Experiment You

Experiment You

By Shan Gordon cool-green-schools-web-header-final-web-ready

      Our schools constantly test our students to measure their achievement. But if we want to improve student achievement, it is time for students to test their schools.

      Are classrooms too hot or too cold? Are pest and mold problems causing asthma attacks and absences? Are students getting enough exercise and water? Do students need glasses to read the board and their textbooks? Does poor bus service cause students to be late or miss school? Are lunches nutritious and palatable? Why are so many students still failing to succeed in math and science?

      Challenging students to investigate and improve their health and learning engages them in a meaningful, real world scientific inquiry. It is a perfect fit for STEM, Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core curriculum and gives students hands on training for careers in health, building, teaching, and social science. Students see how they can use science and innovation to improve their lives.

Experiment You engages students as scientists and problem solvers in a very real and important experiment: how can we use our learning and innovation to improve our lives? As a STEM based inquiry, students use surveys, observations, and tools to benchmark their health and the health and learning conditions at their school.

Surveys

      Students learn to create and use surveys to gain information on student health and school conditions. How many students have missed school because of asthma related issues? What classrooms are too hot or cold? Where have students seen mold, mice or cockroaches? Are students getting enough healthy foods, sleep and exercise?

Tools for Schools

      Using the Tools for Schools walkthrough assessment from EPA, students discover and report asthma triggers at their schools.

Operations Report Card

      Using the Operations report card protocol from the Collaboration for High Performing Schools (CHPS) students collect and analyze data on the temperature, humidity, air quality, lighting and acoustics.

Energy Star Portfolio Manager

      Using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager, students can benchmark the carbon footprint of their school and compare the energy use of their school to similar schools in their area. Students identify ways to eliminate energy waste at their school.

Solving for …us

      After collecting this data, students are challenged to create improvements in each of these areas. Finding ways to improve their health and the conditions at their school engages students in real world problem solving at ground level. Can cross ventilation reduce excessive heat in classrooms or does the air conditioning need to be fixed? Why are the outdoor security lights on in the daytime? Is there an easy way to screen students for vision problems? Experiment You offers students learning, control and responsibility.

      Every school is a laboratory and every student is an experiment. The question is whether our students will remain lab rats running a maze, or whether they become scientists and innovators, using their learning to improve their conditions and outcomes. This is rich learning that grows the confidence and competence of our students. It is time.

The Grassroots Approach of Community inFusion Small Grants Program in 14 steps!

The Grassroots Approach of Community inFusion Small Grants Program in 14 steps!

Grassroots Grantmaking + Fusion = Community inFusion

     Approaching East Baltimore, you cannot help but notice among blocks and blocks of rowhomes the tall gleaming buildings of Johns Hopkins or as some community residents have dubed it “Vatican City.”  Then suddenly, within the shadows cast by these large ever-expanding structures you stumble across large ghostly fields that seem so lonely and out of place. These fields are all that remain of the 700 families that were displaced from their homes in East Baltimore to make way for the building of an 88- acre technology park..  Like many other historically working class neighborhoods in the city, East Baltimore’s rich history, deep roots and memories are in danger of being paved over/buried to bring in the wealthier class. In an effort to help remaining residents restore residential power in their neighborhoods, The Annie E. Casey Foundation has partnered with Fusion to pilot a small grants program modelled after successful grassroots grantmaking programs in Cleveland, Detroit, and Atlanta.  Residents from the neighborhoods we serve (C.A.R.E., McElderry Park, and Middle East) developed the program’s name —Community inFusion.  Check out our grassroots approach to grantmaking, a year’s worth of work,  below!

1) Hire Community Organizer as Project Coordinator (Allison Duggan) and Americorps

Public Ally (Tamika Bryant) to begin the capacity building process from the bottom up!

2) Go with residents and Annie E. Casey Foundation Staff to Cleveland to learn as a team

how to approach neighborhood capacity building through grassroots grantmaking and seeing it in action. (Thanks Neighborhood Connections for the awesome learning  experience!!!!)

