Thinking Critically About Our Current Education System

Hi, my name is Kevin Cataldo, and I’m a recent graduate of Felician University in New Jersey. I was the chapter president of the Alpha Zeta Rho Chapter of KDP on campus. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and I am at currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

On July 15, 2019, Teachers College welcomed K–12 educators and all other stakeholders from across the country and around the world to its 4th Annual Reimagining Education Summer Institute (RESI).

During the Institute, participants got the opportunity to critically think about our current education system.

In fact, during Day 1, the participants were asked to keep the following questions in mind: Why must we “reimagine” education here in the United States? The remaining 3 days focused heavily on the following: (a) racial and cultural literacy, (b) equity pedagogy, and (c) culturally sustaining leadership.

Here I am with Dr. Ladson Billings!

This year’s keynote address was delivered in an eloquent, powerful, and thought-provoking manner by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, a KDP Laureate.

She is considered a pioneer of culturally relevant teaching, a pivotal area of study in education that I hope to learn more about as I continue my graduate studies at Teachers College.

The Institute was extra special for me this year, as this was my first time participating in it. I also was a dialogue session co-facilitator.

During the 4 days, my co-facilitators and I provided K–12 educators and other stakeholders with a brave space to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and knowledge about our education system. As a soon-to-be first-year third-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, the Institute provided me with hope that I have the power to “reimagine” our education system and truly make a difference in the lives of my students.

At the conclusion of the Institute, both educators and stakeholders were asked to return to their respective school communities with a crucial question in mind: “What Now?”

In other words, what will I do to bring equity pedagogy into my school community?

Today more than ever before, the United States and the world must join forces and “reimagine” education, especially since one’s society depends heavily on an educated citizenry.

Furthermore, as a member of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, and as one of its UN Youth Representatives for the upcoming 2019–2020 academic school year, my goal is to raise awareness about this unique Institute at the world stage—at the United Nations Headquarters.

To end, raising such awareness can be beneficial not only to educators, but to other stakeholders within the United Nations as well.

Why? Think about it: The goal of the Institute is to help educators realize how vital it is for schools and stakeholders to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (SDG 4: Quality Education).

KDP & The United Nations

Rodriguez-Kaitlyn_blogHi, my name is Kaitlyn Rodriguez, and I’m a recent graduate of St. Joseph’s College in New York. I was the founding chapter president, now alumna, of the Alpha Theta Omega Chapter. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).

Learn all about how Kappa Delta Pi is connected to the United Nations and how you can get involved!

WHAT ARE THE UN GOALS?

In 2015, the United Nations adopted The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This initiative is a way for nations across the globe work to together to better the world in which we live. The 17 SDGs, or Sustainable Development Goals, are the 17 categories of improvements that the UN came up with. These goals are:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

WHAT DOES KDP HAVE TO DO WITH THESE GOALS?

The hope is that by the year 2030, each of these goals will be achieved, or at least progress will have been made toward each goal. So far, much work has been done on these goals by various groups and organizations, including Kappa Delta Pi. KDP is considered a non-governmental organization, of which there are 200+ involved with the UN and these SDGs.

Kappa Delta Pi has a group of dedicated members working specifically on these goals. Known as the Youth Representative of KDP, I personally have done my best to incorporate what I learned about these goals into my chapter as well as the community around me. The other members of this group are working on their campuses, in their schools, or in their fields to make an impact on those around us. Collectively, we’ve held events in support of the SDGs, including speaking with chapters and attending and presenting at conferences such as CTAUN and the 2019 American Educational Research Association Conference (Toronto, Canada), and incorporated the goals into units of study for schools. At this year’s Convocation, there also will be a presentation by members of this group, so be sure to check them out!

HOW CAN I HELP?

As Hellen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” With your help as a dedicated member of KDP—a member who took a vow to work toward bettering the future of your students and community and toward providing quality education for all—you can make a difference. If everyone made one small change in their lifestyle, classroom, or community, the world would be positively affected. It’s up to you to help make the world a better place. Find what you’re passionate about and work toward that goal. Incorporate the goals into your unit plans, show your students videos on the effects of living a sustainable life, and show tolerance, peace, and justice inside and outside your classroom. Expose your students to current literature and read them books about pollution, energy, and things happening in the world around them.

