Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sustainable Life at Interamerican

Photo captions: InterAmerican kids learn to calculate rain garden size (top photo)

Andre Bispo de Jesus, a gardener from Bahia, Brazil teaching kids (middle)

Kids growing veggies in the classroom (bottom)

In December of 2007 the program started with the Aztec market created by the teachers and students and filmed by Columbia College students and with my kick off presentation about the "Chinampa/Rain Garden", the first project of a potential "Sustainable Master Plan" for IAMS. We also showed the kids the movie right before the holidays which was a perfect time to make them think about not being so materialist when asking for present and to prepare their minds for the future lessons.

The idea was to teach sustainability by using the present 5th curriculum. The kids at IAMS focus every year on a unique culture of the Americas. The Aztecs are the focus in 5th grade as well as the Cahokia Indian American Culture in Illinois. They also learn a lot about the Human Body and Nutrition. In Math they concentrate on fractions, decimals, percentage, division, etc.
After a productive discussion with the teachers we concluded that a "Chinampa/Rain Garden" project would be an ideal project for the kids related to the curriculum. (A Chinampa is a floating vegetable garden created by the Aztecs and a true example of sustainable agriculture).

In January of 2008 the kids learned about the basics of the rain garden and how to calculate the area of the rain garden we are going to build in the spring. Mr. Carmona, a 5th grade teacher and specialist in math, assisted in the calculation showing the kids how to use the math concepts the kids are reviewing. The result was great! We went outside and measured the roof area of the gutters we will use for our rain garden, made the calculation and designed the basic area of the garden. Also in January we taught the kids how to start to grow the vegetables. Andre and I did a gardening demonstration of how to plant in the classroom and the kids loved putting their hands in the potting soil and learning about vegetables! It was a lot of fun for all of them.

February promises to be as exiting with landscaping lessons from Jennifer Weber and permaculture concepts from Jody Luna. If time allows I will be teaching the children how to design the minimal house based on Aztecs houses which were built by the Aztecs adjacent to the Chinampas.

More updates to come…