Monday, August 15, 2011

Truck Farm Chicago's inaugural tour is nearly four months in (now powered by biodiesel from Loyola University) and we're giving away cherry tomatos on a daily basis.

During a Truck Farm visit the other day, a young grandmother asked me, "If you don't sell anything from your little farm, what do you do with it?" So, while her kids sampled produce and painted veggies on the truck, I explained our mission, i.e. connecting kids to food & wellness, and described our programming (often w/partners), i.e. visiting schools & conducting programming like gardening, wellness education and cooking.

That said, now with a few miles under my farming belt, I'm realizing the power of using the topic of food for learning. We're all connected to it at least three times a day and it's connected to everything else. From brain power, to healthcare costs and from public policy to social justice and jobs, food is our medium. Fresh, tasty food. And the best part is the number of practical ways to improve our system. It's not about sacrifice, it's about abundance. It's not about higher costs, it's about food that tastes great and nourishes us (and the soil). And being with youth to talk about these issues is a great place to be. And that's why Truck Farm continues to roll...

P.S. This is my last blog post at blogger. All new postings are here at Green Sugar Press

P.P.S. Coming soon: The difference between corn/soy farm and a small vegetable farm. Then, the real cost of 'flaming hots.'

Friday, June 10, 2011

'Farm-On-Wheels' making it's way around Chicago...

Props are good. I like props, so I knew Truck Farm Chicago would work. With a 'farm-on-wheels' that lets kids harvest and eat food, it's easy to engage in conversations about health. I just wasn't sure the plants would like being on the bumpy road day after day. Well, from the kale to the onions and spinach, to the chard and broccoli, we're growing food. And yesterday we harvested the first fruit from our strawberry patch. The look on the student's face after he bit into it was priceless. :)

P.S. This link takes you to Jamie Oliver's blog and an article on an innovative school in Chicago, The Academy for Global Citizenship. And Truck Farm gets to visit next week :)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Truck Farm Chicago is on Tour!!

I have dirt under my fingernails and it feels great. The sun rises higher and our crops grow taller. We visit kids and laugh. Life is good. Check out the latest project- A Green Sugar Press and Seven Generations Ahead collaboration: Truck Farm Chicago.

It's about engaging kids in conversations on food; how it grows, where it grows and why it matters. From toddlers to teens, our programming runs the gamut, from planting seeds to composting demos, to hands-on history/geography lessons and cooking classes.

Check out more, at our w-i-p website: Truck Farm Chicago

P.S. Including are clips from our visits with NBC, ABC and WGN TV.
P.P.S. Don't fret, the kale, spinach, strawberries, onions, broccoli, chard, cauliflower, collard greens, radishes and parsley plants have grown far taller than in this picture.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

If standardized tests aren't the whole answer, what is?

I've yet to meet a teacher that believes existing standardized tests are a fully adequate measure of student performance. And I've yet to meet a business executive that hires (for careers that pay well) based on how well applicants do at rote memorization and linear thinking.

So, how should we spend time in schools and how do we measure student performance?

I've written about Whole Child Education. Still a great site, here.
And here's a three minute video at Edutopia (George Lucas' foundation) on assessment.

Enjoy Spring!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I've been a big fan of TED talks. TED conferences happen all over the world and the brief talks/presentations are available for free at Listening to them while in my car makes me immune to Chicago traffic. Why mention it here? There are a number of TED speakers with great insight into children and education. Three of my favorite:

Kiran Bir Sethi - empowering children

Aimee Mullins - the opportunity of adversity

Sir Ken Robinson - creativity

I was fortunate to see Sir Ken speak last week with old ski buddy and consultant Dani Stern who runs a Montessori school in Bozeman. We didn't get any photos with Ken, so here's one of Dani and I.

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's all good...biodiesel for Truck Farm & Green Teacher

Normally, I'm not a huge fan of Mondays. I look at my "Things to Do List" and feel overwhelmed. Well, not today. Sure, my "To Do List" is long and getting longer, but this morning I was lucky enough to meet five inspiring Whitney Young High School students. With Teacher Brian Sievers, they work in a lab at the University of IL-Chicago creating biodiesel from donated used oil, e.g. soy, canola.

Their fuel powers anything that runs on diesel, like the Truck Farm we'll be introducing next month (and Chicago's Fresh Moves Mobile Market). The benefits of re-using waste and burning biodiesel are, to start, reducing disposal/landfill fees (saving money) and lowering air pollution (and higher healthcare costs). For more, check out one of their websites.

Not only are they learning about solving problems and making a difference once they graduate, they are doing it today. As a team, utilizing their different strengths, they secured sponsors and donors and, of course, put the system together and got it working. Yes, Brian Sievers, the Whitney Young Teacher, is an expert, but he's clear about one thing: it's the kid's project. He's there giving his free time and providing support and guidance, but it's the students who are 'running the show.'

So, while CBS TV cancelled their appearance and Senator Durbin only sent an aide, it's neat seeing kids solve real problems and understand that the 21st century is the most exciting time in the world to be alive.

P.S. More to follow on Truck Farm Chicago (whose biodiesel will come from these students). Today was also a good day because Green Teacher, the magazine, gave An Environmental Guide from A to Z, a fantastic review :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"I'm only trying to love my kids the best I can..."

A line I get from parents all the time:
"I'm just trying to love my kids. How do I have time to worry about the environment?"

And when the dinner needs to be made, Johnny needs help with homework, the car needs an oil change, Sarah's being bullied, the bills need to be paid and I may get laid off from work... then worrying about the environment falls pretty low on the list of "things to do right now." I understand that.

I also understand that we're living in crazy times. The 21st century is the most exciting time in the history of the world to be alive. Like it or not, change is upon us. Some say we're in an age of information. Bill McKibben prefers to say it's an age of distraction. Yes, we're bombarded with messages, but most is delivered in shallow sound bytes, and much comes from advertisers hawking goods and services for consumption. I'll argue we owe it to ourselves and our kids to dig deep and learn what's really going on. What kind of world are we giving our kids? What does the world look like past the Industrial Revolution?

If there's one book I'd recommend for parents ('green-minded' or not) looking for answers, it's The Ecology of Commerce (revised edition, 2010). Author Paul Hawken comes at it from both a business and environmentalist perspective and leaves us with hope. He makes sense of business, it's relationship to the environment and then articulates a plan of how doing business and doing good can become one in the same. In fact, we're already on the path. It's early and the powers of status quo are strong, but the opportunities are HUGE.

So, being an environmentalist won't add more to your to-do list. Rather, it'll be like falling off a log and improving your quality of life. And for most, that probably means spending more time with the kids they love so much. Hopefully, some of that time is spent playing outdoors. :)

OK, enough with adult books.
These days most of the books I read are for kids and as long as I refer to re-reading books, I picked up Maniac Magee from my shelf last week and didn't put it down 'til I finished it. It's a super entertaining story about a wunderkid and at the top of my recommendation book for any 5th or 6th grader. Or adult...

Quote of the day:
“Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire."
-William Butler Yeats