As an educator, you share responsibility for your students’ futures. You are the reason they know how to write. You taught them how to add and subtract. You explained how to write argumentative essays and persuasive essays in which they argue for a change that mattered to them. Show students how to do some good with these skills. Teach them real-life applications. Many times, especially as students get older, they lose touch with their purpose and don’t see the point in going to school or doing good in their community. By showing them that they can make a tangible impact in their environment, and better their lives and the ones to come, they will find their purpose, and maybe even a passion they didn’t know they had.

RESOURCES

If you want to find out more about these goals, and see what changes have been made thus far, check out this link: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300

For information regarding the 2030 Agenda, follow this link: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld.

Call for Manuscripts: The New Teacher’s Guide to Overcoming Common Challenges

An edited guidebook by Drs. Anna Quinzio-Zafran and Elizabeth A. Wilkins, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL

The New Teacher’s Guide to Overcoming Common Challenges: Curated Advice from Award Winning Teachers

Target Release: 2021

  • Proposal Submission Deadline: August 15, 2019
  • Acceptance Decision to Authors: September 20, 2019
  • Completed Article Due: October 18, 2019

Introduction

New teachers need a quick resource to use as they navigate their first years of teaching. They don’t have the time to read long journal articles or books to make just-in-time decisions about classroom practice. Rather, they need practical advice on critical challenges they face each day and throughout the school year. This guide is designed to support new teachers during their first years in the profession through print copy and online networking with peers and accomplished teachers based on ten common challenges.

In addition to being compact and able to fit into a teacher’s plan book, the guide also leverages a high tech, high touch approach in order to appeal to today’s tech generations who want just-in-time support. We plan to build a community around the guide, building in participatory events like Twitter chats featuring the hashtag #newteachersupport, Instagram challenges, Facebook Q & A live events with authors, new webinars that feature associated challenge topics, short podcasts, and social media infographics that act as reminders of important ideas in succinct and practical ways. Finally, the guide will contain an access code to resources; the code will take the new teacher to a list of pdfs with related material that can be opened with the access code for immediate use in the classroom.

Your Submission

This guide will offer timely, best practice, and innovative concepts across ten common challenges for new teachers: (1) Classroom Management, (2) Curriculum and Instruction, (3) Student Assessment, (4) Differentiation, (5) Relationship Building/School Culture, (6) English Learners, (7) Culturally Responsive Instruction, (8) Navigating Teacher Evaluation, (9) Data Literacy, and (10) Work-Life Balance. The guide, divided by topic, will also feature links to web resources.

Additionally, if your submission is accepted, we would like to offer further opportunities for you to leverage your leadership by taking part in our planned social media community (e.g., co-hosting live Facebook chats, Twitter Q & A sessions, webinars, a vlog, Instagram challenges and/or online roundtable discussions). All authors will be asked to participate in the online support activities from 2021-2023.

Keep Audience in Mind: The guide’s primary audience is new teachers. Additionally, the guide can appeal to PK-12 schools who offer induction/mentoring programs for their new teachers. Finally, this guide can be used by teacher preparation programs (both traditional and alternative) who teach, supervise, and support new teachers as they begin their professional careers.

Submission Guidelines

The editors are seeking well-written manuscripts for new teachers on any of the ten chapter topics. Manuscripts are being accepted for one-page articles (500 words) or two-page articles (800 words). Your manuscript should offer practical suggestions and resources that first- or second-year educators and student teachers can readily apply in their classrooms. When you write and edit, think about writing very succinctly so that each sentence is meaningful (like a tip in itself). We would like you to also include an original related document that connects to your manuscript that can be downloaded from the book’s website. 

Scroll to the bottom of this post for New Teacher Voice submission guidelines.

Writer’s Guidelines

  • 500 or 800 word document
  • Include an author-created resource, related to your topic, to stimulate thinking, promote self-reflection, and support new (not part of your word count)
  • Word attachment in 12-point Times New Roman font, double-space
  • If you include references, use the APA Style (American Psychological Association, 6th Edition).
  • Consider using bullets or numbered points
  • Write using active voice
  • Submit your proposal to https://kdp.formstack.com/forms/newteachersupport

