Sunday, February 2, 2014


ROCK = Revolution of Core Knowledge. 

ROCK is a community of four teachers and slightly over 100 students at Drake High*.  Half the students are in the ninth grade and half are tenth graders who work together on interdisciplinary study projects and engage in community service.

ROCK was the Ground Zero for our beach plastic project. Back in 1996 Richard and son Eli were fulfilling a volunteer stint for ROCK, doing habitat restoration at the Point Reyes National Seashore when they took a break from pulling weeds in the Kehoe headlands and went down to the beach. The beach was sadly crapped up with loads of plastic so they came back with garbage bags and the truck, hauling off seven big sacks of plastic. Take it to the dump? It was the first time we asked "AWAY? just where is this AWAY?". Three years later Richard met Judith who for three years had been doing her own plastic pickup project at Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon. We joined forces in 1999 and we were married in 2004. For more about our story 

Richard's kids, Amelia and Eli, had benefited from the innovative ROCK program and the engaged dedication of the teachers—class of 2000 and 2003.  So, we were especially glad to have the opportunity to share with these youngn's the positive powerful influence the ROCK program had had on his kids—perseverance, problem solving—enough time to figure things out.  
A couple of years ago, Amelia and Richard were walking down a trail next to Papermill Creek when they saw a teen-age girl hefting two big buckets half-full of water. Her dad was walking next to her offering no help as she struggled with the burden. She was setting the buckets down, resting about every 20 yards. As Richard and Amelia approached, they asked, "What are you guys doing? Do you need help?" "No thanks," says the girl, "it's for a school project. I have to carry 5 gallons of water a mile. To see what it's like." Richard and Amelia shoot a look at each other, smile simultaneously and give out a shout, "Grifo!!!!!!!" As in Paul Grifo, the social studies teacher. ROCK rules, with it's show, don't tell maxim. The girl manages a haggard smile, "Yep" blows her damp hair out of her eyes and picks up the buckets. Yes, perseverance!
This year with science teacher Michael Wing, students are working on a special beach plastic collecting project, categorizing and counting their finds. Later in the semester with Mary Kitchens and Jasper Thelin they will repurpose found materials in an "Art is Everywhere" project. We were thrilled to be invited to present our project to a ROCK assembly — on stage in front of 100 students. YIKES! Although we have given our power point some 50 times, this time we were especially nervous— teenagers can be a tough audience. Richard described his fret as being like a boxfulla bunnies on a weasel ranch.
Nevertheless, we put on our best Punch and Judy tease-ahge and we will told our story of the plastic that has become our life work. Although the news about plastic pollution is dire, we brought the good humor and excitement of scouting for treasures and the pleasure of the creative life to an otherwise difficult topic.  We wanted to tie our presentation to the thread of ROCK's lesson plans and what they have already accomplished in their plastic gathering efforts.
Going to one place (we estimate over 500 times) has opened us to many fields of study—plastic related and ROCK-tastic—geology, anthropology, chemistry, literature, wildlife biology and of course, art. We've limited our selves to 1000 yards of one beach to make a graspable metric for understanding the world-wide problem of plastic pollution.

We are happy with our moniker the "Plastic People" and are thrilled that we have become spokespersons for the issue of plastic pollution. We find it is happening not only on Kehoe Beach but on beaches and oceans worldwide.  Our exhibit at the Cal Academy last summer expanded our brief to include the issues of unsustainable fisheries and the toxic flow from house-hold waste.  We've taken our show on the road, with exhibits and presentations from NYC to Washington DC, from Hong Kong to Tibilisi. We have a dynamic powerpoint Indra's Net  that refers to The Jeweled Net of Indra from Hindu mythology—"The great god Indra defeated Ravenna, and to celebrate he laid an infinite gossamer net over the universe. At each juncture of the net he hung a glittering jewel. Every facet of every jewel reflected all the other jewels." Kehoe Beach is a jewel in our net, reflecting the the multiverse å la ROCK. 

We use the metaphor of Indra's Net and the idea that everything is connected to everything else to explore geology, biology, history. WHEW!!! Yes, that sounds like a lot to pack into an hour and a half. It was fast paced. We wanted the students to "get" that one place, one tiny dot on the planet can open into multiple interests, can open the world. Here are a few of the topics we touched on:
• History of the environmental movement and its relation to the Point Reyes National Seashore Act
• The Geology of the area: the meeting of two tectonic plates in the rift valley of the San Andreas Fault
• Use of art and creative thinking to build energy for action
• Influences from art history
• Recovery of endangered species on Kehoe Beach—Peregrine Falcon and the Snowy Plover
• The anthropology of plastic objects—research and story telling
• The mythology of progress
• Fisheries
• Household toxic waste

WHEW!!! Yes, that sounds like a lot to pack into an hour and a half. It was fast paced. We wanted the students to "get" that one place, one tiny dot on the planet can open into multiple interests, can open the world.

It was pretty much a snark-free zone in the Little Theatre at Drake and we ended with Green Sangha's "Plastic State of Mind" Check it out. You'll be tapping your toes and shouting hallelujah!!!

*Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo, CA is named after Sir Francis Drake the English privateer and Naval Hero who purportedly landed in the area in 1579. As vice admiral from 1577 to 1580 he carried out the second circumnavigation of the world. In these parts the 16th-century sea captain is the namesake for Drakes Bay, Drakes Estero and Drakes Beach Cafe. Sir Francis Drake High School is on Marin’s most critical east-west thoroughfare, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard that runs the from the west coast of Marin County to the trail head for the Point Reyes Lighthouse at the south end of the Point Reyes Peninsula.

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