By Maddie Tharp, Illyria Brunner, Mia Macon, and Bella Rodriguez
Another amazing Sophomore Inspire Week is in the books! During the week of March 7-11, instead of going through their usual class schedule, the sophomore class delved into an exploration of future college and career options. They did this by participating in a variety of meaningful community service projects with local organizations.
The week was focused on introducing students to prospective careers, their own aptitudes, and how these align with their interests. The first two days were spent educating the students about options after graduation as well as looking at possible career choices. Over the following three days, the students broke up into several groups and headed off for their community service immersion. The purpose of these experiences was to give students a chance to test the waters of careers and internships, to find out what they like and don't like, and give back to the community.
The week was planned and executed by the sophomore teaching team and College Counselor Erin Cummins-Roper, who focused on the outreach for the community service projects, which included; working at and designing a mud kitchen for Durango Early Learning Center, designing a gardening program and educating students at Juniper school, painting a large mural in the community, a trip to Weaselskin Farm and Equestrian Center, and building Little Library Boxes. Erin explained, “Sophomore Inspire Week was super successful. We were able to complete five projects and touch on a variety of different ways to engage with the community. Students seemed to have a really good time and they learned a lot.The magic of Animas came to life, and it turned out to be this really amazing thing.”
Erin took her group of sophomores to the Durango Early Learning Center (DELC) to design and build a mud kitchen and fairy houses for their playground. After spending time at DELC, sophomores consolidated all of the ideas and made a list full of supplies they would need to make the children’s ideas come to life. With help from a volunteer parent, some of the students were able to build a professional mud kitchen, while also learning how to properly use power tools. While some worked on the mud kitchen, others worked on building and tiny fairy houses. They then loaded up the houses and mud kitchen and delivered it all to the DELC, much to the amazement of their new little friends. DELC Director Becca Trefry remarked, “The best part of the experience was seeing the connections made between the AHS high schoolers and the DELC students. The children's faces seeing the final products of the mud kitchen and fairy houses was pure delight! I love that our children were able to have role models in ‘the big kids' that came to visit!” Bennett, age 5, offered, “I liked playing the zombie game with the teenagers. We were trying to eat one of them!"
Humanities teacher Lori Fisher’s group worked with The Juniper School to plan and design a sensory garden to be constructed in the fall. The Juniper group began by observing and getting to know the 4th and 5th-grade classes. Ms. Andrea, a 5th-grade teacher from Juniper, reflected, “It may be called Sophomore Inspire Week, but it really inspires the 5th graders. They were really excited to work with older students as mentors and teachers.” In addition to designing the garden, Animas students planned and taught lessons relating to the wildlife and plants of Colorado. The interaction with the students allowed the sophomores to gain communication and leadership skills while having a larger product in mind. Niko Peterson reflected, “Seeing the little kids so excited to learn gives me hope for the future because knowledge is power, and their enthusiasm was electric. I also have a newfound respect for teachers who plan and execute lessons.” Throughout the week the Animas students worked together to design, market, and plan ways to create the sensory garden that incorporated all five senses. The garden is designed to foster an interactive experience so the students will have a new nature element. The result of this week will allow for a beautiful, fun experience for everyone who comes to the garden!
Lori’s student teacher, Katherine Pamplin rallied her group to design and create a beautiful large mural for the Rainbow Youth Center at the Commons Building near Albertsons. They created the mural on one of the walls in the office building hall to brighten up their community. All supplies were donated from parents, taken from Animas, and Handcrafted House who generously donated paint. Katherine shared her perception of the experience: “It went really great. I left all of the design and work up to the students, and I was pleasantly surprised with the result. They were able to add their own inspiration to the mural, which left us with a beautiful final product.”
Physics teacher Madi Neukirch took her group of sophomores to Weaselskin Farm and Equestrian Center to work with horses and conservation efforts with owner Jennifer Thurston. Each day started with the students helping Jennifer and her assistant with feeding and watering the horses and cleaning the pens. Interspersed with working with the horses, Jennifer shared her plentiful knowledge and wisdom with the students, teaching them about business as well as her philosophy of handling horses.“Our group worked very well! It was nice to see a different kind of career path represented and learn about what goes into agriculture. It was nice to connect with community members involved to see agriculture specific to this area.” She explained the ecological, archaeological, and cultural significance of the space and the amazing fact that the land hadn't been disturbed for nearly 1000 years. The second day the class learned how to handle, walk, lunge, and harness horses. By Friday the students moved large pieces of fencing and surveyed where a new irrigation system would eventually be placed. The last few activities of the internship included fencing with swords, as Jennifer is a Pentathlon coach, and reflecting on the activities and what the students had learned.
Math teacher Ande Lloyd’s group gave back to the community by building and distributing Free Little Library Boxes to be placed around Durango. They spent a few days drafting designs for the boxes, which they would be building themselves. The group stayed at Animas to build the boxes shaped like little houses, allowing students to learn how to use power tools and work with wood. After painting and other refinements the three finished Libraries Boxes were ready to be placed at choice locations. Ande shared, “It was really cool for the kids because they got to create something to benefit the community. It was great to come together and make something for other people that they can use and enjoy.”
Sophomore Inspire Week has been a chance for students to contribute to their community and see themselves as young adults in the world, learning about their own skills. This year, not only did the sophomores get to discover new things about themselves, but they were also genuinely involved in strengthening and rebuilding lost connections in the community as a whole. Animas students have the power to rebuild this community after such a global challenge, and Sophomore Inspire Week is a spectacular example of how this school can contribute.