Teacher’s Talk: Sustainability (Day 1-3)

photo[7]Hello! My name is Stephanie Menser and I am the teaching assistant for the Sustainability class here at VAMPY.  So far at camp this year we are all having an amazing time.  We dug right in to sustainability the first day of class and the students were already very knowledgable on the subject.  On the first day we discussed what sustainability is and how broad of a subject it actually is.  We discussed sustainability in terms of food, energy, water, waste, farming, and so much more. Students were introduced to a web-based statistics application called “GapMinder” that allows them to explore a wealth of data from around the world, to search for correlations between issues such as life expectancy and income per capita, carbon emissions and Gross Domestic Product, or even sugar consumption and math achievement scores!   The students greatly enjoyed discussing the problems with sustainability and how it is affecting us all around.


On Tuesday, we watched the documentary, “Food Inc.”  This documentary discussed the problems going on in the food industry around us.  The students were shocked about the reality of how animals are treated, chemicals that are put into our food, and other unspeakable things taking place in the food industry.  Later, the students got to participate in a mini shopping trip in the classroom.  They were to pick out groceries that the teachers brought in and do research on the ingredients within each grocery item.  They discovered that almost all products have some form of corn or soybean in them – if not both. The students could not believe how much corn and soybean products we are actually intaking each day with processed food.  One of the students’ favorite discoveries was that there was a chemical component in Ms. Sheffield’s skin lotion that is toxic to aquatic animals and also acts as an algaecide…I suppose this would explain the lack of algae growing on their teacher.


Yesterday, we went on our first field trip.  We started off the day by going to O’Daniel Farms.  Students were able to experience a true local farm, using organic practices from many different aspects.  The students held chickens, looked into high tunnel greenhouses, ate different organic fruits and vegetables such as carrots and cherry tomatoes, and were able to ask the farmer questions about his farm and how it is sustainable.  Later that day we visited another farm, River Cottage Farm, where the students were able to experience the same types of things. They learned some of the philosophies behind how the farmers raised their crops and animals for their customers.  I think what they may have enjoyed the most, however, was playing with the goats, herding the sheep, and chasing the chickens!  We also were able to visit a locally-sourced restaurant called HOME.  They were able to ask the owner, Josh Poling, questions and discuss how his restaurant is and is not sustainable.

The teachers as well as the students are having a blast this year learning about sustainability.  We have many more exciting discussions and field trips ahead and I can’t wait to tell you all about our experiences.