Baltimore Rotterdam educational exchange projects – spring semester 2017

diStefano in classroomsLeft: Avalanche Arts’ Kathie diStefano teaching an “Operation Trash” workshop in a Rotterdam high school. Right: Kathie diStefano conducting an environmentally-themed workshop at a school in Baltimore.

Theatre artist and educator Kathie diStefano from Rotterdam’s Avalanche Arts employs participatory techniques and theatre art to create awareness with youth and seniors about the environment through creative strategies to recycle and make smart consumer decisions. Ms. diStefano is coordinating several activities in Baltimore during the 2017 Spring school semester. The following projects are already planned for 2017, and even more projects might get added to the mix.

1. Operation Trash virtual exchange

“Operation Trash” project is designed to educate and connect high school students in Baltimore and the greater Rotterdam area. This virtual exchange project focuses on environmental themes. Improvisational theatre techniques and remote learning techniques will be used to teach sustainability, trash reduction, recycling, and inspire environmental stewardship. Through the use of classroom activities, improvisational theatre techniques, community events, and social media, teenagers in both cities will learn about sustainability, trash reduction, recycling and get inspired to become environment stewards for their communities. The project leverages an existing environmental educational program developed by Avalanche Arts and used in Rotterdam schools.

Project Partners

Avalanche Arts, an organization based in Rotterdam (Dutch name: “Stichting Lawine”), initiated the Operation Trash Exchange and is designing the program together with the partnering schools. Rotterdam-based theatre artist/educator and project coordinator Kathie diStefano from Avalanche Arts has been awarded a grant by the Netherlands chapter of the World Wildlife Fund to coordinate this project.

Baltimore high schools:

Bard High School Early College Baltimore (BHSEC Baltimore), a four-year public high school near Mondawmin Mall that enables students to take a two-year, tuition-free college course of study in the liberal arts and sciences; Elisabeth Gambino is the project coordinator at this school.

Benjamin Franklin High School (BFHS), a school in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay with a community center (Ben Center); Deborah Woolley is the project coordinator at this school. In addition, Ms. diStefano plans to work with Filbert Street Community Garden located in the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay neighborhood.

The Baltimore high schools are being partnered with high schools in the Rotterdam region:

Wolfert van Borselen, an international secondary school located in Rotterdam.

Lyceum Vos, a secondary school with classes conducted in Dutch and English language, located in Vlaardingen, near Rotterdam.

Baltimore artist Bridget Parlato from Full Circuit Studio plans to work with Ms. diStefano on a professional development workshop for Baltimore teachers. Parlato is founder of the Baltimore Trash Talk initiative.

Operation Trash activities in Rotterdam
Photos from Avalanche Arts’ “Operation Trash” workshops with students in Rotterdam

Financial support

Financial support has been provided by CSX, MECU Foundation, the Netherlands chapter of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), the participating schools, and other institutions.

More info about the sponsors and partners

2. Artist residency at Mann Residential School

Ms diStefano will do an artist residency at this school in spring 2017. She will direct an “Eco News Show” theatre production with the school’s children, leveraging her experience with similar productions that she has executed with students and community residents in Rotterdam. It is a way for children to learn about trash and recycling through comedy and improvisational theatre. The residency involves 2 groups of middle school students; they will write the script, act, and work on sound, lighting, and scene — they will be involved in all aspects of the production.

Mann Residential School is on Sheppard Pratt campus in Towson, a suburb of Baltimore. It is a special school for children with multiple challenges and emotional disabilities.

Financial support

Financial support is provided by Mann Residential School.