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What can a 12 year old do?

 
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So I'm a middle school teacher and I corrupt the youth by talking about permaculture on the frequent and they ask me "What can I do?"

All I can really tell them is to learn more about it and to think about the principles and try to use their imagination on how to increase their impact. Most of the time, their parents don't share their ambition and they are quite limited in planting stuff even if they have space.

What are some solid ways a 12 year old kid can get into permacultre? We're in a city and I tell them about how I grow food and whatnot, but I realize 99% of them are never going to do that but they are into it and think permaculture is cool so how can I make sure this enthusiasm doesn't fade.
 
pollinator
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In my city, there is a volunteer organization that does 'green' stuff, a lot of it just pulling invasive weeds in parks, but also some work in an urban farm and public orchards/food forests. Often children attend; sometimes with parents, but also as school or club groups. They get hands on experience, and 60 hands can pull a lot of weeds, etc...

Some schools have garden/greenhouse spaces where kids can garden. A lot that don't, have space where such a garden could be created, if sufficient will was to be exerted...

I seem to remember reading long ago, about one school which connected kids with elderly gardeners who needed the help. Maybe it was at an allotment garden... can't recall.

Encouraging experiments with growing things from grocery store leftovers(cuttings and seeds) could be a good route; I bet there is a thread on this somewhere here, not seeing it just now...

 
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Parents like to give children chores to do. Rather than have them ask for help in taking over the home landscape , get them to suggest that all of the children should be given jobs and that they would be interested in looking after all of the greenery outside. Parents like to hand out jobs.
 
Once it is established that this is their job , it will be easy to allow that job to evolve. People like to save money. If the kids can produce food that would otherwise be bought and they can entertain themselves without requiring the parent to drive them anywhere , any parent with a lick of sense will allow them some freedom.
 
pollinator
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Give them some land only a few sq yards will do get them to grow interesting easy stuff . Pumpkins for instance . Then move on to chickens
Forget therory that will come later . Get them asking questions

David
 
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you could have them to work through this thread: https://permies.com/t/55092/md/apartment-dweller-world-place

and see what the kids would like to try

i imagine that all wildcrafting-stuff, harvesting and guerrilla-growing would be very much fun for them.

if there s an urban-gardeining project in your region, get the kids involved there
 
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Have you asked your school if they can use some part of the school's property to plant stuff? If there isn't any plantable land, see if you can build some raised beds. If you have a really good school, you could even see about getting a couple chickens or even an aquaponics garden. A school project like that is likely to get the attention of the local media so you could use that as a bargaining chip.
I think the easier you make it for the kids to be involved, the more likely a serious interest will take hold. Community projects are great, but if the parents aren't supportive and have to drive them places, they might not be as apt to get involved or continue with it. If it's something they could take part in during their lunch break or after school (if there's a late bus or some other means to get home) they will be more likely to stick with it.
 
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As much as I love gardening, I suspect there's a lot more opportunity for most twelve year old children to work in other areas.

They can bike to friends houses at near and moderate distances instead of getting a car rides from their parents.

I actually consider healthy diet to be a often unmentioned permaculture technique that has a life long benefit, so this area can include a lot of other things: They can be encouraging their family to buy organic. They can be learning how to prepare simple and healthy meals which they can share with their parents or bring as lunch. Most healthy snacks don't come with unnecessary packaging.

They can look for areas where they can reused items instead of purchasing new. Setting up video game exchanges with friends for instance.

They can practice basic water conservation around the house.

They can be shown nontoxic cleaning methods using items that are already in their kitchens at home.

They can learn local wildlife and learn how it enriches their life.

Introduce them to cast iron and explain about the toxins in Teflon. (It might seem hard to believe, but soon enough these kids will be outfitting their first kitchen)
 
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There is a ton of things I can think of. I mean one milkweed plant feeds 5 monarch caterpillars a year so theres one... But honestly think of simple things that help with little effort. I posted about one idea like that a while back Find the lady bugs. My suggestion is keep it short and simple and let the interested parties seek out the extra info and things to do.
 
pollinator
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Here's a website with stuff all of us can do in some way or other: http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/
 
gardener
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I am an childless rural anarchist, so take this advice with a grain of salt -- it might fatally lack in safety, practicality, or social respectability.

