Save the SEE Team

Kathernie Alaks, Letter to the Editor

I heard that one of the proposed cuts for the school next year is the elimination of SEE Team.  Please don’t cut it.

I have been in SEE Team all of this year, and it has been one of the best experiences of my life.  I have learned so much and have done so many things that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t on the team.  I think everyone who comes to RB should have this chance.

SEE Team stands for the School of Environmental Education, and one of its primary purposes is to educate students about the environment.  Through a unique cooperation between our amazing Math, English, and Science teachers, as well as an elective period set aside for Environmental Enrichment, we get to discuss current environmental events, such as the pro’s and con’s of drilling for oil in Alaska or hunting wolves in Yellowstone National Park, and come up with our own opinions on the subject. 

Also, since environmental job opportunities are growing, one day we had our own career fair focused on people in the community with environmental jobs.  We got to ask questions and find out about the jobs of close to a dozen people, including the owners of a raw/vegan restaurant, a man who runs an organic lawn care service, and even someone who works for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).  This, especially, was a unique opportunity that only SEE team got, and is one of the best examples of how wonderful the program is.

The Environmental Career Fair, however, is not the only special experience in the team.  Early on in the year, we had the opportunity to go to Irons Oaks high ropes course.  Not only was this an opportunity to interact with nature, it gave us a chance to learn to trust the other members of the team and try something new.  We also went orienteering at Waterfall Glen, in small groups, which was another team-building activity, but also taught us a bit about survivingi n the wild.

Not all of the opportunities are as rugged as this, though.  During first semester, we worked on a “Cool Globes” project, which taught us a lot about researching an environmental topic and teaching it to our class.  Second semester we’re taking it even farther, by preparing for 25-minute environmental “how to” presentations that we will give at the Zoo for zoo staff, our classmates, and various other guests.  These projects, which I don’t think are being replicated in other freshman classes, give us valuable experience in research, public speaking, and educating others, which will undoubtedly be of use to us even after we’ve graduated SEE Team.

Also, SEE Team gets students to be involved with the local environment and the community.  This year we had scheduled six field trip work days in five different locations.  These included doing odd jobs at a local farm (the Golden Guernsey Dairy), participating in the Adopt-a-Beach program, and sorting donations at SCARCE recycling center.  One service day we went to Pure Prairie Organics, a small business (run by only two people) that sells only organic vegetables at farmers markets.  They estimated that in two hours, a third of us saved them seven hours of work.

One of our biggest volunteer projects is closest to home:  woodland restoration in the woods between the school and the zoo.  We have had numerous half-day field trips there to plant native species of plants and cut down invasive ones, and, weather permitting, we usually do some work once a week, during Biology.  Already we have seen a number of native plants, such as trilliums, growing where they had previously been choked out by the invasive European buckthorn.

In all these ways, SEE Team has been a valuable part of the community and local ecology this past year, and could continue to be so next year.

I have been incredibly lucky to be part of something like SEE Team.  Friends of mine who don’t go to RB have told me that they wish they had something like SEE Team at their school.  RB is so fortunate to be able to support this team.  It seems like a rare occurrence that a school would have teachers willing to be part of the team and a partnership with the zoo next door (which we’ve been quite involved with). 

SEE Team is an important part of what makes RB special, and it should be preserved and strengthened, not destroyed.  I realize that things will have to be cut, but I think SEE Team should be one of the last considered.

Katherine Alaks
Class of 2014