While news of BP's efforts to cap the oil gusher in the Gulf Coast continued to make headlines last week, 11th-graders at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy were busy Thursday afternoon raising more than $3,000 for wildlife rescue efforts.
The carnival-like fundraiser at La Cañada's Memorial Park is the year-end project of the high school's advanced placement environmental science classes.
The annual mandatory projects are decided after advanced placement tests in May.
"It's awesome how it's just a couple of us brainstorming an idea," said Serena Morris, 16.
Planning for the fundraiser began about three weeks ago, said environmental science instructor Mary Schnieders, a project advisor.
The fundraiser is the culmination of efforts from several blocks of environmental science classes at the school.
The students had just two weeks to organize the fundraiser, which included advertising on social networking sites, booking the entertainment, obtaining the raffle prizes and coordinating donations of food from three local eateries.
"Instead of just worrying about which company's responsible, let's actually do something to help the efforts out there and get the volunteers on the ground to help," said environmental science and chemistry teacher Leslie Miller.
"I think people are frustrated because the cleanup is not happening. The companies don't have an answer in mind of how they're actually going to stop the oil spill."
The money went to Delaware-based Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, which is helping to rescue wildlife affected by the oil spill.
While the fundraiser had its share of entertainment — bands, a bounce house, face painting — the event also allowed students to use classroom lessons about the oil spill and educate the community.
Exhibits on soil conservation and demonstrations on the difficult process of cleaning wildlife covered with oil were featured.
Student Gage Golightly, 16, who helped coordinate the fundraiser, said her classmates are lucky to have instructors who not only teach a subject, but can relate lessons to world events.
"I feel confident having conversations with adults on any subject," she said. "All of us all very well informed."
Learning about the Gulf Coast oil spill has given students a unique insight into the consequences of the disaster, from impacts to wildlife to how it affects the livelihoods of boaters and fishermen, she said.
This has allowed students to become "experts" on the event, said Golightly, who used her connections as an actress on Nickelodeon to invite her fellow stars to the fundraiser.
"We wanted to do what we could do to make a direct impact," said student Kelsey Shaw, 17, who along with students Bianca Juarros, 16, and Olivia Warner, 16, set up the soil conservation exhibit.
"Previous years, we've done stuff that benefits the school, and we have all been about looking globally and expanding our mind set. So we thought that this would be a good way to raise money."
And as students learn more about the causes and consequences of the oil spill, they have also begun to formulate their own opinions about the current efforts to clean it up.
"I really don't think BP is doing enough, and they're not really doing as much as they should," said student Alexandra Fisher, 17. "They're really controlling how much they release to the media and to the public.
"They really should tell the public what really happened."