave.

During our Northeast Youth Summit, the Sprouts of Hope took part in the Making Music to Inspire Others Workshop.

Two of the Sprouts helped to run this workshop. We talked about different kinds of music and how artists make a difference by helping to change the world. We listened to Bob Marley and other inspiring music and made a mural of things that the music reminded us of.

Then, at the end of the workshop, we all had a jam session with instruments we’d brought. Two of the Sprouts even had their ukuleles with them!

Music at the summit also existed outside the doors of the Making Music workshop. The Sprouts all played and sang songs about peace at the apple cider social following the day’s summit events, and we tried to get others to sing with us. This was a fun way to keep up the positive Roots & Shoots vibes going. Another good thing that came out of having our instruments with us in New York was that while we were waiting for the bus, we started a sing along – and some random strangers joined in!!

And at the subway in Grand Central Station we were greeted by music that these people were playing.

These are great examples of how music can bring people together. Overall, music added so much to the summit. We learned about many cool musicians at the workshop and were also able to share our love of music with the world.

New York "Sprouts" Adventures

By Risa

On our first morning in New York, we went to the United Nations to see an exhibit, “Design With the Other 90 Percent: Cities.” Using photographs and objects, the exhibit shows how people who live in poor city neighborhoods are improving their lives in sustainable ways. A few things really stood out to me.

In MedellĂ­n, Colombia, the local government built a cable-car system in one of its poorest slum areas that runs from the top of the hill to the bottom. Residents now get to work faster and more safely. The trip could take 2 hours on a crowded bus; it now only takes them 7 minutes. Libraries and schools were built to improve how kids spend their time; this gives them the chance to create a better future for themselves. It is also a much safer neighborhood now with 26 homicides instead of 381 per 100,000 residents each year.

In Ecuador and Nicaragua, bicycle pumps and toy helicopters are made into medical tools. It is amazing to see how people save lives by making these tools out of common items and for little money.

In Rio do Janeiro, Brazil, a few guys decided to experiment with a mural painting project in what was then a dangerous community. Their goal was to engage young people who lived there to help them paint. The project expanded far beyond their original plan when they employed local people to create some huge paintings that covered many houses and an entire staircase. The painters received a diploma and now see their work every day in their neighborhood; many aspire to be professional painters, and some of them want to take their painting to other parts of their city or to nearby villages.

The group is planning a bigger project that would cover a whole neighborhood and affect hundreds more people. Being a part of this project keeps young people busy and gives them a reason to feel good about themselves.

It is sad to see the conditions these people live in, but it is also extremely inspiring to see solutions that improve their lives. Sometimes it is the simplest solutions that solve the most complicated problems.

The Highline

On Sunday morning we visited the Highline. You can see us at the start of our walk on the Highline in our Memphis caps — a gift from our friend, Linda Potter, who generously arranged for us to have wonderful seats at the Broadway show, Memphis, the night before. She’s been involved with the show since before it came to Broadway and knows some of the actors, so she made it possible for us to go backstage after the show.

Memphis was spectacular, and it was incredible to be able to meet some of its stars. Thank you, Linda!

The Highline was once an elevated railroad that paralleled the West Side Highway with tracks going directly into buildings that housed factories and meatpacking plants. During the last decade, designers with a different vision transformed these abandoned tracks into a pedestrian walkway where the tracks are visible in the soil of a flowering landscape. We were on this elevated walkway for many blocks, as we walked under buildings, over streets, and next to windows where people live and work.

The Highline walkway is well made and well designed. W ith benches along the way, it is a nice place to sit and watch others walk by. In a covered area, a man played a banjo, and a bit further on we came to wooden steps leading down to a glass wall. We sat against the glass and watched cars speed by below us.

Built in 1934, the idea of the Highline was to raise the tracks in order to lower the number of train-related injuries and deaths. The Highline trains stopped running in 1980, and 19 years later “friends of the Highline” dedicated themselves to the challenge of turning it into a public walkway. The contrast between the tracks, the plants and the architecture on either side of the walkway works well; there is always something interesting to look at, but the feeling is very calming, too. In bustling Manhattan, this place seems very natural and forces you to take your time.