Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Her Excellency Mariam Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food Security, Visits ASD!

Last year’s winning of the Zayed Sustainability Prize thrust ASD into the sustainability limelight and provides us with opportunities to engage with the wider community. One such opportunity was a recent visit by four ASD culinary-inclined students to visit and participate in the Zayed Sustainability Prize jury luncheon. While there they presented our school’s work to a number of dignitaries, where they caught the attention of the UAE Minister of State for Food Security, Her Excellency Mariam Al Mheiri. 

Her Excellency at the time promised to come and visit ASD and take a look at our Edible Education program. True to her word this past Monday Her Excellency made a morning visit to our campus to take a look at the programs we offer specifically related to food production, preparation, consumption and composting.  She was welcomed by Dr. Richards, Dr. Berg, several members of the Board of Trustees and staff members involved in nutritional health, service learning, sustainability and global citizenship programs as well as our friends from the Beekeepers Foundation. Her visit included a tour of the Sustainable Garden, the Kitchen Classroom, the Bee Garden and the Industrial Composter. During her visit she heard from a number of our students highlight their engagement in edible education in K1 (composting), ES (Bee Garden and honey extraction), MS (Food Revolution) and HS (Global Issues in Action and food waste data collection), in addition to the sustainability initiatives and plans that we have for the future!

During her visit she asked many questions related to how we engage students in learning and spoke about the relative novelty of educating students within the curriculum rather than relying solely on extra-curricular activities. She also shared some new ideas related to the Food Security Office's plans to bring the conversation of food security to schools. We’ve agreed to provide feedback on the plans Her Excellency’s office has with regard to educating the UAE-wide community about food-related issues. Her kind nature, her welcoming approach in interacting with our students endeared her to our community and, of course, we look forward to potential future collaboration with the Food Security Office and especially with the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture with which we’ve already begun conversations!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Another SEENAH Jumble Sale Success!


One more year, one more amazing SEENAH Jumble Sale came and went this past weekend! Hundreds of visitors popped over to our Fieldhouse to check out the goodies on offer! A large number of MS and HS SEENAH members were on hand to support the sales and to ensure that the event was smoothly run and well organized. 

All in all the event supported an ethos of sustainability on several levels. From a waste reduction standpoint it literally kept hundreds (if not thousands) of used items for heading to the landfill. The dropped prices at the end of the event ensured that more of the remaining items made their way to loving homes. Any left over books were collected by Room to Read for donation to a community visited during the INSPIRE Nepal trip this year. Finally, any items left after the event was complete were collected by Take My Junk, an organization that supports re-sale of items in second hand stores in the region.

A big thank you to our school community for participating in this event which included the play of our faculty band, Shoes!  All in all a wonderful outreach event for the wider community, and especially those who are typically unable to afford the items on sale. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Presenting: The Changemaker Hubb!

The presence of the garden at first, followed by service learning and the new addition of global citizenship, as well as several moves from one part of campus to another in the recent past, has led to conversations about what, exactly, our focus really is in the Office of Service Learning. 

Sooooo.... we've had some heart-to-heart moments, some talk of what binds us together, talk of our collective purpose and "the why". We've put together our guiding statements and determined that, really, what this office is all about is the inter-connected elements of sustainability, service learning and global citizenship with the express purpose of cultivating changemakers in our students (and adults). 

With a little help from our friends in the Office of Advancement (focusing on color, design and logo generation) and the Facilities Office (for set up and movement of furniture) and IT (supporting with the new TV monitor outside our office) we are now proud to introduce the CHANGEMAKER HUBB to our community and beyond!  It sits at the intersection of critical consciousness avenue and informed action street and welcomes the world!  Pop on over for a visit!

By the way, the word "hubb" is not a misprint, but rather a celebration of our school's cultural connections to Arabic, whose word for "love" is written in that way. Cool right?!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

ASD Honey Arrives!

Ever since we announced the construction of a Bee Garden at ASD we've been inundated with questions about the honey. When will be available?  What will it look like? Will it be for sale?  How do we get some? All sorts of questions have made their way to the school from all sorts of directions. But since this is a learning experience as we slowly make our way through the life-cycle of bees and become aware of the dynamics of bee colonies and apiaries we are only now getting to some of these answers. 