A middle school teach probably can't be advocating guerrilla gardening or seed bombing, but those are nonetheless pastimes that might appeal to earth-concerned 12-year-olds with a sense of adventure. So how about devising a more-socially-acceptable variant? Teach them to grow seedlings (doesn't take much space and even in tight urban spaces many kids will be able to find a few sunny square inches where they can park milk cartons with seedlings in them) and then have them (with proper adult supervision) go patrolling with those seedlings in neighborhoods with unloved yards, offering to put in plants in likely places near the sidewalk. For added safety they could be instructed only to converse with homeowners who are outside and can be hailed from the sidewalk. Once they get permission, they can descend on a patch of sod and make a pretty little deeply-dug 12x24" growies bed with small hand tools. They could even improvise an attractive edging from recycled materials, like maybe those aluminum beverage bottles, colorfully painted and stabbed into the soil neck first.

Of course you would at some point in the education leading up to all of this have to expose them to the notion of guerrilla gardening, even if that education comes with appropriately pious phrases warning against doing any such anti-social thing. Kids these days have Google; the ones who find the idea appealing won't need any further hand-holding.
 
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M.R.J. Smith wrote:So I'm a middle school teacher and I corrupt the youth by talking about permaculture on the frequent and they ask me "What can I do?"

What are some solid ways a 12 year old kid can get into permacultre? We're in a city and I tell them about how I grow food and whatnot, but I realize 99% of them are never going to do that but they are into it and think permaculture is cool so how can I make sure this enthusiasm doesn't fade.



Does your school have some outdoor spaces that could be turned into growing areas? If it does, go to the principal with the proposal of turning the spaces into class gardens, where the students can learn and practice good horticulture.
Get with some of the local nurseries to see if they will donate some of the items you would need so the students can amend the soil and plant food plants. If the school system is approached from a learning experience view, perhaps they will give a little funding to help with this project or maybe they would incorporate it into all the middle schools as an extra curricular item. If your area has some garden clubs, they too could be approached with this idea and they most likely will help youngsters learn how to garden.

It is all about how well the principal and board are approached, usually if they can see benefit to the students and it isn't going to interfere with curriculum, they should be ok with the proposal since you are teaching practical science to the students.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Many schools here have a demonstration garden where the kids learn to grow things. This often includes sorting lunch scraps which are suitable for composting. And there are a few schools lucky enough to be close to the new Community Food Forests that are springing up. One has hugelkultur beds with fruit trees planted on top. Kids are often seen touring these places with their teachers.

The city also has several publicly owned herb gardens where we are free to harvest. These places have educational value.
 
gardener
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I don't have a specific example of this but reading through the thread, it appeared to be mostly about strategies, and not exposing them to anything else. As I see people at the age of 12, a person has a curious and active mind, and what they develop at that phase will affect the rest of their lives. For most individuals, it's the last time in their lives they'll have an open mind, as it is their "job" at this phase of their lives to complete the imprint on their culture. I'd want to get as much of permaculture values into that imprint as possible.

I'd look through the chapter on patterning, and see what is there. I'd try to get them to look at how nature functions, all parts fitting and no energy inputs. Devise a treasure hunt of some sort, where after discussing a concept, they try to find specific examples of that in nature. Or ask them to look at the world around them and see how people do things, ask them to notice where the everyday world is NOT patterned after nature, what inputs are being utilized to make it that way, and try to think of ways that those things might be done better.

Together, examine the classroom and see if there are ways it follows established cultural practices, that could be functionally improved by applying permaculture standards, if things are not stored in the area where they are used, for example. And talk about zones as they apply to the classroom, and the whole school. Possibly invite them to do a permaculture design for a school that improves the flow of the activities done at school. And tell why they arranged things as they did. If there are several groups of students during the day, the students of each period could list their opinions / findings / plans so the others could see that even following the same guidelines, there are multiple ways of arranging things, doing things. That provides another topic for discussion, that there is room for personal bias and preference in all things human. That one appeals to me in our (USA) strongly polarized culture where part of the polarization tends to be about "there is ONLY ONE RIGHT WAY". An ideology that is driving our culture to the depths of ridiculousness.