LIST OF CHAPTERS AND THEIR DESCRIPTORS

CHAPTER TOPICS DESCRIPTOR OF EACH CHAPTER
Chapter 1

Classroom Set-Up and Management

Includes physical arrangement and how it can be easily modified for specific purposes, bulletin boards, record- keeping, procedures, and routines. This category also includes envisioning and maintaining a positive behavior management system, developing rules and practicing procedures, building relationships with hard-to-manage students, handling conflicts, averting bullying situations, and time management
Chapter 2

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Learn about children who might be living in poverty and its effects, with the myriad nationalities and ethnicities represented in today’s classroom.  How does one’s pedagogy acknowledge, respond to, and celebrate fundamental cultures?  Some examples of CRT include positive perspectives on parents and families, communication of high expectations, learning within the context of culture, and culturally mediated instruction.
Chapter 3

Curriculum and Instruction

Learning about district and/or grade-level curriculum, pacing guides, success standards, long-term and short- term planning, must be very how-to oriented, understanding grading expectations, how to plan highly engaging lessons for students. This category also includes Student Involvement – technology for learning, and anything you do with your students or you have them doing that motivates students to be involved in their own learning, including a wide variety of resources.
Chapter 4

Differentiation

Understanding how to implement accommodations, includes all types of differentiation with how-to’s – differentiating content, products, or processes – differentiating based on interests or abilities – scaffolding, tiering, cubing, RAFTing, etc., working collaboratively with other professionals such as special education/gifted/speech and language pathologists, etc., how to work with small groups, keeping the rest of the class engaged.
Chapter 5

English Learners

Especially looking for high impact strategies for helping ELs, ways to assimilate them into the classroom community,  engaging with their families, understanding how data from screeners correlates to curriculum design, best second language teaching strategies, developing strategies and materials using culturally relevant literature that focus on ELs and social justice, ways your communications can be translated, how to make tests less stressful for ELs, how to effectively plan so all students’ cultures enrich the classroom.
Chapter 6 Professionalism/School Culture Making the transition from student to working professional – establishing your professional identity with colleagues, administrators, support staff, families, students, and community members.
Chapter 7

Navigating Teacher Evaluation

Choosing the right lesson for an observation – preparing for the pre-conference – preparing students for classroom visitors – handling unplanned observations – how to advocate for your teaching.
Chapter 8

Relationship Building/Communication

Includes communications with students, parents, colleagues, administrators, and community members (including advocacy strategies to interact with city council, school board, or state or national legislators) – think about classroom newsletters, websites, use of social media, parent-teacher conferences of all types, what to say and how to say it.  This common challenge topic also includes becoming familiar with the community, its resources and values, how to get families and participating at school – especially how to communicate with and involve parents and guardians more involved in the education of the student, how to get whole families involved in learning.
Chapter 9

Student Assessment and Data Literacy

Learning about how to use formative and intermediate assessment to plan instruction – using summative assessment to determine how effective the instruction was – ways that student self-assessment contribute to success – interpreting data for different purposes.
Chapter 10

Work-Life Balance

How to juggle work and home life – seeing students’ parents in social situations away from school – how available you should make yourself after school hours – organizing work and home tasks – leaning on your

Call for New Teacher Voices:

New teacher voices are currently being accepted. Each chapter will feature three to five personal reflections on topics written by PK-12 early career teachers. The reflections may describe, for example, specific new teacher challenges or successes, insights or experiences that relate to a given topic. Each reflection should be written as a first-person narrative of 100-250 words and speak to strategies or anecdotal comments to serve as motivation for other new teachers.

Additionally, if your submission is accepted, we would like to offer further opportunities for you to leverage your leadership by taking part in our planned social media community (e.g., co-hosting live Facebook chats, Twitter Q & A sessions, webinars, a vlog, Instagram challenges and/or online roundtable discussions).

Complete new teacher voices should be submitted on or before August 15, 2019. Please include all of the following:

  • 100-250 word document
  • Word attachment in 12-point Times New Roman font, double-space
  • Working title for the submission
  • Chapter in which the proposed reflection best fits (see list of chapters)
  • Submit your proposal to https://kdp.formstack.com/forms/newteachersupport

A Survey of All Knowledge

Today’s blogger is Daniel Tanner, Board Chair of the Daniel Tanner Foundation. He reflects here on the writings of Frank Lester Ward, the subject of an article recently published in The Educational Forum.

In early 1961, while attending the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Los Angeles, the announcement was made that the book The Transformation of the School by Lawrence Cremin had just been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history.

