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Documenting Hurricane Sandy Stories to Effect Change

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    April Hattori

As part of a yearlong expedition focusing on fossil fuel dependence and climate change, 69 juniors of Casco Bay High School, an Expeditionary Learning Mentor School, this month ventured from Portland, ME to Far Rockaway, Queens to see first hand the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Sandy. 

They partnered with Channel View School for Research, which recovered from the storm and provided a base of operations. Channel View is part of the NYC Outward Bound Schools network of Expeditionary Learning schools.

Led by Klingenstein Award-winning teacher Susan McCray, the students spent the first part of the year searching for public policy solutions to the question: “how do we resolve our dependence on fossil fuels?”  Through their work, they have been considering the practical and ethical issues associated with what is likely to be the biggest challenge of their lifetime: confronting climate change.

In a Maine Public Radio interview, Oriana Smith said she and her classmates have looked at the research, and chuckled at the idea that anyone would doubt what virtually all climate scientists agree is happening. “For all the time and effort that we've spent doing this, it's hard to look at these facts and say that they're not true," she said.

Traveling to New York provided the students the opportunity to experience the results of fossil fuel dependence first hand, as well as take direct action by serving those impacted by the devastating storm.

Working with the Friends of Rockaway, a community-based non-profit residential rebuilding organization, Casco Bay students spent a week rebuilding homes of Sandy victims and interviewing them for their documentary, which will premiere in their hometown of Portland, ME in June.

Prior to the trip, students read literature of the Great Depression - a time of immense hardship – to provide background to help answer the questions: “How does a community sustain itself in the face of hardship and what is the power of story to effect change?” Student Kim Henry said that being at the site of the devastation brought her learning to life. “It’s really hard to understand and grasp it as not just cliché until you see it in action,” she said.

See the NY1 story on the students work in the Far Rockaways here. Also, hear students share their experiences about their year-long journey in this Maine Public Radio piece