I too would like to put in for that ticket. I am starting my own school, "Free Range School"- an experiential learning based program for middle school students.
If I received that ticket, not only would my five acres of wetlands and woodlands reap the benefits of my newly acquired knowledge, but my students would as well, as I plan on focusing much of my curriculum on sustainability.
Viva la evolution!
Here's a question for you all: If you were starting a school, what would you be sure to include in your curriculum?
Where is your school going to be located? I'd consider joining in....I'm a first year teacher at a 'tech magnet' high school and it pains me to see how removed my students are from nature.
As far as curriculum goes, I'd focus on energy. Transformations, losses to "undesirable" forms, capturing, storing it, socio-political ramifications, physics of electromagnetic waves, all of it focused around permaculture.
This could turn into a long post, and dinner is waiting, so I'm cutting myself off!
So you are probably all on the big, ibiblio permaculture e-mail list, right? Just in case you're not, a reply just came through from Roman Shapla of Children's PEACE Guild, which looks like it's doing some amazing programs for kids.
I think teens and pre-teens really respond to values around food. There is so much power play around food (don't we know it!), even in the home. These power plays can produce anorexia, bulimia or overeating on the negative end, and vegetarians and vegans on the positive end (personally, I think omnivore is healthier for most individuals, though I hugely respect the values underlying the veg way). Think about a teen's world and what they can really control in their personal life.
I'd be food-centric if I were designing the courses. But I'm kinda food-centric in my life! Ha.
It sounds like you've got an exciting project underway! I'm really excited to see people starting to incorporate permaculture/nature awareness/ecology into the school curriculum. I just finished reading Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods: saving our children from nature deficit disorder and I'm really happy to hear about more and more developing projects in schools.
One project I'd like to turn you on to is the "Outdoor Classroom Project" at Hood River Middle School in Oregon. Michael Becker is an inspired sixth grade teacher in Hood River and also a sharp permaculturist. For the last 5 years or so he has been working to incorporate permaculture design principles into his teaching. He has created the single most successful example of blending public schooling and systems thinking that I have seen.
Michael's students use the garden as a classroom and learn many subjects there in an integrated fashion. For example his students will set out to build a shed to store tools in the garden. To learn math they will calculate board feet of lumber necessary, pounds of nails required, and slope of the roof. They will learn economics by creating a budget and making sure they stay within it. They will get both art and engineering experience in creating a design for the structure, laying it out in a way that functions best, and decorating it. In addition to all this Michael's students design their own science experiments in the garden. Ultimately, Michael's students are working on projects that aren't contrived. They are looking to create real structures that they will utilize, grow food that they will eat or sell (students get to keep profits from produce they sell at the farmer's market), and tackle real world projects with results that will have an impact outside of their classroom. Michael's students are actually contracted by the USGS to collect winter snowfall and climate data on Mount Hood. They collect the data and put together reports and powerpoint presentations which they give to the USGS.
You can tell I'm excited about Michael's work. So are the parents and administrators in his school district. Michael started making changes with the promise that he would improve test scores and that his children would shine when it came to the Oregon Academic Benchmarks. He delivered on that promise and in return he has received tons of support from his community, administrators, and school board.
Anyway, with all he has going on he hasn't had a chance to put together a website yet. The best short description I could find is at http://www.kidsgardening.com/school/registrydetails.taf?id=3948. His contact info can be found there if you have questions. If you can work it out I highly recommend paying him a visit to see what he has brewing.
Okay...now that I've put in a plug for Michael, I would say follow the curriculum proposed by the state for each grade level, but teach it in a different way. Think about how all the subject areas come together in real life and emulate that in the classroom. In my opinion good topic areas for covering a variety of subjects include:
-plumbing projects (e.g. drip irrigation & solarhot water) -perennial and annual gardening (e.g. food forestry & organic gardening) -electrical projects (e.g. making a solar powered radio) -waste as a resource (e.g. composting & salvage) -community interaction (e.g. farmer's market stand & garden tours) -construction (e.g. cob projects & cold frame construction)
You can see how any one of these topic areas could include lessons on everything from math & science to creative writing and marketing. I think you'll find the students' level of 'buy-in' increases the minute the project leaves the realm of worksheets and flash cards and focuses in on projects that they will really be doing.
Anyway, your project sounds great. Feel free to let us know if you have more questions.
Principal - Terra Phoenix Design