Glenwood Springs Middle School staff takes out the trash: Participation in community projects meant to be an example for students
It was an overcast and blustery day in Glenwood Springs, but the bright orange vests of the Glenwood Springs Middle School staff spread along a 2-mile stretch on U.S. Highway 6 were impossible to miss. With trash bags in hand, they were steadily working their way through the debris and garbage that had been discarded alongside the highway, everything from flattened cardboard boxes to cigarette butts.
Cassandra Alsip, a Humanities teacher for 7th grade and Glenwood Springs native, said especially for middle school students, that they watch their teachers and like seeing them do what they’re trying to teach, a walk the walk and talk the talk situation.
“We’re teaching about consequential service to people and the idea that you have an impact on the world around you, even if it’s small steps like this it can make a huge difference,” Alsip said.
GSMS is gearing up for Better World Day on May 7, an event that’s acknowledged by all Expeditionary Learning (EL) schools by getting out into the community themselves and doing volunteer work.
“I’ve just grown up in the community and love it, and know that this community works better when they’re working together,” Alsip said.
The school just recently adopted the portion of Highway 6 from mile markers 113-115. Principal Joel Hathaway said staff had begun to notice the accumulation of litter and wanted to do something about it.
“We noticed that there’s kind of been a pile up of trash along our highway and along our river, things like that this year,” Hathaway said. “So we looked into this adopt a highway deal and we felt it was really fortunate that it was open, the area on Route 6 that goes right by our school.”
Dean of students and coordinator of the Peak program, Rob Buirgy, said that it’s crucial to Better World Day for staff to model the kind of behaviors they want to see in their students. He added that it gives teachers and staff members a way to connect with each other in a new setting with a shared goal.
“For me it’s a cool way for teachers to learn about each other. Because different strengths come out from people and some people need help with different things, so I just see it as a way to build trust and those kinds of things,” Buirgy said.
The crew system at GSMS for students has a focus on team building through adventure and hands-on learning. The staff incorporates this mentality into the professional dynamic as far as training and forming relationships go, Autumn Rivera, a 6th grade science teacher said.
“Especially in this past year of trying to build community when you’re you know, in quarantine … it’s even more important to just spend that time together. No matter what it is. Just having fun and I think being our community school and having students see their teachers out and about. … They love to come out and see people. Especially I think if we can start it and the students can finish it, I think that’s a cool partnership as well,” Rivera said.
The gusts of wind occasionally added an element of chase to the trash gathering, but the staff seemed to enjoy the camaraderie and being able to give back to the community together. Hathaway said it won’t be the last time his team looks for new opportunities to continue to grow outside of the school environment.
“I think it’s about seeing each other in a different light than you normally do on a work day. And that’s how you build trust and build relationships. … Getting to know each other on a different level, laughing together, sweating together, having some fun together, having some misery together. All those things bring you closer,” Hathaway said.
Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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