Mar 292009
Authors: Erin Smith

While many CSU students were enjoying their Spring break on white, sandy beaches far away from work and studies, 14 particular students toiled away in the dry dunes of a different kind of sand.

The Live Green community’s Spring break trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park was just one of many alternative Spring break trips that took students to various locations around the nation and world.

Ten other student trips, sponsored by CSU’s Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement office, enlisted students to assist local populations in cities across the country and even in Panama.

“It’s a great opportunity to connect you with volunteer opportunities around the world,” said senior English education and Spanish major Kristen Majors about alternative break programs. “I just think the outlet is awesome . you can get out of town and help others.”

Adam Beh, coordinator of the Live Green community, said that the Sand Dunes trip was part of a first-year seminar in environmental studies through the Warner College of Natural Resources.

The Live Green community, created in 2008, began as a residence option primarily for incoming freshmen in Summit Hall, Beh said. It has been expanded to include students of any academic level and an option to take the service-oriented seminar.

“I’m trying to turn it into a learning community . students will have one class together, do activities together and live together,” said Beh.

He added that the Live Green community offers connections to like-minded students interested in exploring sustainable living options, and provides them with links to internships and job opportunities.

Beh said the purpose of the trip was to take the sustainable concepts learned during the first half of the environmental studies course and try to figure out what those concepts look like when applied to the Sand Dunes.

With the trip completed, seminar students will take what they learned and use it to develop a Web page for visitors of the Great Sand Dunes National Park Web site.

Beh said that the effective title of the Web site project is “Live Green/Buy Local.”

“We had a different topic a week,” said Kiersten Jarvis of the preparation done in class before their trip.

She said the class, through guest speakers and research, covered many aspects of sustainability in tourism such as agriculture, economics, geology and hydrology over the course of the semester.

Jarvis, a freshman natural resources management major and teaching assistant for the seminar, said the students traveled to San Luis Valley in 12-passenger CSU vans and stayed in ranger housing during their trip.

“Then we got our hands a little dirty, figuring out how the National Park works with the community,” she said.

While there, the group heard from community representatives, speakers from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service, Jarvis said, and explored the park to see firsthand how the dunes formed through wind erosion and water flow from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

“We want people to look before they visit the park,” said Jarvis of the Live Green/Buy Local site.

Jarvis said the site will give advice on how to visit the park in a sustainable manner, including a list of sights around the San Luis Valley community, which will be incorporated in an effort to promote their local economy.

Beh said that the trips are beneficial to both students and the park, adding that Sand Dunes has invited the group back next year, and Rocky Mountain National Park expressed interest in hosting CSU students next year as well.

Majors also spent her break participating in environmental service learning through the Alternative Spring Break program sponsored by the SLiCE office.

On an alternative spring break trip to Catalina Island, Calif., Majors volunteered at an environmental education camp building an outdoor classroom, removing invasive species and working to maintain the camp’s garden before camp began summer sessions.

“We got to do a lot of the fun camp stuff too,” Majors said, commenting that she got to go night snorkeling and participate in activities normally reserved for campers.

The trip was one of the 10 sponsored by SLiCE office this spring, and students also traveled to Panama, Utah, Florida, Tennessee, New Orleans, Arizona, Washington D.C., Nebraska and Minnesota, and Independence, Calif., Kate Quillin, the alternative break coordinator, said in an e-mail.

Additionally, students who missed the spring trips will have more opportunities to participate in alternative break programs this summer, said the assistant director of SLiCE Jen Johnson.

Through SLiCE, students can work with baby sea turtles in Florida City, Fla. or volunteer through other outlets in California or Alaska, she said.

“All the summer trips are environmental,” Johnson said, adding that the destination for the 2009 alternative winter break is Kenya, Africa.

Johnson said that CSU students in Kenya will either work with the Save The Elephants agency, a conservation organization, or visit the village of Umoja, a community of women who left their previous homes due to violent domestic issues.

“It is very rare for women to leave that (environment), culturally,” Johnson said.

She said that volunteers participating in Alternative Break in Umoja will lead lessons and activities at the village pre-school and assist with the construction of a museum.

The informational session regarding alternative winter break to Kenya has been rescheduled to Wed., April 1 due to the snowstorm that closed campus last Thursday, Johnson said.

Staff writer Erin Smith can be reached at

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