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UHEF & Uni News

12

Mar, 2016

Uni teachers enhancing classroom with direct-action grants

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[Posted March 12, 2016] Stories about cuts in school funding are old news today, but Uni teachers are finding new ways to add to the curriculum in the form of grants.

Pictured above: Uni’s Kerri Eich (right) and KABC-7’s Lori Corbin

Two of the leaders in this effort have been librarian Tascha Folsoi and health sciences teacher Kerri Eich.

Already in 2016, Folsoi has received three grants to help Uni:

“This year I received a grant from DonorsChoose for $500.00. This was used to purchase biblotherapy books, or fiction books showing students dealing with a wide variety of tough emotional and societal issues and coming out stronger on the other end.

“I have also received another grant from DonorsChoose for $475.00. This grant was used to purchase books featuring Latino characters.

“In addition, I received a grant from the United Talent Agency for 10 Chromebooks [laptop computers] to be used in a silent room off of our otherwise lively library.”

Eich has also been active, obtaining significant funding to help support Uni’s health and wellness programs:

“[W]e received $10,000 in funding this [past] Fall from the Designing Futures Foundation arm of HMC Architects to teach Uni families and our local community about Aquaponics, Vermicompost, Power Plant Couples, and Seed to Skillet; focusing on how we can bring food to the front of our integrated daily living to create more sustainable, life-enhancing practices.”

Eich notes that “$5,500 of the funds will be used to develop curriculum and teach eight after-school workshops for students and families.

“$4,500 of the funds will be used to bring in EVO Farms experts to provide workshops to train teachers and students in managing and maintaining the nano-farm system.”

The concept behind the grants is summarized in this excerpt from Eich’s grant proposal:

One of the biggest problems the world is facing is that people are losing touch of what is natural and healthy. The social, economic and political impact of something as basic as our food source and the conservation of water is something that affects us more each day. It is important to learn about the issues that we are facing and to equip students with not only that awareness, but also give them the tools of how to put it to practice. The students in the School of Health and Environmental Sciences learn about preventative health through sustainable lifestyles. Besides their academic work, the students also care for the school’s food forest and cook meals from the fresh produce they have grown. The Board of Education approved a plan last year that emphasizes students planting gardens on school campuses that become ‘outdoor classrooms.’

Goals outcomes and community need:
As a team we would like to learn how we could equip our students with skills that can significantly change their health, how they feel, and how they live their lives. How do we help establish students’ connection to their bodies, food and the environment? How can the students integrate this “connection” into their lifestyle and community? How can we engage students in real-life experiences that enhance their actions toward a healthier lifestyle? In order to answer our questions, our team has set two learning goals for our gardens that will then turn into themes for our curriculum.

Goal #1: Nutrition and Food Preparation for Preventative Health:
Some of our students have poor eating habits, which can be directly related to their socio-economic status, the lack of availability of places to buy fresh food in their neighborhoods, and poor family nutritional habits. Many of our students eat high-calorie diets, but are under-nourished because they consume nutrient-poor foods. In the short term, this can lead to low energy and fatigue that can affect performance in school and other activities. The long-term effects are many, but two current serious effects for young people are obesity and diabetes. We want to focus our learning on how to prevent disease and other ailments instead of trying to ‘fix’ them after the fact. Students should not have to feel like their dinner choices are based on which restaurant has the best ‘dollar’ menu. We want students to walk away from our program with cheap, fast, fresh, and easy meal ideas, along with a better understanding of the body and what it needs to function well. When students learn to integrate healthy, low-cost recipes into their family’s meals, it supports healthier eating at home, allowing them to contribute to their family, promoting confidence and self- esteem.

Goal #2: Gardening and Growing Food for Sustaining Health:
“Our students currently tend to be disconnected from nature, affecting their respect for one another and the space they share in school. The process of growing food provides students with a clear and direct experience around where their food comes from and how their actions affect our world. Gardening is a meaningful experience that connects students to the earth, helping build self-respect and self-reliance. With this place based learning opportunity, students can also better connect to how they fit in and contribute to the greater good of our school. Students will not only get their own ‘space’ to garden at school, but will go home with many ideas for gardening and growing fresh food in their own spaces, whether small or large. If we can maximize the space we have to grow food and harvest seeds that we can share with others in sustenance kits, we can supporting our larger community in a real and meaningful way. Our students need more opportunities for experiences beyond the classroom that are positive and engaging, that empower them to make healthy changes in their lives in-turn encouraging changes in their families and communities. We feel our garden program will be a fun, hands-on way to provide this opportunity!

Good work! We’ve asked teachers who receive grants to share their successes with us so we can share them with our readers.

If you’d like to help Uni directly, the Foundation can assist in putting you together with a specific teacher or department. Signal your interest with an e-mail to Connect@UHEF.org and we’ll get back to you right away!

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