Baltimore Rotterdam educational exchange projects – spring semester 2017

diStefano in classroomsLeft: Avalanche Arts’ Kathie diStefano teaching an “Operation Trash” workshop in a Rotterdam 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 coordinated several activities in Baltimore during the 2017 spring school semester, including:

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 are used to teach sustainability, trash reduction, recycling, and inspire environmental stewardship. Through the use of classroom activities, improvisational theatre techniques, community events, student-made videos, and social media, teenagers in both cities learn about sustainability, trash reduction, recycling, and get inspired to become environment stewards for their communities. Trash serves as a theme for a cross-cultural exchange. The project leverages an existing environmental educational program developed by Avalanche Arts and used in Rotterdam schools.

Project Partners

Rotterdam-based theatre artist/educator and project coordinator Kathie diStefano from Avalanche Arts, an organization based in Rotterdam (Dutch name: “Stichting Lawine”), initiated the Operation Trash Exchange and designed the program together with the partnering schools.

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 will conduct a workshop for kids together with Filbert Street Community Garden located in the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay neighborhood.

The Baltimore high schools were 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.

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

More info about the exchange

Operation Trash Exchange 2017 Overview (PDF)

Financial support


CSX Beyond Our Rails logo   MECU Foundation        Baltimore Office of Sustainability logo    Baltimore-Rotterdam Sister City Committee logo


Wereld Natuur Fonds, the Netherlands Chapter of World Wildlife Fund for Nature

2. Artist residency at Mann Residential School

Ms diStefano conducted an artist residency at this school in spring 2017. She directed 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 involved 2 groups of middle school students; they wrote the script, acted, and worked on sound, lighting, and scene — they are 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 facing multiple challenges and emotional disabilities.

Financial support

Financial support was provided by Mann Residential School.