Unfortunately, the publisher’s representative at the conference had no copies for sale at the meetings. I soon obtained a copy after I returned home and found that once I opened the pages I could not put it down.

Beautifully written, yet richly documented, the book told the story of the life and passing of the movement for progressive education that was part of the larger social movement of progressivism in America from 1876 to 1957.

In Transformation I found only passing mention on how, early on in John Dewey’s tenure at the University of Chicago, a colleague there, Albion Small, called Dewey’s attention to a book by Lester Frank Ward that had been massively ignored and virtually forgotten.

Had it not been for Small, according to Cremin, “a whole generation of educators might well have missed his work.” Ward’s ideas on education, as outlined by Cremin, were profound and fascinating to my mind, but all too brief with no mention of how Dewey drew upon Ward’s ideas. And so I obtained from interlibrary loan a copy of Ward’s massive and musty two-volume work published in 1883, Dynamic Sociology or Applied Social Science.

Tracing every source I could find on Ward’s life and work, I found that Dynamic Sociology sold very poorly, fewer than 500 copies in 10 years. The two volumes ended with a concluding chapter of almost 100 dense pages under the title Education. The footnote on the first page of the chapter explained that it was “an abridgement of a far more extended treatise actually written ten years earlier” (1873).

Cremin’s Transformation begins with the year 1876, marking the opening of the progressive movement in American education. In the final chapter of Ward’s magnum opus, Ward presented his vision of the three universal curriculums to meet the needed democratic prospect for the 20th century. Ward admitted that no one knew the shape or form that would be taken by the three universal curriculums, but he presented in detail the guiding principles for the new curriculum synthesis that was left for John Dewey’s Democracy and Education (1916).

The lives of Ward and Dewey could not have been more different: Dewey, from a long line of Vermont heritage and security, and Ward from the American heartland and early years of laborious work and struggle. Largely self-educated, Ward managed to obtain degrees to qualify for careers in law and medicine, but his passion was in natural science.

Dewey’s opportunity for higher education was smoothly available in his chosen field of philosophy. Whereas Dewey did not discard the remnants of religious sentiment until his earliest adult years, Ward was an iconoclast, and examined deeply the comparative origins and influences of science and religion in society. Both men were greatly influenced by Darwin’s findings and ideas.

Ward held that through the evolution of the human brain, humanity was empowered to direct the progression of civilization. Ward and later Dewey contended that the course of human progress was to be shaped by scientific method or “the method of intelligence,” released through universal educational opportunity to meet the democratic educational prospect.

After working as a paleontologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, Ward’s writings eventually drew recognition to the extent that he became recognized as the founder of the field of sociology, although one could say it was the entire broad field of social science, as indicated in the title of Ward’s masterwork. At age 65, Ward was invited to join the faculty of Brown University. He was truly an orchestral man, so it seemed fitting that students at Brown flocked to his course, A Survey of All Knowledge. At his passing in 1913 at the age of 72, Ward’s copious collection of notebooks and records were burned by his wife.

Daniel Tanner is Professor Emeritus in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. He is author of Crusade for Democracy: Progressive Education at the Crossroads (SUNY Press, 2015), and coauthor (with Laurel Tanner) of History of the School Curriculum (Macmillan, 1990) and Curriculum Development: Theory Into Practice (4th ed., Pearson, 2007). 

Teaching Literacy From The CORE

Ms. Beckee walked into her very first classroom eager to teach her students to love reading and writing.

She strongly believed literacy is transformational for student success.

Ms. Beckee knew she had a big job ahead of her, though. The school where she worked had had low test scores in reading for the past several years, most of her students were labeled as “at-risk,” and she would have a limited classroom library. What Ms. Beckee wasn’t expecting, however, was the difficulty she would face in reaching students who came from backgrounds unlike her own. She began to ask herself, “How do I reclaim and sustain transformational literacy practices so that my students are successful, lifelong lovers of reading and writing?”

Situations like the one Ms. Beckee faced are quite common.

With the increasingly diverse makeup of students, pressures of standardized testing, and lack of funding, teachers often feel overwhelmed with the task of transforming their students into strong readers and writers.

Although this task does take time, mystery doesn’t have to surround it, and fear doesn’t have to drive it. Being a strong literacy teacher requires a lot of skill and a lot of heart (Freire, 2000). But it’s easy to lose heart when testing, pressure, and fear take over.