If there's time, and it fits the administrative style of the school, how about a "design club" that meets after school twice a month, where the kids who are really interested can get together. Possibly they could among them come up with activities they are interested in, maybe one of them knows of a vacant lot nearby, and another has a parent who understands how to gain legal access.

I've seen an exercise where you list elements and functions, and link them with prepositions. You end up with chickens beside garden, trellis over pond, kind of thing. Then you look at it and consider would this work, how could it work would there be benefit, would it make life easier or harder. Through this exercise, great things are discovered, like positioning things, if they are going to be transported, so you don't end up carrying the compost UPHILL to the garden.

Gardening can be made more successful with permaculture practices, but permaculture isn't gardening, just like it isn't an herb spiral in the desert. To me, permaculture is about developing thought and analytical processes, understanding context and fit, and subscribing to the objective of getting as much as possible to happen with the least possible inputs. Grow the food near where it will be consumed, run the water downhill instead of pumping it up. Once the water is in the soil, use it as many ways as you can before it leaves the property.

Anyway, it sounds like a very exciting opportunity for you to touch many, and contribute to "world domination". I hope you have a lot of fun with it! Your students are lucky!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Oh, and I forgot to say, the Slow Food organization participates in getting gardens into schools, or getting kids involved in every phase of food, growing, harvesting, cooking, preserving ,serving etc.

If there is a chapter nearby, they might be a great ally!
 
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Permaculture has 3 ethics and 12 principles. Maybe you can start by teaching the students the meaning of those things.

Maybe you could teach them to "observe" something that exists in all of their lives. Something that is considered a "problem".
Then teach them the life lesson that "the problem is the solution". This does not need to be growing food, and you may not need any extra land, money or other resources to accomplish these lessons. Let the principles guide your efforts.
 
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At our middle school, tiny rural town, the kids build a greenhouse and can take classes focused on growing in it. My husband works for our city parks department and encourages kids to take an interest in the little community garden plots during the summer.

We live in the wilderness, up a dirt road into forest lands, so not terribly handy for town folks, but are trying to think of ideas for incorporating kids and/or whole families into our wild farm. Someday!
 
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Have the kids draw up plans for changing the existing landscaping around the school into food production. Be sure to focus on things like matching plants to zones, observing how sunlight and rain affect different areas, and how it would improve the school for all the students. Then let them present their finished project to the principle or school board
 
pollinator
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Use their clout with their parents to reduce food waste, car miles, energy use... they have more power than they realise!

Yes, teach them the principles and get THEM to tell YOU how they apply in their lives. You may be surprised.

And do keep us posted on what you find out and do. I'd love to learn from those young minds.
 
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Matt Powers has written two books called the permaculture student 1 and 2. Book 1 targets primary school audience. 2 would be more for middle school students. Imho worth checking out...
edited: sorry, thought middle school was 14+. For kids of 12 book one would do splendidly...
 
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I think the best thing for 12 year old children to DO is actually think up things for themselves to do. The biggest struggle for children of that age is wanting to 'fit in.' Add to that the social conditioning of the school system, and children are all too happy to do what we tell them to do. If we can teach them the principles of permaculture, and have them apply them in creative ways...then we're really getting somewhere! Perhaps having some brainstorming sessions...one for each of the principles? What are ways they can apply those in their home life, school life, community life? With a bit of scaffolding around what the principles look like in action, you might be surprised at how many ideas they can come up with themselves! I believe this approach would be really teaching permaculture...creative solutions My question would actually be, what couldn't a 12 year old do?!
 
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If in a small community what about thinking up and creating plans to improve the towns flower boxes, a community garden, food forest. If in a larger town or city how about on your own block? get the kids together and design the street with various fruit trees, plants etc. Not just edible but everything. If doing the neighbourhood street is too much then what about a yard. Design your yard, neighbour's yard, or friends. There is a program about neighbourhood growing food. Something you and friends could get started on that could be fun and create for the block. It all starts just form one yard and 1 person or group of people. Adults should be inspired by children creating. Enjoy.
Good for you. Be creative and have fun.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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A permaculture design for a familiar space is a great idea. And it matters NOT whether or not they implement the design. The value is in the thinking about all the variables and all the ways the variables can fit together.

