Students attend Beyond Tolerance Workshop, December 10th

Beyond Tolerance events are designed to bring youth, educators, and community organizers together around LGBTQ issues. This fall’s youth conference, offered a variety of workshops on a wide range of topics led by youth and adults alike. Kristen took three students to the Beyond Tolerance Workshop to participate in workshops and learn about what other schools in New York City are doing to engage young people in the work of making schools safer for all.

Kai reports:
I participated in an anti-bullying workshop. We examined the contents of a "locker" to learn about the owner of the various objects inside it. From what we gathered, the owner was a victim of vicious bullying about his sexuality. We then pieced together the owner's life by acting out his memories. We learned and discussed what could have helped the owner tolerate the bullying and about what others could do to help him. I thought it was interesting to peer inside the life of this young man and to create this character, his challenges and his dreams, hopes and fears.

Claudia reports:
Kai and I went to a workshop called Coming Out. At the workshop participants shared personal stories about coming out and also stories about their friends and family coming out. The leaders of the workshop showed a video about how friends and family react to coming out and and also about how LGBT persons identify themselves. Then we did some acting out of scenes and scenarios of coming out including the reaction of others to the person's coming out.

Announcing the 2010-2011 Activism Project!

This year, the 7th and 8th graders have titled their activism project SAFE: Schools Are For Everyone. We, the students of the Fifth Floor, see the bullying of students for their sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, class, or any difference as a violation of civil rights. Recent media has drawn attention to bullying of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual, Questioning or Intersex (LGBTQI) youth. LGBTQI young people, as well as straight kids that do not fit gender norms, are often verbally and physically abused by peers in schools intentionally or unintentionally. We believe that students can only reach their full potential when they feel safe and accepted in school. Through this project we hope to become more conscious of the power of our words, to raise awareness within the MCS community about how to take a stand against bullying, and to build partnerships with other New York City schools to create more safe spaces for all youth.

Links for Learning and taking action about Montaintop Removal Mining

This photograph was taken is Whitesville, WV in February of 2010, where the Clear Fork and Marsh Fork converge to become the Big Coal River. The difference in color between water flowing from both forks is the result of a surface mining related blackwater spill that polluted over 13 miles of the river, including the source of drinking water for the town and surrounding areas. Courtesy of climate ground zero

Take Action

  • Contact your representatives and encourage them to co-sponsor legislation that will protect our water
  • Contact the White House at 202-456-1111 and ask them to use their authority to change the rules.
    • The Problem: Taking advantage of a loophole that the Bush administration created in Clean Water Act rules, mining companies are using America's streams and lakes as dumping grounds for unlimited amounts of solid mining wastes.
    • The Solution: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to close the waste loophole in the Clean Water Act, and President Obama should instruct the agency to do so immediately.
    • Click here for talking points
    • Click here to see photos of a current direct action
  • Contact your electric company and ask them to stop buying power produced with coal from MTR
  • Switch to alternative energy providers
  • Limit your use of electricity
    • Turn off the lights when you're not using them
    • Unplug appliances when they're not in use! Studies show that appliances which are plugged in, but turned off, account for nearly 1/4 of the electricity consumed by appliances.
    • Wash your laundry with cold water
    • Take shorter showers
  • Install solar panels
  • Educate yourself and spread the word

2009-10 Activism Events Calendar

November 20: Students present the MCS Activism program at the TedX Youth Conference.

September 25-27: A delegation of three students and two teachers attend the Appalachia Rising Conference at Georgetown University, presenting a workshop on "Youth Organizing", and marching to demand that the EPA do their job.

May 22-27: Activism trip to the Coal River Valley!

May 19: Wayne from Ford Foundation leads a workshop with 7th & 8th graders on real wealth.

April 26: Andrew from Coal River Mountain Watch speaks with 7th and 8th graders about how the recent EPA announcement and mining disasters are impacting the region and their work on mountain top removal coal mining

April 17: Appalachian Folk Music Concert & fundraiser for our trip 1-4pm

March 22: The Beehive Collective presents their graphic campaign on "MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL: THE TRUE COST OF COAL" to the 7th and 8th grade in the MCS Music Room from 1-2pm

February 25: Dea from Coal River Mountain Watch and Climate Ground Zero visited 7th and 8th grade history classes

February 15-19: Teachers went on an exploratory trip to West Virginia to make connections and plan for the trip in May. They visited with representatives of Coal River Mountain Watch, Climate Ground Zero, Larry Gibson, SEAC, OHVEC, NRDC, Sierra Club.

February 11: Screening of Coal Country with panel discussion. Thanks to Ted Glick and Builder Levy for their contributions! Thanks also to Patagonia's environmental grants program for generously donating the items for our raffle.

Why Mountaintop Removal (from February 2010)

Why Mountain Top Removal?

We, the seventh and eighth graders of the Manhattan Country School, believe that anyone can be an activist if they care deeply enough. Activism means fighting for your beliefs and against social injustice throughout the world. Through our Activism Project, we apply what the Manhattan Country School has taught us about standing up for civil rights and environmental justice.

Each year, the 7th and 8th graders are given the opportunity to propose issues that we could work on. We research and discuss these topics and then vote to decide which to devote our energies to.

This year, the 7th and 8th graders have decided to focus our activism on the issue of mountain top removal coal mining. Mountain Top Removal (MTR) is a process employed in the Appalachian region, including Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. The process involves blasting off the tops of mountains to gain access to the coal that is buried inside of them. When the top of a mountain is blasted off, the surrounding communities experience changed landscapes, polluted water, decreased property values and increases in asthma and cancer rates. The people of Appalachia are among the poorest in the United States, and are being taken advantage of by the coal companies. The 5th floor has decided that MTR is a civil rights issue that needs to be addressed.

Our project begins with education and fundraising at home and will culminate with a trip to West Virginia for a week of programming. The program will have four main components: community service projects, such as work in the community greenhouse with the Coal River Mountain Watch or flood cleanup with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition; community and cultural connections, including museums, picnics and potlucks, cooking projects and sing-alongs; outdoor activities and “mountain appreciation,” including hikes and other recreational activities; and finally, a full day activism/lobbying “Teach-In” with community activists. Throughout our week in West Virginia, we will explore the complexities of this issue, focusing not only on the effects of the mountain top removal process, but also the economic challenges facing these communities and the community tensions which arise during discussions of mining, employment and the environment.