“It was a winter day and our AmeriCorps members and after school students were making the most of our indoor heating system at Ocean Beach to learn about marine science. This week’s topic was about climate change, specifically how levees can be important factors in combating sea level rise. The goal for the students’ activity was to make a levee with materials such as cardboard, popsicle sticks, cotton balls, and newspaper. Then, put the levee to the test in a plastic tub and add water to see how the levee withstands the rise in water level.
I saw how multiple kids went right into their engineering mindset, planning how to build their levee most effectively and practically. With pairs and groups of three, they started to gather their materials and talk quickly about the game plan. While the AmeriCorps members dove in with excitement to help groups, I noticed Josh standing off to the side of his group. Josh is one our frequent NESS adventurers on the autism spectrum and always comes to NESS with the largest smile. He loves sonar sailing, kayaking, and anything interactive. But during this levee activity, Josh expressed to me that he was nervous to mess up the work of his teammates and didn’t know the best way to help. While his team members assured him that they would love his help with the activity, Josh was still wary.
The AmeriCorps program is unique because with multiple members at Ocean Beach for after school program, we are able to give special attention to individuals as well as small groups of students. So, I took Josh aside and asked how I could best help him learn, offering to explore the concept of levees with him using clay. The excitement I saw in Josh’s eyes about making art and bridging the gap of art and science told me that this was the perfect alternative. Josh and I grabbed some chairs and a bucket of clay. While we made walls like levees with the clay, I talked about how levees were important walls to keep out unwanted water. Josh learned concepts of climate change and every time an AmeriCorps member came over to see our clay creations, he said, “Laurie and I are making levees!”.
The core value of NESS that stands out most to me is inclusiveness because I find it important that each student feels that they can come to NESS, participate, and actively learn about science. I am lucky to be part of a program that allows me to make a positive impact on so many lives of students and better my teaching skills. This particular day made me proud to be an AmeriCorps member and to empower all students in science through interactive activities.”
-Lauren Chacho, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member