They could also design a dream home/garden/farm/neighborhood, in what ever climate and soil type they choose/dream up. And discuss among themselves pros and cons of various strategies. If they choose tropical humid, they design living spaces to make the climate comfortable, as well as what will grow there. If they choose tropical at high elevations, challenges change... If they get interested in it, they will inspire each other to considering so many variables, they'll learn about climate and site specific housing, climate and site specific plants.

Their brains will explode with new ideas as well as new ways to think and "problem" solve.
 
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Guerrilla Growing is something that anyone can do without having land or a lot of resources. I used to do it when I was your age and now that I am much older I have a lot of experience so I made this video that shows you how I do it: https://permies.com/t/66077/Guerrilla-Growing-Food-Bearing-Trees#561373
 
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Besides reading, writing and arithmetic ... the one thing that I can remember learning in school was how to plant seeds.  This has been very useful over the years.

From what I can remember, we used egg cartons, cotton balls and bean seeds.  I don't remember taking them home though the kids could take them home and plant them.  This might also encourage the parents to get involved.  
 
Casie Becker
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I'd just like to point out that today my 10 year old niece convinced us to forage wild snails for meal.
 
Anne Miller
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M.R.J. Smith wrote:So I'm a middle school teacher and I corrupt the youth by talking about permaculture on the frequent and they ask me "What can I do?"



I would tell them to take their friends home to show them the plants they are growing.

Doing action items says so much.

They could also teach their friends how to plant seed and keep the plant alive after it sprouts.
 
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I have been volunteering on project installing food forests at 4 school sites and one non profit in Maryland. The food forest concept nicely circumvents the biggest problem with school gardens - the most intensive maintenance needs to happen when everyone is on vacation. If you plant food producing perennials, shrubs, and trees (space permitting), they might need watering once a week in the summer, and that is just the first year. After that, the kids can  maintain and harvest during the school year, and neglect it when they are gone. Depending on the site, we are using pawpaws, chinkapins, persimmons, elder, American plum, hazelnut, goosberry, indigo bush and bristly locust for nitrogen, violets, and honeyberry. Most of the plants were donated, but even if you don’t find donors, there are nurseries that will sell you small starts pretty cheaply. The 6-12 inch are often better - smaller hole, less transplant shock.
I bet you could plant a small patch for under $100 in the US. The size of our plantings is variable depending on the school, but some of them are just a 10x20 foot patch.
Here is an idea: a spring seedling sale as a fundraiser for the planting. The students could start the seeds of common herbs and veggies on a south facing classroom windowsill and sell them to local gardeners. I bet the profit margin from a moderate sale would cover the costs of a food forest planting.
 
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When I think of 12-year-olds at school ... all the time they have to sit there and listen to a teacher teaching them stuff. I don't think they need more of that.
In my opinion permaculture is about applying principles in designs. And one of the first principles (after the three ethics) is: observe.
Starting to observe (to see, hear, smell, feel, etc.) in an objective way is a good practice, I think 12-year-olds are able (and willing) to do. If the school allows, it would be nice to do this outside, in a garden or in nature.
Of course afterwards there's a conversation, they tell each other what they observed.

There's another practice that's fun to do and has to do with the background of the principles. It is: forming triangles with two others. Every person choses two others to try forming a triangle, but without letting anyone know. Of course because no-one knows everyone is moving all the time to try and make his/her own triangle. Probably it's good to start telling them not to run, just move and be careful.
This practice needs some time to do (it depends on the children how long they like doing this). And then the teacher can start telling what this has to do with permaculture ... About complex relationships, dynamic equilibrium, self-organising systems, all found in nature, and how people can work with instead of against those natural laws (principles).
 
Anne Miller
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I read the OP's topic to suggest that his students were asking "What can I do".

Though the OP goes on to say:

What are some solid ways a 12 year old kid can get into permacultre?