 

3) Research, attend race trainings, and learn through the power of Storytelling,  the history of Neighborhoods in East Baltimore

4) Attend Community Association Meetings to:

a) Meet the Community Association Members and Resident Leaders

b) Meet other nonprofits and grassroots groups working in the area

c) Learn about the needs and interests of the neighborhoods from neighbors

5) LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN, then TALK to throw out some ideas… and then LISTEN again!

6) Bring together Residents Leaders to formulate:

a) Grant Guideline

 b) Grant Boundaries

 c) A Small Grants Committee

7) Recruit Small Grants Committee Members (3 from McElderry Park, 3 from Middle  East, and 3 from C.A.R.E.) based on the suggestions of the Resident Leaders and  review draft grant and committee member guidelines for final input.

8) In the meantime, implement the model of Neighborhood Connection’s Network Night…

Why? Because the residents who came with us to Cleveland loved it and said that they want to see it happen in their neighborhood!  Repeat step 5!

9) CREATE A GRANT THAT IS ACCESSIBLE:

a) PHYSICALLY- by distributing copies at Community Association Meetings,  NorthEast Market, and digitally on website

b) IN CONTENT

10) BACK YOUR RESIDENTS UP!

a) Provide Grant Writing Trainings that will EMPOWER and prepare residents with tools and resources they may need for other grants out there in grant world!

b) Provide technical assistance- If people need help filling out grants… JUST DO IT!

c) Make yourself readily available for any additional questions or needs (At Fusion we try to be!)

d) REPEAT STEP 5 throughout Grant Application Process!

11) Have the Small Grants Committee review grants, interview applicants, and award  grants… Provide the support they may need in order to do so!

12) Provide an orientation for grantees to meet other grantees, committee members, and  familiarize themselves with Fusion’s Procedures. For those who applied and did not receive funding, set aside time to meet in person if they wish to do so.  Try your best to make sure that they walk away feeling ENCOURAGED not discouraged.. Repeat Step 5

13) Reflect with Grantees, Residents and Small Grants Committee on the entire process in order to the Community inFusion Small Grants better! Utilize Step 5!

14) Repeat Steps 3 – 13 with the revisions and suggestions provided by our awesome neighbors in C.A.R.E., McElderry Park, and Middle East!

 

…We did it! Congratulations to the eleven fantastic groups that have been funded by Community inFusion Small Grants Program in the Spring 2016 Round. Special thanks goes out to our Small Grants Committee, comprised of residents from C.A.R.E., McElderry Park, and Middle East neighborhoods for working so hard and diligently to support their neighbors and help them receive funding.  Please see the  full list of Spring 2016 Grantees below.

 

McElderry Park Masterpieces Lunch and Literacy:

Summer Reading and Lunch Program

Project Leaders:

Neighborhood: McElderry Park

Program Status: Successfully Completed

               

Build – A – Bike:

Program created for youth to teach skills and violence prevention.    

Activities and lessons include learning how to fix and maintain bikes, resolveconflicts, increase health and reduce stress through exercise, and bike tours around the city.

Project Leaders:

Neighborhood: McElderry Park

Program Status: Ongoing

              

Team Redemption:

Youth Boxing After-school Program for young men in conjunction with Safe

Streets East.    

Project Leaders:

Neighborhood: McElderry Park

Program Status: Ongoing

 

Economic Development through Peer to Peer Support:

Community Entrepreneur Speaking Series and Homebuyers Club   

Project Leaders:

Neighborhood: C.A.R.E./McElderry

Program Status: Ongoing

 

Mural Art Project: Structures in Nature, Plants, Flowers and Insects:

Working with neighborhood youth to create a wall of birdhouses that    

incorporates a mural in hopes to bridge cultures, neighbors, and the environment.

Project Leaders:

Neighborhood: C.A.R.E.

Program Status: Ongoing

 

The Amazing Grace Summer Kids Camp

Free Summer Camp for children of the McElderry Park Neighborhood in partnership with Amazing Grace Lutheran Church

Project Leaders:

Neighborhood: McElderry Park

Program Status: Successfully Completed

 

Feed The Village:

Summer Food Program providing youth and summer youthworkers of  

McElderry hot nutritious breakfasts and lunches.