Over the summer our bee population, which we estimated at around 180,000 feel drastically as the heat of the summer overcame the food sources for the bees. It was important at that time that the bee stores inside the hives continued to be available to the bees themselves as an alternative to reduced pollen options.  Students supported the food options with their pollen patties (highlighted in an earlier post) and, as the temperatures began to drop we were delighted to know that the colonies had survived the summer. The population has still not reached the maximum but has sufficiently increased to allow for greater honey production. Finally, in the beginning of November our bee keepers felt it was time for our human population to have a little taste as well. 

And so, in the first week of November our grade 2 students were brought in to support the honey extraction from several of the frames taken from the hives, but ensuring that frames will being utilized are kept intact. Our grade 2 students had a shot at using the centrifugal force (physics anyone?) to extract the honey which, later, was placed into jars. Descriptions of the honey include the words "not too sweet", "really good", "awesome" and "smooth". 

So what happens to this honey now. Some will be used in our classrooms to support our Edible Education kitchen classroom program. Some will be used for on-campus events where the amount seems appropriate. The plan currently is that the honey will be jarred, labeled and raffled off at the upcoming Christmas Bazaar. We're still learning so much about the benefits of having pollinators on our campus and so happy to see how many connections we're making both to our curriculum and to our community at large!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

New Composter Goes Live with MS Composting Competition!

By now we're hoping you already know that the industrial composter - courtesy of the Zayed Sustainability Prize - is on campus and functional. Conversations with the facilities team have indicated that we're moving our ongoing composting operations - kitchen food and small landscaping waste - to this area by Gate 3. We also have had several groups of adults and students visit the site to get a briefing of how things work and the benefits composting brings to the community. What you might not know is that a small group of committed students - Ms. Kjorlean's advisory group - is running a MS composting program. 

Every Sunday and Thursday our community is invited to participate in the competition to keep your home-generate food waste from the landfill. Students and their families bring their food from home - labeled by name and house - and then pick up an empty box/bag at the end of the day for reuse. What happens in the middle, though, is where the educational magic happens. :-)

During the advisory period, the students in Ms. Kjorlean's advisory sneak out of the classroom with a pad of paper, a pencil and a small scale. They go to the compost rack and, house by house, take the compost, weight it, note the weight and then take it over to the industrial composter. There they ensure that the food is added to the composter and return to their classroom. 

Over the last year or so hundreds of kilos of food waste has been composted this way. Though a small enough operation to sometimes go unnoticed, it's a classic story of how a little bit over a time can really add up. Great job MS!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Eco-Schools Starts Up (Again)!

Last year's great success with the Eco-Schools program - with the added benefit of our new sustainability focus - has provided a good amount of motivation to our community to get involved in school-wide initiatives. Our Eco-Schools Advisory Council, comprised of a variety of stakeholders across our community, began its work by re-committing to the two themes: Energy and Waste Reduction. 

From there on it was "off the the races" with ideation of initiatives and programs related to our new industrial composter. Our ES Roots and Shoots program, this year boasting 33 participants, provided their thoughts on environmental issues that face our community. Some great ideas were put on the table and we're well underway in getting new systems in place to support the elimination of food waste from heading to landfill. 

All great things for en ever-growing sustainable community!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Green Light for Demonstration of Good Work!

The service learning expectations for our students at ASD include a cyclical process of investigation, planning, action, reflection and demonstration. The student organizations are often quite involved in their work and, over the years, we've found that there was a dearth of opportunities to demonstrate their engagement. Welcome the weekly DEMO Mondays to the HS student organization program!

Each week three student organizations, chosen in sequence, are highlighted during the HS WIN block period. The organizations are able to support an increased awareness of their work, highlight their partnerships and generate conversations about the issues they are addressing. In addition it provides them with an ongoing venue for exposure to the larger student population, increasing opportunities for interested student to ask questions, indicate support, etc. It also serves as a way to document the collective engagement of our students by the Office of Service Learning, particularly when the calendar shifts closer to the renewal process toward the end of the year, increasing the opportunity for student organizations to show evidence of their work. 

Over the course of the year each HS student organization will have the chance to showcase their work either two or three times. So far it has seemed like a good "low hanging fruit" of supporting great work without too much added stress on the student leaders representing these organization. We think we'll keep it!