What I offer here is an invitation to examine your core and ground your knowledge and skills of teaching literacy in your heart.

The Framework

What I refer to as the CORE of your pedagogy are the four concepts to consider when reclaiming and sustaining transformational literacy practices. They are as follows:

C – Cultivate sociological mindfulness.

O – Operate from a critical social justice mindset.

R – Reframe learning as equity and excellence.

E – Exercise self-care.

These concepts are not linear, but looping in nature. This means that you don’t need to perfect one before you can move on to the next. Think of each concept as interrelated, both independent of and dependent on one another.

Cultivate sociological mindfulness.

Being sociologically mindful calls for awareness of the present, how the present has been affected by the past, and how the decisions you make now could affect the future (Schwalbe, 2017). This means paying attention and posing critical questions: What do you know; what do you think you know; and what don’t you know about your students? Ask yourself:

  • What are the experiences this student brings into the classroom every day?
  • How does my understanding of these experiences affect how I teach?
  • Why do the experiences of others matter?

Operate from a critical social justice mindset.

A critical social justice mindset for literacy “is an evolving process where teachers and students always consider cultural relevancy, employ critical literacy, and work for social justice as they relate to the word and the world” (Stachowiak, 2016). Ask yourself:

  • Whose voice is included in this read-aloud? In this decision making? In this literacy lesson?
  • Do the books I have in my classroom library reflect the diversity of the world, without harmful stereotypes and biases?
  • How can the lessons I teach continue to affect my students when they leave my classroom?

Reframe learning as equity and excellence.

Equity is about giving people what they need to be successful. When we reframe our literacy practices with this in mind, we shift to a true focus on individual student excellence. Excellence is about creating transformational spaces for learners to recognize humanity, engage in critical dialogue with their peers, and reflect. Ask yourself:

  • What does this student need to be successful? Who could I ask for support?
  • Does every student have access to information that would benefit them the most?
  • Are the resources I give my students equitable?

Exercise self-care.

As teachers, it is in our nature to take care of others and, in doing so, it’s easy for us to forget about taking care of ourselves. But self-care is an incredibly important and necessary part of being a great teacher. Make sure to put a self-care activity on your calendar weekly—and commit to it. Some examples of self-care include:

  • going to your favorite kickboxing class at the gym (kick that stress out!);
  • engaging in a sitting, walking, or eating meditation; and
  • practicing self-compassion: Forgive yourself, take sick leave when you’re sick, set boundaries.

Putting CORE Into Action

Teaching literacy from the CORE begins with making a commitment to critically reflect on the abovementioned questions. This self and classroom inventory will pave the way to transformational and sustainable literacy practices!

Dr. StachowiakDr. Stachowiak is an Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and a literacy consultant with The Educator Collaborative. Her interests are in literacy curriculum, equity literacy, and gender issues in education.

Recommended Websites

Recommended Readings

  • Culturally Affirming Literacy Practices for Urban Elementary Students, edited by Lakia M. Scott & Barbara Purdum-Cassidy
  • Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word, by Linda Christensen

References

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic.

Schwalbe, M. (2017). The sociologically examined life: Pieces of the conversation (5th ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Stachowiak, D. M. (2016). A framework for critical social justice literacy in urban elementary schools. In L. M. Scott & B. Purdum-Cassidy (Eds.), Culturally affirming literacy practices for urban elementary students (pp. 13–26). Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield.

Create A Video To Welcome New Parents

Communicating with parents and guardians can be daunting. It often begins at school registration, continues the first day of school, extends into Open House night, and then is sustained throughout the school year. With the high U.S. student mobility rate (according to the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study [National Center for Education Statistics, 2017], 42% of students make at least one school change between kindergarten and fifth grade), plenty of beginning and mid-year parent and guardian communication is necessary. How can a teacher maintain this level of communication without adding to the already-hectic workload? The answer is simple: Turn to technology and create a video.

YouTube for Teachers (and other platforms), and the ease of creating CDs, make it simple to create a video to share both at Open House and throughout the year as new families join your classroom. You and your students (with media permission from parents/guardians) perform in the video and include the following:

1. Introduction

Parents want to know who you are, what your background is, and that you have the skills to teach their children. Don’t be shy about mentioning your educational degrees and any special training received.

2. Curriculum

Groups of students can discuss each of the core areas. This is a great place to mention education standards and show a website where parents can access the standards.

