Old Friends and New Connections

This week at Growing Food and Sustainability was a blast!

The week started out with an enjoyable Downtown Middleton Farmers’ Market. There were more people than the previous week, due to the more moderate and pleasant weather. This was great because our stand had many new children and families stopping by to participate in our kids’ activity. This week the topic was waste disposal. They had to match up different types of household waste, like plastic baggies or apple cores, with composting, recycling, garbage, or hazardous waste. The kids really enjoyed it, and some of the parents learned something new too!

Farmers’ Market Kids’ Activity Table

The Farmers’ Market was also especially fun this week because there was a new produce stand! This new stand, called “The First Acre”, is run by a couple mutual friends of Growing Food and Sustainability, who are fresh out of college. It was great to see old friends at the market, as well as to see some fresh and young faces. Overall, it was my favorite Farmers’ Market of the year! Now our mission is to make more consumers aware of the market to help support these hard-working farmers.

The First Acre Farm Stand

The other part of the week that really stood out to me was an activity that we did with our middle and high school aged participants on Wednesday. We used chalk to trace out the energy system, starting with the sun. It was especially illustrative because the youth participants could literally see the closed loops with systems like composting, and the literal dead ends with the fossil fuel system. The discussion surrounding this activity was quite deep, though a bit heavy, and it seemed as though all the participants were engaged and learned something.

Energy mapping with chalk

This activity had an unexpected result for me. I really enjoy making flow diagrams like this (which I knew already), but I learned that they are an extremely good way to convey information to others, and they’re great discussion starters. I also learned that I enjoy teaching about systems very much. These are both things that I think I will find useful in my future, since I plan to become a high school teacher.

Overall this week was excellent, and I look forward to the upcoming weeks of Farmers’ Markets and lessons. I also enjoyed the unexpected benefit of learning something new about myself from the activity!


Reflecting on a Grand Aspirations Leadership Gathering

x-posted to It’s Getting Hot In Here

Over the past ten days, 19 youth activists involved in the Summer of Solutions converged in chilly St. Paul, MN to build a strategy for reshaping our economy from the ground up. We learned how to run an effective summer program dedicated to finding tangible, local solutions to the problems of climate change, the economic downturn, and environmental injustice.

The program began in the summer of 2008 with one program of 20 participants, and over the course of last year grew into 9 programs across the United States. Collectively, there were 150 youth activists involved around the nation.

That was this last summer. Now, we’re looking forward to next summer and the growth it has in store for us.

I have had the amazing experience of working with folks from around the nation over the past 10 days at the Grand Aspirations Winter Leadership Gathering. Grand Aspirations is the organization that facilitates Summer of Solutions programs around the nation. The purpose of the gathering was to bring local Summer of Solutions program planners together to strategize at the national level on how to make our programs effective, how to connect with the communities we live in and train participants.

Participants in Grand Aspirations’ Summer of Solutions program have created businesses around cooperative energy, held community forums called “barn raisings” to raise awareness about energy issues, and have enhanced the power of their own organizations, such as the Northwest Institute for Community Energy. Last summer also saw a huge growth in community gardening and local food projects, listening projects to bring communities together around development issues, and general education and awareness raising.

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