Friday, July 11, 2014

Power Blogging - High School Students Rocked a Blog in Three Days

Green Ink : Blogging for a Better Tomorrow

You would not think six high school students (along with a mentor and three college counselors - one just graduated in May) could rock a blog and get over 400 visits in three days.

Well, these guys and girls did.

You may be wondering how they did that, because those numbers are amazing in the blogashpere.

As the Green Ink group mentor at the Redesigning the Future summer camp for high school students, I can tell you that we're not talking black hat SEO, buying links, or any other tricks.

These high school students simply put up great information and shared their work. As a power blogger, I can tell you that is the key. Put up information people want to read and get the word out. That's what the group did, and it paid off.

Bloggers Working Hard at the Environmental Summit

I am a Communication lecturer at the college, so I can tell you this was not easy. Good online blog traffic does not just happen. If the students were just tossing up data and not putting heart and thought in, then they would be getting very little traffic. That's just the bottom line.

The students had to look at all the camp activities and decide where to invest time and energy. They all brought different skills. Some were strong writers (which is great when blogging), but others had other skills that made the short summer blog class solid. Ayden Smith liked to do design work and made the new header and some photo collages.

Counselor Morgan King Works with Camper Alia Dahlian

No one is born knowing how to blog, although some people do seem "born to blog." They just "get it." That is a skill that can't really be taught, but it can be nurtured.

I was blessed to have three terrific counselors with my group. I'd taught and worked with all three.

Katie Barbee is a local girl, so we have a lot in common. She was a real stand in the college blogging class. She still blogs, and is quite popular. Her blog is really a fun read, and I still follow it.

Morgan King is a business major, but she was in my first year seminar class and was my Green Ink counselor last year, so I knew she was rock solid.

William Spencer is a new college student, and he is on the college newspaper (The Pioneer) staff. I knew he had experience with blogging but in WordPress. That's a harder platform, so I knew he'd pick up Blogger quick. Of course, he did.

My camp group blogs, so they are busy covering camp and what we are all learning. They use "down" or "rest" time to gather information, so they can hit it hard when we get together. They also go visit the other groups at camp. This is not a camp class for the faint of heart, but it does provide opportunities to get the bigger picture as media folks. As I tell them, "You have to think like a blogger every second."

Bloggers showcase what is going on and who it shining, but they seldom get much credit.

As the leader of Green Ink: Blogging for a Better Tomorrow at the Redesigning the Future: National Environmental Summer Summit 2014, I would like to say that Payton, Alia, Cierra, Jumana, Boothe, and Ayden really shook up our blog and got loads of traffic.  You can read about these great high school students at the top of the blog under Staff 2014.

In the background, my counselors Katie, Morgan, and William were fabulous. They helped new bloggers learn how to get messages out and get great traffic. They spent loads of time hanging out and going to various groups with the high school students, so the new bloggers could get great data. They also took a bunch of photos. They were the backbone that helped the high students shine as they should.

What Does It Take to Have a Successful Blog

It takes cooperation, passion, and hard work. That's what I got with my student bloggers and my college counselors. I want to thank them all. Blogging is hard work (to be successful). Our blog did really well, and I give credit where it is due. 

Focus Group Favorites

By Boothe Pfaff and Aydan Smith:

During lunch, on Thursday, some campers answered questions about their favorite parts of the Stanback Reserve and the summit so far.  

A:Stanback Reserve   

B:The Summit

Holly Kuhn - Backbone for Conservation
A. "My favorite part was going on the trails and looking at all the wildlife there."
B. "Going to our focus groups and studying everything that we have our interests in."

Becan Hennighan - Backbone for Conservation
A. "The variety of plants and animals that live there and the sheer beauty of the preserve itself."
B. "Going out into the preserve and learning about the various animals that live in it."

Amanda Williamson - Backbone for conservation
A. "When we get to actually see and hold the birds as well as walk through the mud to set up turtle traps." "Its just so beautiful and you just feel one with nature."
B. "Meeting new & interesting people and going through the preserve to catch, tag and track different animals."

Danny Woomer - Stories In Support Of Your Cause
A."The Lake and Ponds."
B. "The focus groups, they were fun."

Jay Bolin - Invasive Alien Plants and Animals
 A and B: "It’s easy to work with the Environmental Summit students because they are so
engaged and excited." "I learn from the Summit students and feed off their energy & enthusiasm for making a difference for our planet."

Walker Brown - Invasive Alien Plants and Animals

A and B: "I liked boating in the lake at the preserve. I also enjoyed geocaching using the GPS’s."

Emily Clancey - Invasive Alien Plants and Animals

A:"My favorite part of the preserve is probably the lake and the creek." "You can find clams in each one and turtles & ducks in the lake." "I also went out on the lake in a kayak, which was a very fun experience."  
B:"My favorite part of the summit so far was going to the the preserve in the creek and lake." "We got to walking knee-deep in the water and sifted through the mud for clams." "We got really dirty and wet, but that made it more fun."

Linda Kesler – Stories in Support of Your Cause 
A and B: "The Environmental Summit brings together enthusiastic, thoughtful, energetic high school students around  a common issue to each of us. Meeting and working with these young leaders inspires and offers hope that our world can become a better place to all."

Cole Goodnight- Invasive Alien Plants and Animals
A: Kayaking/boating    B:Frying and eating Kudzu

Harrison  Moore-Invasive Alien Plants and Animals
A:"Kayaking and seeing all the nature."
B:"Seeing the Stanback Reserve."

