Biology Teacher: “Food Patriots is An Amazing Resource for Science Teachers!”
March 2, 2014 by Food Patriots
Marnie Ware, a biology teacher at Prosser Career Academy in Chicago, writes:
Many science teachers at Prosser try to teach about the natural world through a lens of individual health, social justice and global environmental issues. Seeing human interactions with the natural world through this perspective can be compelling, but often the negative messages of human encroachment is somewhat overwhelming for our students. For this reason, we also try to stress that there is in fact, a growing cultural movement away from over-consumption and toward a more sustainable model of civilization, along with examples of entrepreneurship in local agriculture and the growing realization that self sufficiency is a necessity in their quickly changing world.
However, these examples of, “the bright side” can seem insignificant or distant to our students. After they hear the bad news about our status as a destructive species, it is tempting to leave it all behind at school. As typical American teenagers, they are inclined to be attracted to the endless forms of sparkly, upbeat and often sadistic entertainment that is constantly there to excite or soothe them, and who can blame them? Also, they often go home to blighted urban neighborhoods where examples of different choices are few and far between. In their experience, even where people are trying to make a difference, these things invariably seem to be happening somewhere else.
This is why, when I saw “Food Patriots”, it made me, as a teacher, parent and Chicagoan rejoice, smile uncontrollably and and leap up and down! I was just at the end of a teaching unit featuring a series of grim ecology lessons about the devastating impact of the human population explosion, habitat destruction, mass extinction, antibiotic resistance, endless examples of human greed, opportunism and a rich history of collective thoughtlessness toward the planet. But here was an antidote for the students newly found existential angst and feelings of helplessness! Here was a film that could prove to my students that there was actually reason to hope for a better future. Here was proof that ordinary people could actually try to live in a more thoughtful way, and these ordinary people were not off trying to save the world in some exotic location, they were right here in urban and suburban Chicago.
This film is a treasure for any teacher who cares about the future of this community and of the planet. It is so important to provide our young people with ideas that help them envision a future worth participating in. All aspects of society need revision and innovation away from thoughtless consumption and selfishness. This is why it is particularly important that our students see people their OWN AGE transformed by deeply personal and transformative experiences, like that of the Spitz family. To see these young people changing their attitudes about relationships between themselves, food and society is a powerful thing.
In addition, the film shows people who look like our students, for a change. In a city famous for its segregation and inequity, Food Patriots is a treasury of eco- heroes of all races, socioeconomic backgrounds and midwestern subcultures, making the very important point that these issues transcend race, gender, class and any other factor that one might use to differentiate themselves from others.
In addition to its value as a curricular source, another very crucial lesson of this lovely film is its lessons about strength of character. Jeff and his family allow us to see their struggles, doubts and the process of trial and error that result from their decision to try a little non-conformity. They allow us to see the virtue of questioning the order of things at face value. They allow us to see the very important learning that happens through making a few mistakes. Students see that learning through trial and error takes real humility and courage. Often Jeff chooses clips that show his friends and family mocking him (with sincere affection). This is a wonderfully powerful message for young people to hear.
As if all this weren’t enough, the amazing footage of Chicago’s incredible victory garden past is immensely relevant to the kids who are completely ignorant of this aspect of Chicago history.
I will use this film every time I teach ecology. I will be buying it for as many of my teacher and non-teacher friends, family and strangers as possible.
In the words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer; Physician, Missionary, Theologian and Nobel Laurate-
“The Soul is coming to the fore and ignorance is slipping away – – > Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit. The roots of cruelty, therefore, are not so much strong as widespread. But the time will come when inhumanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought. Let us work that this time may come. A man is ethical only when life is sacred to him, that of animals as well as that of his fellowman, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.”
The film aligns beautifully with the new NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) too, as shown below:
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
- LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
- LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
- LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems
- LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
- LS2.D: Social Interactions and Group Behavior
Themes that “Food Patriots” reinforce a biology/ecology curriculum:
- Core Idea 2: Ecosystems: Interactions, energy, and dynamics. This core idea includes organisms interactions with each other and their physical environment.
- LS2.A Interdependent relationships in ecosystems (abiotic and biotic interaction, food webs)
- LS2.B Cycles of matter and energy transfer in ecosystems (cycling of matter and energy)
- Composting/vermi-composting shown by City Farm and Robert Pearson of Growing Power.
LS2.C Ecosystem dynamics, functioning, and resilience Natural selection and the effect of human activity
- human population explosion (exponential growth)
- density dependent limiting factors
- carrying capacity
- antibiotic resistance
LS2.D Social interactions and group behavior (characteristics of group behavior)
Social change through LOCAL and nearby social activism
- Moms against Superbugs
- Slow Food Cafe @ University of WISC
- Sheila Mohammed and Fresh Moves
- Farmed Here hydroponics indoor farm
- Will Allen and Robert Pierce of Growing Power
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