Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wrap of the Year

Editorial Cartoons. Short Stories. Superheroes in Science. Strolls around Temple City Park and in Los Angeles. School Meals vs. More Healthful Meals. Beautiful Science Shown Through Artworks. Great School Garden Designs. The Huntington’s Fairchild Challenge for 2011-2012 tapped into the creativity and thoughtfulness of hundreds of students throughout Los Angeles County. We received the cream of the crop, and they are a joy to behold. Editorial cartoons are pithy and pack a punch of opinion. One hundred twenty students explained an existing editorial cartoon, drew one of their own, and explained why the issues in their cartoons were important to them. The best of these submitted to the Huntington showed the demise of the polar bear habitat, problems with climate change, and the impact of pollution. Edwin Martinez from Abraham Lincoln High School’s VOICE program in Los Angeles captured the state of the planet by placing Earth wearing a surgical mask in the center of the page surrounded by coal and nuclear powered energy plants, fish poisoned by pollution, a clear-cut forest, and aerosol cans containing among other things insecticide. Lionel Silva from Mt. Olive High School in Duarte depicted our carbon footprint by using a skeletal foot with many of the causes for that carbon footprint written on the bones. We hope these youngsters continue to see the wit and wisdom editorial cartoons contain. What can students do when a story begins with “The phone rang at 5 o’clock” and ends with “If we don’t change our ways, there is nothing ahead but disaster”? Twenty-two students gave it a try, and we received a number of well-crafted submissions. Jessica Escobar from the Center for Independent Study Academy in Pasadena was up to the challenge. In “The Fight against Nature”, Jessica’s protagonist confronts a development company to try to keep a nature center from being destroyed to create the space for a shopping mall. Although, the shopping mall is built, the protagonist and her friend Riley decide not to give up. They “came up with an idea to start protecting nature centers all over the country.” David Krbachian from Temple City HS created a dystopian world where oxygen is viewed as poison in his story “Treepocalypse”. A character expresses fear that oxygen-producing trees will ruin the status quo of existing businesses and employment. The backlash against the trees is so great that in the end, the trees lose and only the robots ‘live’. Mt. Olive High’s Nicholas Perez wrote a textured tale of a young man, James, who returns home for the funeral of his brother, Travis. Through flashback conversations, the reader sees how differently the two have responded to the natural world: James ready to despoil it; Travis geared up to save it. As the story closes, the reader learns that James has had a change of heart and will use his legal skills as an environmental lawyer. Budding authors bloom here. One hundred thirty Temple City HS students created Superheroes in Science comic books. Pierre Curie: A Man of Science by Tori Duong and Exploring Sigmund Freud’s Mind by Ashley Huang were the top comics that came to the Huntington. Poor old Pierre suffered from penury and was killed crossing the street back in the good old days before cars sped along. In Freud’s case, yes, a cigar was just a cigar but in the end cancer killed him. In addition to these juicy details, we learned about both men’s challenges, discoveries, and personal lives. At Temple City HS, Kyson Qisheng Tan, Victoria Mengying Luo, Kaythi Hyein, and Judith Castillo, as well as another 41 students who attempted Recognizing the Commons: A Guided Tour, have been in the United States for one to two years. To familiarize them with their new home, their teacher Vanessa Hadikusumah had them explore Temple City. The Temple City Park is a walking location that holds many interesting attractions, including a pavilion and a public library. The youngsters mapped out the park, photographed the landmarks, and wrote about what the public can do to keep the space viable for all visitors. Kyson and Victoria’s presentation of the park as a pentagon shaped box on a lazy Susan base that lets the viewer twirl it around is quite clever and beautifully done. Ms Hadikusumah’s students, Tracy Biny Tsai and Amy Xiao Tong Diao, used Los Angeles as the experience to get them thinking about the use of the public commons for their Advocating for the Commons: A Public Service Announcement videos. Play With You Food gave youngsters the chance to look critically at the food offered at their schools. The all-American hamburger was the target for Temple City High’s Yvonne Lam, Ted Chang, Crystal Choy and Tiffany Lam. By changing the cooking method of the burger and adding a more healthful side, apple chips instead of potato chips, the new meal lessened their fat content and calories. Blanca Garcia from Mt. Olive HS realized that food is more than simply calories consumed. Of the original school meal, grilled processed American cheese sandwich; canned fruit cocktail; canned green beans, she says, “Yes, on paper, this is a well-balanced meal. As for the eye, it has a lot to be desired. Remember that we first taste with our eyes, then we smell using the nose and finally we put it in our mouth.” The improved meal Blanca created included not only the grilled cheese sandwich made with Colby and Monterrey Jack cheeses but also a bowl of tomato soup and a salad of Romaine lettuce. Her photo of this food shows a meal that would be pleasant to the eye as well as the palate. Another important point Blanca made is that meals at school may be the only balanced meals the youngsters get for the day. She ends her essay with “Better Food = Better Health = BETTER STUDENTS!” Yes, Blanca, we agree. The Beautiful Science challenge combined the students’ ability to learn about a plant or a plant process and explain it visually in a 5”X7” space. One hundred ninety-seven students researched the plant world and created artworks. Tobe Lee of Temple City High School combined not only art and science but also science and symbolic language and images for photosynthesis as he used a mother holding the earth with a flower growing from it. Xavier Delgadio from Mt. Olive HS rendered a Golden Poppy stomata in stained glass. These are just two of the twelve engaging artworks we received for this challenge. The School Garden Design challenge is a tremendous investment of time and energy that allows students to incorporate many skills both academic and social. Fifty-six students from three schools took up this challenge. The Temple City High School Environmental Club created ‘Operation Sprout’, an area that has tables with umbrellas and pots filled with California native plants. The space is available for further plant study, displays of artwork, and social gathering of students for lunch. This courtyard garden is dedicated to Mrs. Robin Brannum, the honors biology teacher who retired earlier in the year and whom many of the students had as freshmen. Students at Mt. Olive High School continued to develop their garden area that contains a number of plant beds as well as aquaponics with fish, vermiculture, and composting. The senior class at Academia Avance Charter School in Los Angeles used the garden challenge as their senior project. This garden project grew out of the defunding of the school’s lunch program. The students planned and built a raised gardening bed in which they planted a variety of types of lettuce, carrots, radishes, sweet peas, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. In addition to providing fresh food for lunch, this garden also allowed seniors to teach younger students math and gardening. And for the travelers on the Gold Line, this garden can be seen from the train. This year, 2011-2012, schools as small as the Justice and Peace Academy with 11 students and as large as Temple City High School with over 1,900 participated in the Fairchild Challenge. For some schools, this year was their introduction to the Huntington’s Fairchild Challenge. One challenge the teachers faced was how to incorporate the Challenges into their existing curriculum. Mt. Olive HS has a student population of 80. The teachers used the many Challenges they submitted to meet revamped standards that include project-based learning. Many thanks go to the students who attempted this year’s Fairchild Challenge and to their teachers who gave them that opportunity.

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