Kathryn Obenshain- Invasive Alien Plants and Animals
A:"Digging in the mud for paper shells.""I also liked getting the Asiatic Clams." "Of course, I love fieldwork!"
B:"Doing work in the field with my focus group." "We ran an awesome experiment you'll learn about tonight!"

Fried Kudzu? Can You Really Eat That?

By: Payton Coleman 

All you need is love,but a little fried kudzu never hurt anybody!

Students in the Invasive Alien Plants and Animals focus group enjoyed some oddly delicious kudzu. Their first mission before enjoying the final product was to explore around the campus for natural kudzu. They then cleaned the kudzu, and deep fried the unusual cuisine.

Here are some comments from the 
students about the exercise... 

"We went a couple blocks near the campus, and we cut the kudzu. It was like a scavenger hunt and it was cool." -Anusha Joshi

"As we ate and deep-fried the kudzu, we thought about how funny it would be to sell fried kudzu at a county fair.  We even thought of a great slogan: Saving the environment, one crunchy kudzu snack at a time." -Savannah Swinea


What Would You Do If . . .

Robin Emmons, Founder & Executive Director of Sow Much Good, opened the 2014 National Environmental Summit for high school students.

Her story began when she realized that she needed to make some changes. She began by resigning from her 20-year corporate job. When her husband asked her how her day went, she smiled and said, "I quit my job." But, she told him she had a plan. At that moment, she actually didn't.

The concern that was pulling at Emmons' heart was her mentally ill brother who had many needs as a homeless person with one of those being access to fresh and healthy food. On his behalf and others unable to afford food, she had 50 friends over to turn her entire back yard into a gardening space. Her husband enjoyed his riding mower and keeping up the back yard. She said he still misses his back yard.

Students at the summit were asked what they would think/do if their parents had an epiphany moment like Simmons did and quit working and turned the family yard into a garden.

Honey I'm Home, and Our Yard is Now a Garden

Here are their responses:

Danny Woomer - "My parents already have a garden, but if they both quit their jobs, I'd be terrified."

Mimi Wahid - "My parents are landscapers, so they till gardens for a living. I would not be surprised if I cam home to this. I would actually be overjoyed, because I have been trying to convince them to do this for years (my current garden only takes up 1/4 of the yard and needs to be bigger). So, my immediate reaction would be to start planting seeds."

Victoria Chien - "I would be furious. If only they did not quit their job, I would be okay. Honestly, couldn't you make a garden and still keep your job?"

Payton Coleman - "I would help them with the garden. I would support their decision even though I wouldn't have a choice."

Kate Huffman - "If it was my dad, I would be a little bit surprised, because he's usually not a very spontaneous person, but he has always wanted a good space to garden. (BTW - He's a stay at home dad, so the job part doesn't really apply). If it was my mom, I would be worried, because it would drastically affect my way of life, but I would be happy that she no longer had to deal with the stress of her job."

Daniel Coburn - "Thought: You s_ck at gardening; we're gonna die. Words: You s_ck at gardening; we're gonna die. Action: Apply for legal independence."

Nataliyah Gray - "I would act like it was totally normal, and I would support whatever decision my mom makes, because she supports me."
Rosalie Alff - "This is fine. I'd support it (supportatively and financially :-)"

Justice Pennywell - "Place them in a mental facility (with love) and move in with my grandparents. Get a job. But after they are treated, I will make them get jobs."

Ele'na Wilson - "If that scenario were to happen, I would honestly help my parents out, because there's nothing else I could do but help with the process. Perhaps we would then all sell crops grown in the garden, making a profit."

Emily Clancey - "I would think my mom has finally and completely lost it and decided to follow her (not really stories at all) dreams of being a farmer in our backyard. We'd also have a ton of ruptured irrigation pipes and our neighbors would probably fine us. I'd think she's crazy and needs help or something."

Elizabeth Maness "If my parents quit their jobs and tilled up the yard, I would probably cry. Without any source of income, we would lose our house."

Lexie Burns ; "I would be happy, so I could spend more time with my dad. I would also help with it."

Now, it's your turn. What would you do/think if your parent or spouse came home and told you he/she quit their job and then tilled up the entire back yard to grow food? Let us know in comments. Thanks.

Newspaper Towers and First Place Winners

By: Jumana Mograbi

A stack of newspapers in hand and a couple of minutes on the clock, the campers creativity shone through during last nights Eco Olympics.

The task assigned consisted off building a tower from the newspapers provided, the tower was judged based on creativity and height. The newspapers were folded, ripped into pieces and stacked on top of each other as the campers tried to keep the newspapers from falling apart.

Communication skills and team work were shown as the campers worked together on building a tower, and as they tried to think of ideas that would help them win first place.

After 10 minutes, time was called and the campers stopped working and stepped back from their creations. The focus groups towers were all different in shapes and heights and creativity.

After observing all the towers the judges gave Invasive Species the award for tallest tower while Go Ahead Change Your Mind won most creative. The newspapers were then recycled and gathered up as the campers went inside to wash off their inked stained hands.

Most Creative

Congratulations to Invasive Species!

At least you tried!

I Changed My Mind - Learning to Make Decisions at Summer Camp

By Alia Dahlan

 Dr. Seth Holtzman, a professor of philosophy at Catawba College led environmental summit students on an intellectual journey to truly understand the decision-making process. They learned about how large change occurs and the mindset required to change people's minds.

Participants read passages to discuss ethics and morals of decisions, along with objectivity vs. subjectivity. They had intensive discussions on the philosophy of altering people's perspectives.

Candles got their juices flowing