Despite the onset of COVID-19, the Kaiser Wipeout Crew’s Peace and Sustainability garden has been flourishing. Paul Balazs, the faculty advisor to the club and founder of the program, has worked hard to ensure that his students get the most out of Wipeout Crew. Balazs is dedicated to the program, “go[ing] to the garden almost everyday, regardless of whether or not there’s school,” he said.
“The garden has never looked better,” Balazs said. “The [garden days] have seemed to be more valuable because they leave students with tangible pieces to add to their knowledge…It has been the glue that keeps us together in these times, where we can’t really rely on the same old methods of human connection.” Unfortunately, Wipeout Crew has still been affected by the coronavirus. “COVID has challenged us in the way that we’re not able to do some of the same events that we normally do,” Balazs said.
Along with maintaining the garden, Wipeout Crew normally devotes time to connecting with the land and ocean through a range of different activities. “Wipeout Crew usually hosts weekly events with a company called Huli. We do hikes [and] we get out on the beach with cultural practitioners and different non-profits to really understand the relationship that people gave to the land and environment around them,” Balazs said. COVID-19 has forced the club to cancel these activities. “Authenticity has always been really important to Wipeout Crew and we really can’t recreate those authentic experiences” Balazs said. “It’s one thing to learn about a cultural practice on a slideshow, it’s a whole other thing to do it for yourself.”
Balazs works to teach his students the forces of the world through experience and shared knowledge. “[Normally] we do our bi-weekly beach cleanups, which offers students a great way to understand the Pacific Gyres and the way that trash and marine debris arrive on our coastlines,” he said. COVID-19 has affected members of Wipeout Crew by limiting the amount of knowledge they can gain through experiences and human connection. “We’re a community, and people are meant to be together. People are meant to share experiences.” Balazs said.
With the end of the year in sight, Wipeout Crew plans to continue its dedication to the beloved garden through this difficult time. “I want to make sure that this program is as beneficial as possible for my students. The things they learn from it will stay with them for their entire lives,” Balazs said.