Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day of Darkness

I would like to thank the students and staff at Palo Alto High School for their overall amenable demeanor today. I don't remember ever having to spend a day in school with no electricity, but unfortunately due to a nearby catastrophic plane crash, our city was without power all day. As a coworker and I prepared to leave toward the late afternoon, we commented to each other about the quiet, peaceful nature of the campus today. But walking down the dark hallway, I remembered the reason why we experienced this day of darkness and all of the families whose lives have been torn apart since 8:00 a.m. this morning.

I found it both poignant and ironic that our Environmental Initiative club had just promoted their event, "Eco Awareness Week"
January 27-29. I helped spread the word for Thursday, January 28th, Day of Darkness - "a day in which teachers [were] encouraged to take a stance against energy consumption by turning off the lights in their classroom." So, today, as a sad reminder that we can leave a smaller carbon footprint even while in school, we were forced to have another day of darkness--as was the entire town of Palo Alto due to the fallen power lines at the crash site.

We commemorated the environmentally friendly car maker Tesla last year during our Career Month, and this year during Eco Awareness Week. Now, perhaps we can switch the Day of Darkness to February 17, in honor of the tragic deaths of three Tesla engineers. Today was not a planned day to go without electricity, but we are reminded it can be done. Read Michael Abrams' account of the Environmental Initiative event, and see what you can do to make a difference for the environment.
Our event went very well. When you have such events, the pressure really gets ramped up and that is when you can tell who is a leader. I was pleased to see people who hadn't previously been as active in the club really become a part of the team and help out. One thing we will do next year is have a different planning strategy...Also, we all agreed that we need a better advertising strategy for next year's earth week and all future events - it seemed like a lot of people would have participated if they had known more about what to bring for the tie dye day and to bring their bike to school on the bike race day. One event that I was very proud of, though, was bringing the Tesla to school. Everyone, including teachers and students I didn't even know, were so interested in it.

Cool Community Service Inspiration: The Environment
  • Create a celebration! Check out University of California, Berkeley's Earthweek Event for ideas:
  • Join an environmental group or club, such as the national nonprofit Alliance for Community Trees:, or contribute time or resources to local tree planting organizations such as in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Incorporate the Environment into learning, check out One Planet Fundraising:

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Volunteer Florist

As I walked into my little office in the high school Guidance Center the other day, I noticed the most thoughtfully arranged flower display atop our secretary's desk. Even though we were all bundled up on a foggy February morning, the bright blooms brought an air of freshness to our century old building. I was a little bit jealous of Jenny, seated with the flowers at constant eye level, but she informed me they were for the entire department to enjoy. They were not from her secret admirer, but from a dedicated parent volunteer who decided to share her talents and spread some cheer .

After snapping a photo of Jenny adorned by the flower arrangement, I proceeded with my day happy that I at least had a donated plant in my office to remind me of winter's end. Lunchtime approached, and I knew it would be a quick snack in the microwave. As I walked toward the vintage kitchen at the end of the corridor to nuke my leftovers, I spotted a glowing woman carrying a large floral arrangement, similar to the one on Jenny's desk. I stopped to find out if she was indeed the maker of these elaborate decorations, and to discern the nature of her motivation. There's no secret, just passion that drives Mrs. Anderson to design flowers for the staff at our high school. She simply loves flowers and has learned all about the varieties available in each season. She makes a stop at Trader Joe's for blooms and cuts them to suit her fancy, placing them in decorative containers as her service to the school community.

Theresa Anderson, and talented people like her, are usually happy to share their artistic skills by teaching others. She took floral design classes at nearby Filoli Gardens, an estate in the woods that has become a nonprofit to promote horticultural endeavors and interests. (Check out their website to see all the ways you can make a difference: Theresa, in turn, would love to share her new found knowledge of the trade with high school students or any volunteers that would like to help keep our campus fresh. I've never heard someone say, "Gee, I wish I hadn't received that darned bouquet," so if you're looking for a simple way to make a difference, try it with flowers!

Cool Community Service Ideas: Horticulture

  • Plant seeds or have a fundraiser for money to buy flowers, arrange in vases and take to your school or church. My congregation is adorned weekly with arrangements by volunteer florists.
  • Make corsages for Mother's Day, or boutonnieres for Father's Day, donate to a nearby care center or Veteran's Administration hospital.
  • Plant wildflowers: try Hobbs & Hopkins wildflower fundraising program, see "We supply our packaged wildflower seeds, planting instructions and all other necessary support. Your group then creates and applies their own custom labels. Friends and family are happy to buy these special and personalized wildflowers for their home and as gifts for others. It is a welcomed and Earth friendly alternative to traditional fundraising methods."
  • Donate a tree at IKEA to benefit, you can select any amount at the checkout stand.