Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Our Family Math and Science Night workshop, Eat Locally, Act Globally, was NOT a flop, but I’ve been so busy catching up on work since then that I couldn’t write about it ‘til now. I’m going to share here what we did because I’d love others to try it out – I think it would make a great gardening or science lesson, or something for a scout troop to try, (maybe even a book club of adults). We did this with 16 parent/child pairs but if you had a good group of kids, they could do it on their own, or with a smaller number of grownups. It took just over an hour.

This SHOPPING GAME was played before any discussion of the topic:

The group forms a large circle around a table with 16 food items on it (or, one item per player). Divide the group into four teams (ours were given a TJ’s shopping basket to make it more fun). Taking turns, each team “shops” for four items, just randomly. Then, in their groups, they are asked to work together to rank their items on a scale of 1 – 16. “One” is the lowest and “16” is the highest, measuring how much it costs the earth to get this item to you, or, the food’s “Carbon Cookprint”. We laid out large US and World Maps with yardsticks that they could use for reference. They were given 5 minutes to do the ranking.

The items included: various home-grown, market-bought, and store-bought fruits and vegetables, conventionally and organically grown, from various places in this state and the world. It also included processed items that were organic and conventional, as well as a few items which advertised carbon buy backs or wind/sun energy use on their packages. I wasn’t even sure what the exact ranking should be, I just wanted to generate discussion.

Each student takes an item, remembering its assigned rank. Then the group has 3 minutes to rank all the food items together in a clock-wise circle with #1 at 1 o’clock. If two people have a food item ranked at #3, for instance, then they would discuss and make a decision as to which food should be higher than the other. I circulated, poking and prodding to get them thinking if their choices seemed to be missing some element of logic. They were given 5 minutes to find their spot on the “clock”.

Next, we went around the circle, discussing how choices were made. This was not in my plan and I think should have been skipped as it took too much time. Instead, we would have had the same discussion more efficiently if I had skipped to:

Students share insights from game, then work as a group to brainstorm two lists:

1. What affects the “Carbon Cookprint”, and what factors affected their decisions in the game (try to get them to include where grown, how grown, if processed, how processed, how packaged, how far transported.)

2. What are things we can do day to day that will start to reduce our “Carbon Cookprint” (e.g. shop at FMs, shop the perimeter of the grocery store, check ingredients – rule of thumb 5 or less, cook at home, talk to your friends to spread the word)

The kids and adults really seemed to have their awareness raised from the game and discussion – that where they shop for food and what choices they make can make a difference to the world. Lots of points of difficulty came up – which kind of bags really are better for instance – and the point was made that sometimes the right answer isn’t simple to determine.

Then, Ben Ford (chef of Ford’s Filling Station and parent) took over for the next part. He threw in the point (which I had forgotten, duh) that COOKING your own food can make a big difference, and that it helps to start small and play around in the kitchen. He brought in hummus and shredded vegetables (carrots, cabbage and baby broccoli stalks) to roll up in lavash bread as well as strawberries and little shortcakes. The kids took turns rolling their lavash and whipping up heavy cream by hand and the food was enjoyed by all (except for Audrey, naturellement, who refused to eat the lavash). You can find my recipes for HUMMUS and STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE by searching on the tab, up to the left. I hope to have Ben’s recipes soon.

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