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Rachel Carson students tackle community 'action projects'

Students' projects range from creating habitat for frogs to helping AIDS orphans in India


by: TIMES PHOTO: RAY PITZ - Rachel Carson School of Environmental Science eighth-graders who helped create unique action projects and their teachers include, from left, Chaylene Grover, Sydney Collins, William Greer, Pad Quinn (science teacher), Katelyn Middleton (and her dog, Reign), Debbie Hereford (humanities teacher) and Jacob Encinas.Eighth-graders at Rachel Carson School of Environmental Science have taken their year-long community action projects seriously, volunteering for everything from creating a habitat for a species of threatened frogs to helping AIDS orphans in India.

Throughout the year, 56 students participated in the action projects — which many have wrapped into their required 20 hours per semester of volunteering — to create unique opportunities to benefit the community.

“The projects vary. We’re obviously an environmental school,” said Pad Quinn, a Rachel Carson science teacher. “It includes them identifying some type of need in the community and then identifying an action project they can conduct on their own.”

The most recent action projects occurred last weekend, one involving the recycling of electronic waste in the parking lot at Five Oaks Middle School; the other a soccer camp at Vose Elementary School.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VADLEZ - Selina Teng, 14, pushes a donated barbecue to be recycled during an event for Rachel Carson Environmental School at Five Oaks Middle School. Teng is a eighth-grader at Summa North, which is an advanced program at Meadow Park Middle School.

The recycling event included collecting half a semi-truck full of computers, barbecues, vacuum cleaners, televisions and lawnmowers with students receiving payment from a metal recycling firm for the scrap metal and extra money for extracting specific computer components.

“That money will probably go into our site visits,” said Quinn, noting that students make frequent field trips off school property to enhance their environmental education.

For one eighth-grader, the action project was a way to expand on mission trips she has taken with Westport Church in Hillsboro to work in HIV/AIDS orphanages in India.

Chaylene Grover became so enamored with the Indian children and their culture that she decided to incorporate helping them into her Rachel Carson project.

What has struck Grover on an emotional level is how orphans in that society are viewed by many who see them as social outcasts.

“They treat them like lepers,” said Grover. “They ignore them.”

So Grover, along with 11 other people from her church, worked to give their most recent trip to the Indian orphanage a science focus, specifically creating a unit about outer space.

During their stay, they not only introduced the Indian students to the solar system but also demonstrated the popular experiment of mixing Coke and Mentos candies.

“It was a blast,” Grover said, not trying to make a pun.

The American students also created dehydrated ice cream like that used by astronauts and gave students their first taste of Pop Rocks.

“They didn’t know what was going to happen,” Grover said of the students’ reactions to the candy, which ranged from screaming to giggling.

In the end, Grover’s trip attracted the attention of psychology students at a nearby Indian university, who traveled to interview Grover and her friends. So taken were the university students with the students at the orphanage that they now visit the orphans on a regular basis.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jim Clark, an employee at EG Metals Inc. out of Hillsboro, carries a monitor to be recycled during a recycling event for Rachel Carson Environmental School at Five Oaks Middle School.

Other action projects students tackled included:

Sydney Collins, who coordinated two May soccer camps at Vose Elementary School for third- and fourth-grade boys, and third- through fifth-grade girls.

“Basically I was really interested in soccer, and I wanted to do something I could really get into,” said Collins. “I also promoted why it’s important to be healthy and active.”

So enthusiastic were some of the boys participating in one of her camps that they returned the next weekend, hoping there would be another camp. Although there wasn’t, they organized their own games, said Collins.

Quinn said he was particularly impressed just seeing the faces of the young people playing soccer who were obviously “having a blast.”

William Greer, who took on the topic of pollination conservation, learning about the varied reasons bees are dying off in droves.

“I wanted to learn more about it,” said Greer.

He discussed the project with experts on beekeeping and colony collapse disorder, learning that since 2006, 40 million bee hives have disappeared, and that 30 percent of bees worldwide have died off.

His project involved creating two bee boxes — one containing mason bees, the other bumble bees — as part of a SOLV project, the organization dedicated to keeping Oregon clean and green. Greer then tracked the bees. In addition, he wrote articles on pollinator awareness for the Willow Creek newsletter as well as presented his findings at the annual SOLV Summit.

Katelyn Middleton worked with a dog from Medical Canine Heroes, which supplies diabetes alert animals.

“Diabetes alert dogs alert when a diabetic is high or low in blood sugars,” Middleton pointed out.

Middleton is in charge of helping train Reign, an English Labrador retriever, one of seven dogs born in the same litter.

“All but three went on to be diabetes alert dogs,” she said.

Middleton said she’s been impressed with Reign’s ability to sense a change in a diabetic’s blood sugar, something that’s likely tied to scent.

Jacob Encinas, who volunteered at Play.Fit.Fun, a local program designed to help local families become and stay healthy and fit.

Encinas said the program, which offers programs at Bethany, Hiteon and Sexton Mountain elementary schools, is owned by Beaverton resident Spencer Rubin.

“(Rubin) thinks that the issue of childhood obesity and inactivity is really important,” said Encinas.

Encinas volunteered as a coach for the program, specifically for the after-school program offered at Hiteon Elementary School.

“It’s open to all kids at the school, kindergarten through the fifth grades,” said Encinas. “I have lots of fun.”

All the Rachel Carson eighth-graders will be honored Thursday at Five Oaks during an eighth-grade recognition night, where they will present their projects from 6 to 7 p.m.by: COURTESY PHOTO: BRETT COLLINS - Sydney Collins, center, coaches students at a soccer camp she coordinated in May at Vose Elementary School.



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