With this in mind I found a game that would help them to learn permaculture:



Wildcraft Game

This Book:



Shanleya Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9 to 99

These also might work for 12-year-old kids though some are geared towards younger kids:



Children's Books to Infect Permaculture on Minds of Small People



Media for Getting Permaculture into Young Brains
 
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Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:When I think of 12-year-olds at school ... all the time they have to sit there and listen to a teacher teaching them stuff. I don't think they need more of that.
In my opinion permaculture is about applying principles in designs. And one of the first principles (after the three ethics) is: observe.
Starting to observe (to see, hear, smell, feel, etc.) in an objective way is a good practice, I think 12-year-olds are able (and willing) to do. If the school allows, it would be nice to do this outside, in a garden or in nature.
Of course afterwards there's a conversation, they tell each other what they observed.


I love this. I have shared observation exercises like this with kids at a wilderness school. Probably my favorite and most powerful practice we did there. We called it sit spot. While we would do it at camp, we also strongly encouraged them to pick a spot at home or nearby they could go daily to continue it. Often we'd send them home with the challenge of making sure they went to their spot and reported back next time. It always amazed me how willing they were to sit still and just observe. They would even request sit spot time! Which really says something considering that some of the other activities were shooting bows, fire by friction, and rowdy games. I think helping them build the skill of observing is crucial and so beneficial, even if they never learned anything else about permaculture. Most kids are disconnected from nature and their senses, so this is so good for them.

Some more ideas for sit spot here. https://www.wildernessawareness.org/articles/core-routine-sit-spot/ We asked them to use "owl eyes, deer ears, raccoon hands, dog nose" etc. as a way to encourage them to tune deeper into those senses and I think imagining sensing more like animals do made it more engaging and made them feel more a part of nature instead of separate from it.
 
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The Wildcrafting game and Shanleya's Quest book mentioned by Anne are great...but I doubt they would hold up with a twelve year old.  We are using them with my eight year old  grandson.  The cooperative nature of the game frustrates him at times, because he is bent on winning a game where there are no "winners", but we all learn from it and usually have fun. I love Shanleya's Quest, but even though any age can learn from it, it is definitely geared toward a younger crowd.  I love the making triangles suggestion above: interaction with peers and critical thinking and permaculture all rolled into one.  And I love the perennial early and late summer harvestable food forest idea.  
 
Anne Miller
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Cris said, "We are using them with my eight year old  grandson.  The cooperative nature of the game frustrates him at times, because he is bent on winning a game where there are no "winners", but we all learn from it and usually have fun.



Sounds like you have an exceptionally smart grandson.

It has been a long time since I have been around kids.  I like kids though I mostly avoid them in stores.  Our daughter doesn't like kids so she has fur babies.

From observing my kids and their friends, I feel different kids have different learning levels.

Your grandson may have been around permaculture much more than most 12-year-old kids in most schools so the game and books would be new to them even if below their learning skills.

One way or another, my thinking was that the general public knows nothing about permaculture.  I know when I found this forum in 2016, I had no idea what permaculture was and I have spent nearly 8 hours a day learning all about permaculture from the great people on this forum ever since.
 
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I have a 12year old daughter. As a single working and farming mom, much of what daughter does is out of necessity. haha I thank her often and she reminds me that she doesn't have a choice. It's a silly banter. Having fun and enjoying life are essential too.

She cares for the chickens and dogs. I give her an allowance from the egg sales. When it comes to big jobs, like grooming dogs or a through cleaning of the coop, then I help.

Whilst we tinker in the garden. I often ask her to do odd things. Pick all the dead nettle, pick all the cleavers or chickweed. Then we make a tea together. Engaging kids is about sharing the values. Pull the weeds and eat the weeds. Or have the weeds feed the critters. It's more than reducing their feed bill. It's diversity of diet, nutrients to keep those critters healthy. Easy the pressure on the pasture to produce all their food. The list of benefits goes on and on. =D

In the garden we work alongside each other. Nibbling goodies and chatting away.
We tried having her own garden last year, but it didn't go so well. The clover took it over. Didn't seem to be enough motivation for her to check on it on her own.

Love the wildcraft game!
 
