The Buzz at Rondout Valley High School

Rondout Valley High School’s 2017 WISE presentations were as varied and interesting as usual. WISE community coordinator Andy Lutz was able to attend the presentations of two particularly intriguing projects, one on bees and beekeeping, the other on stereotypes and seeing a real person, not a façade.

With Bee WISE, Kailey C’s project, Kailey not only BeeCame WISE to the fate of apiaries all over the world but wised up her audience to the impact of multinational corporations on local economies through the wide use of pesticides, the growth and impact of corporate apiaries, and the spread of Colony Collapse Disorder and resulting continued decline of bee population worldwide, issues she had researched assiduously.

With the encouragement of her mentor, Madame Abi Hassan, she started her extensive research off with visits to several hives and interviewed beekeepers, both local and regional. And with all the accrued knowledge that she accumulated, she built up to the culmination of her project: the successful building of her own bee hive.

For her presentation, not only did Kailey respond with great knowledge to questions from the audience, but she brought her younger brother in to model the appropriate gear for beekeeping, the protective suit, the netted hat and the beekeeper gloves. Kailey’s pitch to the audience was to help keep local bee keepers in business as a way of countering that multinational corporation impact on the local economy. Clearly, Kailey has become an effective advocate not just for bees but for sustainability in agriculture.

Sasha S’s project, To Love a Stranger, undertaken with the support of her mentor, Franny Hertz, hearkened back to Sasha’s freshman year when she was galvanized by an English class activity, the reading of a graduation speech by author David Foster Wallace. In that speech, Wallace urged his audience to look beyond the façade of people one might encounter and to look for the humanity behind the stereotype you might have otherwise settled for.

That speech resonated with Sasha over the years, and the result was this project, which began with interviewing sociologists and resulted in her production of a video in which she interviewed seven seemingly disparate individuals. Her subjects:  a waitress, a custodian, a former inmate, banker, an African American high school student in a mostly white high school, a police officer, and a yoga instructor).

She prepared for her project by pulling out all the stops in her extensive reading and carefully targeted interviewing which broadened to include film makers from whom she sought technical expertise for her video. The purpose of her documentary was to break down the stereotypes that its audience might harbor about these individuals and encourage viewers to learn about them as individual people, instead of what previously formed expectations might suggest about them. Did it succeed?  The documentary was, Andy Lutz reported, a tour de force and a particularly prescient choice for a project in these exceptionally polarized times.


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