Cambria’s adults did more than their share to conserve water during the past year, but more than a dozen youths in the YMCA program are showing the older set has nothing on them.
They’re spreading the message of conservation in a big way, having designed banners that went up this month on Main Street, with a helping hand from the Y and the Cambria Community Services District.
The colorful vertical banners bearing catchy slogans cost $100 each, with the CCSD picking up the tab. But the kids in Shawna Volpa’s afterschool STEM class (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) did the rest.
It wasn’t easy.
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The 17 youths who developed the project during their meetings at Santa Lucia Middle School had to come up with slogans and color schemes, then used Photoshop to create the designs.
“The challenge was getting a good image on it,” said Eder Ramirez, 12, whose group eventually settled on a piggy bank and the slogan “Save water every day.” He said the group originally wanted to use the image of a bank building and also considered a broken piggy bank before settling on the intact model shown on the banner.
Holly McHaffie, 13, and her partner, Jackson Bruce, created a banner with the slogan “Jack & Jill had no water.”
“The original design was kind of long and had a lot of words, and we had it going horizontally,” she said, adding that it was originally in a comic-strip format. The design had to change because the banner was vertical, and the words were pared back to make the message easier to read from the road.
Bright colors and big letters were the order of the day.
“I’d say they made a lot of changes” as they went along, said Giovanni Espinoza, a ninth-grader who volunteered to help the students with the project. “I came for a couple of weeks, and I would do tutorials on Photoshop. Some of the kids had done some Photoshop, so they were able to help each other, which was cool.”
Volpa, who also teaches at Santa Lucia, said she also learned a lot.
“I didn’t know Photoshop,” she said after the students got to see the finished product for the first time earlier this month. “The kids are so immersed in technology every day, with iPads — we’re an iPad school — and computers and video games, they can teach me things I never knew.”
Volpa said the students spent about two hours brainstorming ideas, then sketched them out on paper and spent the next three sessions working on them in the computer lab. Dan Hartzell, the Y’s Santa Lucia site director, helped ensure the images chosen were the proper resolution and that they would fit the shape of the banners.
“Everyone sits down, and you make a lot of mistakes, and then you just figure it out,” Volpa said.
She explained that the STEM class, which meets on Wednesdays, is part of a full afterschool program sponsored by the Y at Santa Lucia. Forty students are enrolled in the effort, with more on a waiting list. The week’s scheduled calls for Poetry Club on Monday, followed by Tech Club on Tuesday, then STEM, Improv Club and a free day to close out the week.
Students undertake a variety of tasks. For instance, another STEM activity challenged them to develop a practical strategy for cleaning up an oil spill — helping wildlife and accounting for environmental impacts. One Wednesday, the youths were tasked with using 30 pieces of paper and masking tape to create a weight-bearing structure. The structure able to hold the most textbooks was to be judged the winner.
The banner project was the brainchild of CCSD Director Gail Robinette and Scarecrow Festival founder/ organizer Taylor Hilden.
“I started last year wanting to do an outreach, a partnership involving students and families,” Robinette said.
“We had some light posts available for something. The idea came up that maybe we could put some banners up. I said maybe we could use the light posts for banners, and maybe we could have the students design them.”
Five light posts on Main Street were available, but the students — who were grouped into a half-dozen teams — came up with six ideas.
Fortunately, Robinette said, the group that had reserved the sixth post decided not to use it, freeing the space up for the students’ sixth banner.
“I wanted to have students and families become our partners, not just in conserving, but in sustaining,” Robinette said. “Let’s get into sustainable solutions.”
The students at the unveiling were told that they’d get an opportunity to attend the Jan. 29 meeting of the CCSD board, where their efforts would be recognized.
The announcement was met with excitement, not least because it meant they’d be able to get out of school to attend.