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I can't help myself but add in the STEM curriculum on Solar Cooking. Already to go for your age group. Not quite permaculture but damn good IMHO

https://www.sciencebuddies.org/stem-activities/solar-oven
 
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James Sullivan wrote:I can't help myself but add in the STEM curriculum on Solar Cooking. Already to go for your age group. Not quite permaculture but damn good IMHO    https://www.sciencebuddies.org/stem-activities/solar-oven  

Clearly this project is sponsored by "Big Food". I'm sure the designers would say something like, "someone has to pay for the site" and something like, "you have to make something that will motivate the students", but one of my son's (mid-20's) complaints about modern society is the constant barrage of advertising - much of it subtle but insidious - such as the bottom picture of the instruction page of the link above.

Take away: 1. don't let the kids see that page (I haven't looked at the video, but check it thoroughly).
2. Find something with at least 1 or 2 redeeming characteristics that can be made with this level of solar stove - my first thought was English Muffin cheese melts with harvested fresh herbs like oregano, parsley, basil and chives/garlic chives +/- sliced fresh tomato. All of the herbs mentioned would grow easily in a sunny classroom window - "houseplants with benefits"!

That said - does that site have a similar "home-made basic food dryer"? Can the Pizza box cooker do both with minimal adaptation? Then you could teach the kids to dry those nutritious herbs you're growing on the windowsill!  Even if they're eating a lot of pre-packaged food at home, adding home-grown in healthy soil dried herbs can boost the nutritional value a bunch. Many kids live in a nutritional desert - even small quantities on micro-nutrient dense foods are a step in the right direction.
 
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I have a 12-year-old son, and I've been seriously taking the PEP badges and turning them into a kind of "Permascouts" because he loves earning things. We live two lives, Monday-Friday we live in a small city, my husband and I are academics and we also have 17-year-old twins. We are all into school and performing arts Monday-Friday. Then on the weekends, we go to my mother-in-law's village, an indigenous/agricultural village in the mountains where we are reforesting, planting fruit trees and cactus fruit plants, building a traditional house, and doing all sorts of hard work!. Sometimes my 12-year-old doesn't want to go, he wines, about the hard work, the insect bites, the strong sun, etc. He'd rather spend his weekends playing with the neighbor kids or on his tablet back in the city.  I never really had this problem with the twins, maybe because there are two of them, or maybe it's just their personality differences. But a lot of what we do are actually badges, I just haven't gotten around to organizing use getting them. (I think I need to order the physical book so we can peruse it, also as we live in the semi-arid tropics we need to create special climate-appropriate tasks) Just in case an app developer reads this who wants to do something to infect the minds of the masses--what would be super cool was if the PEP badges were developed into an app similar to inaturalist seek app
 
James Sullivan
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Jay Angler wrote:Clearly this project is sponsored by "Big Food". I'm sure the designers would say something like, "someone has to pay for the site" and something like, "you have to make something that will motivate the students", but one of my son's (mid-20's) complaints about modern society is the constant barrage of advertising - much of it subtle but insidious - such as the bottom picture of the instruction page of the link above.

Take away: 1. don't let the kids see that page (I haven't looked at the video, but check it thoroughly).
2. Find something with at least 1 or 2 redeeming characteristics that can be made with this level of solar stove - my first thought was English Muffin cheese melts with harvested fresh herbs like oregano, parsley, basil and chives/garlic chives +/- sliced fresh tomato. All of the herbs mentioned would grow easily in a sunny classroom window - "houseplants with benefits"!

That said - does that site have a similar "home-made basic food dryer"? Can the Pizza box cooker do both with minimal adaptation? Then you could teach the kids to dry those nutritious herbs you're growing on the windowsill!  Even if they're eating a lot of pre-packaged food at home, adding home-grown in healthy soil dried herbs can boost the nutritional value a bunch. Many kids live in a nutritional desert - even small quantities on micro-nutrient dense foods are a step in the right direction.



Thanks Jay that's awesome! A much better overall approach. I definitely have rose coloured glasses on in terms of Solar Cooking. I've been at it for a long time and I'm happy to get any resources to push forward.
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