3. Class Rules

Have students discuss the class rules, how they were formed, what they are, and the consequences for breaking the rules.

4. Daily Schedule

Students should highlight the daily schedule. This can be generalized but should include activity periods (art, music, etc.), lunch, and opening and closing bell times.

5. Volunteers

Discuss how parents are cleared to assist in the classroom (background check, etc.). For parents who cannot assist in the classroom but want to help, tell them how to find out about activities they can do at home (cutting out things, donating items, etc.). Some teachers have a “giving tree” in the classroom (a tree branch in a bucket filled with rocks or concrete with leaves listing items to donate to the classroom). These items are also listed on the classroom website or newsletter.

6. Special Projects

Explain any special projects that are planned during the school year and when these occur.

7. Illness

Have students explain what parents are supposed to do if their student is going to miss school due to an illness (including obtaining makeup work) or if he or she becomes ill during the school day.

8. Closing

This final section is completed by the teacher only. Discuss communication issues such as how and when parents/guardians should communicate with you, how and when you will respond to them, and how you will communicate with them on a regular basis (weekly newsletter, website, etc.); pick-up procedures and how to make changes; child custody paperwork; and other items unique to your school environment. End the video on a positive note, thanking the parents for sharing their children with you and pledging that you will provide them a quality education in a supportive environment.

By creating a video once, you lighten your workload for the future. Parents/guardians feel welcomed and informed and know their child will be well cared for.

Dr. Kovarik has experience as an elementary teacher, a guidance counselor, a primary specialist, and a school administrator. She currently teaches graduate TESOL courses in the online program at Notre Dame de Namur University. She coauthored The ABC’s of Classroom Management, 2nd Edition, which is highly recommended for all new teachers.

Reference

National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). Early childhood longitudinal study (ECLS). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/ecls

 

Food Systems Education: Linking Big Ideas Across The School Community

HopeStartsHere

Farm to School (FTS) programs are cropping up around the country, connecting students to sustainability efforts in their own school communities.

The 3Cs framework of FTS puts the learner at the center of the school food system, connecting the Cafeteria, Classroom, and Community through education and action. FTS helps students access nutritious and fresh foods, provides meaningful and relevant curriculum, and connects student learning to the real world of farming and food systems. Most importantly, it highlights each student’s role within the food system, as a participant and potential agent of sustainable change.

Food systems education is where educators play a vital role in this whole-school–whole-community approach. You can bring math, literacy, social studies, and science alive when you connect students to the elegant simplicity and complexity of local to global food systems.

The Big Ideas of Sustainability (bit.ly/ SFBigIdeas) can inspire cross-disciplinary connections and school-wide engagement, as well as deepen community partnerships, campus practices, and culture. Try these suggestions.

Start with big ideas, themes and standards

The Big Idea of Change links with thematic strands (www.socialstudies.org/standards/strands) in the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies such as People, Places, and Environments; Culture; and Time, Continuity, and Change. These standards help us develop learning outcomes—knowledge and skills we want students to gain.

Add inquiry

Learners are naturally curious. Give them a question that they can engage with and develop an understanding of over time. An essential question such as, “In what ways does the land shape culture?” invites deep crosscurricular exploration and learning.

Next, layer on food systems and your local place

By integrating food production and engaging with local farmers, historians, and the students’ families, they begin to see the connections to their place and lives. You can create learning activities to explore why people settled near rivers in your community, how human migration patterns have changed over time, and how shifting demographics have shaped the food and culture of your city.

Wrap up with an assessment:

You may have purposefully linked big ideas, standards, the local place, and food systems, but did your students get it? Create an assessment that helps you see what your students understand. For example, a class could create a museum display for their community illustrating how human migration has impacted the natural and agricultural systems in their city.

Suggested Activities

  • Write haikus about your fresh fruit and vegetable snacks.
  • Plant seeds for a school garden exploring plant life cycles.
  • Learn about food access and healthy foods in your community.
  • Start a school-run farmers’ market.
  • Run a semester-long inquiry into food justice.

No matter where you begin, a wealth of resources is available to get you started.

Resources

Image result for jen cirillo shelburne farmsMs. Cirillo is the Director of Professional Learning at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. She supports educators and schools to use the lens of sustainability for curriculum, campus practices and culture, and community partnerships.