Project Leaders:

Neighborhood: McElderry Park

Program Status: Ongoing

 

Madiera Street Snowblower and Safe Streets

To gear up to serve the neighbors in the Middle East (specifically families and   

elderly) snowblowers, salt, shovels etc. were purchased to help keep the    

streets safe and clear during the snowy winter months.

Project Leaders:

Neighborhood: Middle East

Program Status: Ongoing

 

Community Vacant Lot Maintenance Beautification Team:

Neighborhood Vacant Lot cleanup efforts that provides residents of CARE   

with new tools and stipends for the 2016 Summer/Fall season.

Project Leaders:

Neighborhood: C.A.R.E.

Program Status: Ongoing

 

2nd Annual Back To School Rally:

Rally to provide Middle East Youth with school supplies to be prepared for the

new school year.  The Group may also take leftover funds to do another

school supply giveaway in the winter when supplies often run out.

Project Leaders:

Neighborhood: Middle East

Program Status: Ongoing

 

The Ladies Home Improvement Project

C.A.R.E. has many single mothers and single female homeowners in their    

community that need assistance with home repairs. Recognizing the demand,   

residents skilled in handiwork/ repair, will teach light maintenance   

skills around the house to help alleviate the costs of hiring professionals.   

Project Leaders:

Neighborhood: C.A.R.E.

Program Status: Ongoing

 

A Harm Reduction Approach to Drug Policy

A Harm Reduction Approach to Drug Policy

by By Mark and Julia Sine of the Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition

  The term “harm reduction” is being dropped more and more frequently in discussion around drug use and public health in general. What is harm reduction? In its driest form, it is a set of practical, non-judgmental strategies to mitigate risk and prevent the negative consequences of human behavior. What does this mean? It can be something as simple and common as an individual choosing to wear a seat-belt while traveling in a car. Or, it can be as organizational as establishing a sterile syringe distribution program to prevent the spread of infectious disease among people who inject drugs. Harm reduction is a very broad topic, but it is most often linked to drug use and drug policy.

  During this year’s Legislative Session in Annapolis, bills were introduced and testimony was given regarding expanding access to sterile syringes, establishing supervised injections sites, and decriminalizing small amounts of currently illegal substances. These may seem like small reforms, and in the grand scheme of things, they are. But they show an evolving conversation in mainstream debate and represent the incremental progress of legislative politics. In addition to direct action and activism, it is one of many ways to enact change. A gradual redirection from decades of failed policies is taking place in Maryland and across the country, and these small changes will help thousands of people while we fight for broader institutional changes and restructuring.

  Harm reduction is more than a traditional public health initiative; it also focuses on the often-overlooked social harms of drug prohibition. These hidden costs are commonly overshadowed by the violence associated with the drug trade and the health issues associated with drug use. Incarceration, or even a single arrest, can have far reaching and long lasting consequences, especially for people who are already marginalized from society and are disproportionately targeted by the war on drugs. While substance-use disorders and overdose deaths are a mounting and serious concern, we must also look at the social structures supporting the conditions in which the drug trade flourishes. The fact still remains that young people in many poor communities see few viable economic opportunities beyond selling drugs, and basic health care for all populations is still not recognized as a human right. Harm reduction, as both a practice and philosophy, seeks to address both the individual and social forces which lead to negative health outcomes.

  We are already seeing in federal and local governments an increased momentum towards reform. As we approach the election of our next President, mayor, and city council members, we need to seize the opportunity to demand and implement a more just system. We should recognize that educated, safe drug use is both possible and commonly practiced. Instead, we must focus our approach on drug addiction; this is a public health issue, not a criminal issue, and we need to drastically reduce our society’s own addiction to punishment and incarceration. Elected officials must realize and rectify the harms they are causing by continuing along a failed prohibition track, and direct their efforts to a more compassionate and inclusive system. We have the power to make change, and harm reduction is one of the strongest and most humane tools at our command.

