Once upon a time, I was a picky eater (aren’t most kids?). I ate ketchup, but turned my nose up at tomatoes. Carrots were alright, I guess – in ranch dip – but broccoli? No way. And at the local TexMex place, I would even refuse a cheese torte (the most basic of cheese quesadillas), which my parents, trying to coax me out of my stubbornness, would explain to me as a “flat grilled cheese.” Instead I, yes, ordered chicken fingers and fries.
You might say that I didn’t understand food at a young age. But what I will never forget are the sun-drenched mornings my sister and I would spend at the local farmer’s market, trailing my mother as she visited vendor after vendor, sampling slivers of summer peaches, their juicy ripeness apparent even sliced and pinned on toothpicks. Fresh fruit was my entry drug to real food. Touching the rumpled lightness of fresh lettuce, I’d peek out from behind my mother to listen to the kind strangers who grew this food and brought it to us. My sister and I would eagerly take turns handing money to each work-weathered hand, and were thus introduced to market commerce.
Even now at 27, I sometimes can’t believe that something so substantial can grow out of some of these seeds I cradle, small in my open palm. Some of them are so tiny – little slips of science and magic – that they seem like they should get lost somewhere in the earth. But most don’t.
You may have guessed, but I did grow up to be a much more adventurous eater, something I owe in no small part to those mornings at the markets, or muddy afternoons in my mother’s garden. Involving kids in the process and giving them ownership over the food they eat is an excellent way to peak their curiosity about food that doesn’t come shaped like dinosaurs. I once knew a three-year-old who was so stinking proud of the cherry tomatoes, the strawberries, even the kale that she was growing in her garden with her parents that you’d think she might burst just talking about it. That, or her cheeks would, as they were, more often than not, always happily full of sweet cherry tomatoes.
Teaching by Mentoring: How to Go Green at School
You see, it’s our job to steward the next generation, and teaching by doing is one of the best ways to, well, do that. Which is why we’re a proud sponsor of the USGBC Missouri Gateway Chapter Green Schools Quest, a first for this chapter that kicked off two weeks ago. Business Development Director Cindy Bambini is also a member of the Chapter Green Schools sub-committee, who planned this event to kick-off the quest.
Approximately 100 USGBC members and local teachers attended the kickoff meeting, graciously hosted in the beautiful Maplewood-Richmond Heights High / Middle School Theater. Attendees were even treated to a tour of the campus afterwards, including their gardens and aquaponics lab.
With the Green Schools Quest, the “USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter is challenging public and private schools within the Chapter’s territory (Missouri and Southern Illinois) to devise and implement, with the help of Green Mentors, the most creative, effective and no or low cost sustainable practices for their schools.”
Each school forms a Green Team – which can be any size, from one classroom, a grade level, the entire school, or a student club – which will select a project (costing $250 or less to implement) to begin in October 2013 and end on March 14, 2014.
USGBC Green Schools Quest Impact
It is the goal of the overall Green Schools project for each individual school project to achieve multiple of the following impacts (USGBC):
- Reduce carbon footprint
- Lower school operating and maintenance costs
- Conserve our natural resources
- Improve the learning and teaching environment
- Encourage students to think creatively about sustainability
- Promote environmental stewardship in our communities
- Increase facilities indoor air quality
- Energize sustainable curriculum in the school systems
- Encourage the school to be the community epicenter
- Create a generation of environmentally conscious adults
- Engage the business community and building industry to help students green their schools
Any USGBC member can sign up to mentor a Quest project, and even specify a school and class you’d like to work with (Cindy will be a mentor for one of our BrighterSchools™, Forsyth School).
Mentors will help their Green Teams document the impact their project is making – such as energy or resource savings – and submit their process and results for judging at the end of the 6-month period.
As the project progresses, students and schools will be actively involved in the impact they leave on the world they live in.
“While the immediate impact of these projects may result in energy/water savings, cleaner air, or healthier learning environments; USGBC-Missouri Gateway hopes that the Green Schools Quest will strengthen relationships between schools and the community. We also hope to create a lasting awareness of the importance of green schools, and catalyze a movement that fosters an attitude among youth and future generations to appreciate and model sustainable practices.” – USGBC Missouri Gateway Chapter
They say that if you can teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Our goal with mentoring, as we’re teaching a team of students how to go green at school and actively involving them in a sustainable project, is to feed youth with everything they need to make sustainable decisions, for their future. Maybe too, we’ll see kids with more of a taste for tomatoes than ketchup.