May & June 2008
Let's Beautify Cumberland and Rocky Gap
Allegany High School' 9th Grade Government Classes, Allegany County, Tammy Twigg, 301-777-8110,
My students and community have recognized the need for citizen involvement in order to help revitalize and rejuvenate our local neighborhoods and community. Let’s Beautify Cumberland and Earth Day are a collaborative effort between our local County United Way, Rocky Gap State Park, local businesses, schools, and the Environmental Protection Agency to improve the health of our environment and community.
Best Practice 1: What recognized community need was met by your project (e.g. health, education, environmental or public safety need)?
In August of 1996, a grassroots organization started Let’s Beautify Cumberland Day. My students realized that our community has many neighborhoods that are in disrepair. Our school is located within the city limits and students walk and ride the bus through these not- so-well maintained neighborhoods in order to get to school. Almost 59% of residents in our city were categorized as low to moderate income according to the 2000 Census. Overcrowding is a major issue for our community. Allegany County has taken the lead in trying to restore the natural environment. In response, Rocky Gap State Park held its first Earth Day event during which schools were invited to have students participate in the planting of trees and flowers. Our project helped the local community of Cumberland and our local state park. My students worked with the community and its citizens to help renew a sense of pride. Our neighborhoods and community worked together for the benefit of everyone.
Best Practice 2: How was the project connected to school curriculum (e.g. what course outcomes were met and/or how did the project reinforce or enhance student academic learning)?
This project aligns with the Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum and Core Learning Goals for government. Specifically, 4.B.2.B requires students to become knowledgeable about environmental concerns and the impact that people and industry have on the environment. Students are also introduced to the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.). My students also collaborated with other agencies and our local and federal government. They witnessed the process of how a grassroots organization can mobilize an entire community and the heard a speaker from the E.P.A. in Washington D.C. during a class trip.
Best Practice 3: How did you reflect on your experience throughout the project?
Let’s Beautify Cumberland was started by a grassroots organization that was fed up with the blighted properties and junk cars that were lining our city streets. By working with the Day of Caring and Sharing through our local county United Way, several businesses, both profit and non-profit, worked together to help “clean up” our neighborhoods. Our students live in these neighborhoods and their parents work in these neighborhoods. The students have learned the impact that people have on the environment. Our community has several industrial sites that dump waste and raw sewage in to the Potomac River. The small city of Cumberland has removed 362 junked cars from the city streets. After participating in the event for the first time, my students witnessed their impact first hand and they agreed that this project should continue year after year. When Earth Day occurred later in the year, my students jumped at the chance to help clean up our environment at Rocky Gap State Park. We also visited Washington D.C. on March 27, 2007 and a representative of the Environmental Protection Agency spoke to our students about the Clean Air Act.
Best Practice 4: How did students take leadership roles and take responsibility for the success of the project?
Students connected with the neighborhood coordinators and the County United Way while planning for Let’s Beautify Cumberland and created several designated areas that would be targeted for clean up. The students identified tools and materials that they would need for identified sites. Students were extremely excited because they were allowed to clean up around our own school.
After their initial clean up experience, students knew what they would need and how to plan for the next project they agreed to take on at Rocky Gap State Park. Students spread mulch and planted trees at the park.
Best Practice 5: What community partners did you work with on this project (e.g. non-profits, civic organizations, business that provided donations, etc.)?
The entire community has made this event very successful for the past several years. Our students have partnered with the local County United Way, our local mayor and city council, our local board of education, Congressman Bartlett’s Office, the Y.M.C.A., our local Volunteer Center, and the E.P.A. in Washington D.C.
Best Practice 6: How did you prepare and plan ahead for the project?
The students learned in class about the E.P.A. and the Clean Air Act. They then identified spots that they would like to help to beautify in our community. Then the County United Way and the local Volunteer Center were contacted arrange for the, plants, and supplies. Students utilized what they learned from Let’s Beautify Cumberland and prepared for their day at Rocky Gap State Park.
Best Practice 7: What knowledge and skills did students develop through this project?
My students learned that the impact of people’s actions can have a positive or negative effect on the environment. A Rocky Gap State Park Ranger presented the Scales and Tales program for the students who participated in Earth Day and they learned about the impact of pollution on animals. Students learned that when the community takes pride in its neighborhoods, there is a ripple effect and other people and communities become involved in helping clean up their cities or towns. This is a life skill that can be passed from one generation to the next to hopefully educate everyone about the impact our actions have on the environment.