  The Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition is a collection of students, faculty, health care professionals, and community members who promote harm reduction principles and practices through education, advocacy, and training. Learn more at baltimoreharmreduction.org or contact baltimorestudenthrc@gmail.com

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Fusion Partner The Feminist Art Project-Baltimore has been hard at work redefining their scope of work as they evolve and we couldn’t be more excited about their direction! Their new mission states “The Feminist Art Project – Baltimore (TFAPB) is a grassroots, nomadic, non-profit arts incubator that supports and promotes self-identified women in the arts.”

TFAP-B now offers affordable membership levels with sweet perks, as well as some great volunteer / bartering options!  Utilizing this newly developed membership-based system will allow TFAP-B to sustain organizational efforts, create several NEW programs, and offer membership voting rights as well as other handy perks.

You can purchase a yearly membership for as low at $25 and then you get stuff in return. Volunteering/bartering options are also available! Please help TFAP-Bsupport emerging and established women artists by purchasing a membership. The lowest level guarantees your art a place in the Member’s Exhibition in 2016 (ALSO NEW!)

To read more about membership levels and sign up please visit:

http://www.thefeministartproject-baltimore.org/p/purchase.html

The anger is legitimate

The anger is legitimate

-2  Youth Empowered Society  YES

We’re all feeling the heartache this city is showing in one way or another. While Fusion’s grassroots agents of social change are no stranger to the suffering that many members of Baltimore’s disenfranchised communities have endured for generations, we’re still not immune to the consequences brought on through the history of systemic injustice here. As we stand firmly behind the constructive work our partners have been doing to address these issues long before the national media rolled in, we now stand firmly in support of the assessment and reaction of Fusion Partner Lara Law of Youth Empowered Society (YES) in the wake of damages suffered to the YES Drop-In center related to Monday night’s revolt. Please read the article for some important perspective on recent events in Baltimore and please consider making a donation to help YES re-open it’s doors ASAP. 

If it was a similarly-frustrated city youth who torched the center amid the riots in Baltimore, Law said, “the anger is legitimate and understandable” — even if the actions were not.

“I don’t condone the violence and the destruction, the tearing down of what we need in our community, but the young people out on the streets are some of the same young people we’re serving – filled with trauma and violence and a lack of opportunity their whole lives,” Law said. “It’s understandable. We have to fix our way of doing things so they feel included and that there are opportunities for them.”

From the Baltimore Sun article: Director of youth homeless center burned in Baltimore riots: ‘Anger is legitimate’

 

Baltimore Free School to host new Strength To Love Project class!

Baltimore Free School to host new Strength To Love Project class!

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Fusion partner The Baltimore Free School is excite to announce the new Strength To Love Project course running through March of 2015.  The Strength To Love Project, consists of individuals (esp creatives) getting together to discuss social justice issues and engage in creative expression around the theme “Strength To Love”. The film Selma, Dr. King’s third book, “Strength to Love”, the #blacklivesmatter movement and other mediums will be used as material for these conversations. Participants are encouraged to create a piece(s) of art, poetry, music, film or civic engagement which they were inspired by, from those conversations. Its all capped off with a exhibition/performance of the pieces.

Classes will be offered Saturday evenings FREE OF CHARGE!   Online video chat and phone-in options will be made available for individuals who are in other states or who can’t make it in person.

For more info on the Strength To Love Project, class content, and class scheduling visit the Free School’s website HERE

 

Fusion program MERIT published in Baltimore Sun!

Fusion program MERIT published in Baltimore Sun!

Don’t miss this Op-Ed article in the Baltimore Sun! In the article Tyler Mains of Medical Education Resources Initiative for Teens (MERIT) discusses the disconnect between the proliferation of world class medical institutions and STEM education opportunities within Baltimore City. Tyler then outlines how his program seeks to bridge that gap through mentorship and career development offered directly to Baltimores Teens. To read the article click the link below!

The Baltimore Sun:  “Connecting City Kids to Health Care Careers”  By Tyler Mains