Cutting edge with Ipswich Middle School

200 6th grade students at the Ipswich Middle school used solar technology, battery storage and hydroponics to build a nearly maintenance-free growing system that will be used by the community.  These students in Mrs. Christine Senechal and Mrs. Samantha Colby science class participated in a year-long program focused on creating Sustainable Communities. Ipswich Middle School partnered with Beverly based non-profit Change is Simple to develop the curriculum over the past two years. Students participated in workshops led by Change is Simple.  Some of the workshops included city planning, green chemistry, GMOs, renewable energy, water management, and global food systems, energy efficiency and more.  The workshops have students using real world tools and applications to solve today's issues and innovate tomorrow's solutions.  

The year-long program led to a project that integrated many parts of the students experience; building four hydroponic growing systems to place in the newly established Generation Growers Garden at Ipswich High School.  Students new knowledge on the food system, and water resources, along with building solar and wind turbines culminated to this project. With growing population, the limited water resources of the Ipswich River these hydroponic gardens offer an innovated solution. 

This hydroponic system uses 90% less water than traditional soil gardens and yields 30% larger plants. The Hydroponic systems will be monitored and results will be compared to plants growing in a raised bed soil garden that will grow the same plants. 

The program also incorporated field experts from Revision Solar of North Andover who joined in the collaboration with students, teachers and Change is Simple to install solar power and battery technology in order to power the hydroponic growing system.

Boston STEM Partnership meeting

Co-Directors Patrick & Lauren and Program Director Haven Hatch were magically whisked away on the Ferry to Thompson Island in Boston Harbor on a beautiful day late May day. They joined a group of Educators and partners that are collaborating to support Boston STEM initiatives. 

The Keynote for the day was presented by Boston Public Schools superintendent Dr. Tommy Chang. He spoke on how partners and experiential education can help close opportunity gaps in some of the city's most underserved neighborhoods. "We've done a study on many factors that contribute to this opportunity gap. We are calling the results of this study the opportunity index,"  said Chang. 

Chang went on to describe how they are pursuing solutions to support teachers and students and use new ways and partners to close achievement gaps. With representatives from over 40 organizations collaboration and stakeholder involvement will have a dramatic effect on the youth of Boston and the future of education for the district and region.  The Change is Simple team was thrilled to be apart of that conversation.

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A Magical Moment :: Elena Messina

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With only a little over a month left of my co-op at Change is Simple I decided to reflect on my time here. I started my co-op over the summer, so I got to see a different side of the organization. Change is Simple’s expertise is in the classroom, but the programs over the summer were a blast and a great way to get to know how fun my co-op would be. The summer programs are less structured than the classroom and both the kids and the staff have a blast.  

Some days were hard to even call “work”. I was able to help guide a few of the Summer Adventures that Change is Simple hosts once a week. On one adventure, we went snorkeling at Independance Beach, so I got to spend my morning at the beach, swimming with kids and exploring all the different nooks and crannies around the jetty. The kids were having a great time seeing how many sand crabs they could capture before they started escaping. Another day we went hiking around Norwood Pond. We got to see the beautiful pond and we even saw a swan in the lake. We also hiked to see the Beverly water tower, and talked about how the water is distributed and why it is located on a hill.  I got to see first hand how the Summer Adventures get kids excited about being outside and enjoying nature, and it got me even more excited to be outside with them.

The highlight of my summer at Change is Simple was definitely Camp Paradise, a weeklong adventure.  I got to do so many fun activities with the kids, and I really got to connect with them over the course of the week compared to just an hour or two we normally get with students. During the week we helped the kids cook and easy snacks, made purposeful sustainable crafts like reusable snack-taxis , and spent majority of our time outdoors exploring and playing games. My favorite activity was easily the fort building. The kids really got into it and every day started with them asking if they could go work on their forts. Fort building isn’t only fun, but it got them moving around, encouraged teamwork, enhanced creativity and also facilitated problem solving!  Throughout the week at Camp Paradise I got to see how excited the kids were to be there and especially to be with Change is Simple.

Compared to summer fun with CiS, my first time teaching in the school was a truly enlightening experience. I was lucky enough to see 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in action on that first day. I started off in 5th grade helping to teach Community Water Systems and Conservation. Seeing the kids’ faces light up as I walked into a classroom wearing my Change is Simple shirt showed me how happy the students are to have a Change is Simple workshop. After switching over to third grade and observing them in Human Impact on Animals lesson, I was amazed at the difference in the way students learn and interact even only being two years apart.

After returning from a quick break to eat lunch and refuel before teaching more, we were stopped outside the door as the students lined up coming back in from recess. When the kids saw us standing outside they started to get excited and enthusiastic and before we knew it, over 40 kids were chanting Change is Simple all in unison. I felt like a celebrity. The kids were so excited to just see us they could not contain themselves. It was a magical moment to say the least. This moment and even just they way students reacted when we walked into their classroom showed me how much these students really do love Change is Simple and want us in their schools.

Over the past five months I have seen how Change is Simple gets kids excited about learning in general, but also about learning topics they wouldn’t normally learn about. All of my teaching days have been exciting, fun, and no two days the same, but I will never forget that first day when we were cheered into the building.