Did you know that flies actually live a lot longer than 24 hours? They can apparently live for about a month, which is closer to 720 hours. It must be true, I found this out on the internet. Sarcasm aside, it really must be a myth about the 24 hours because we’ve had the biggest, freakiest fly in our house for three days now, and it has made itself known all 72 hours it’s been visiting us. It’s so fat that my oldest can’t believe how fast it is, he thinks it should be like a Garfield Fly where it sleeps all the time and waits to be served lasagna. I told him maybe it is all muscle and some kind of super fly, a hero in the insect world. He said no, it just seems to want to be our pet. I have to agree, it follows us upstairs and downstairs, in and out of rooms, noisily adding a buzzing soundtrack to our home life and stealthily remaining just out of arms reach, or rolled up magazine reach to be more honest. We are trying to encourage it to go outside, I don’t want to kill it b/c it would make such a nasty mess I can’t even imagine, so we are leaving doors open and swatting it towards them, but that just never works and we end up feeling frustrated and foolish, Superfly laughing haughtily in the corner. Anyway, despite the new ever-present presence in the house, I did want to share a good news infographic from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, by way of the Edible Schoolyard Project. It shows improvement in kids’ lunches but I think the real news is that when kids actually have healthy choices they are more likely to eat healthy foods. It’s another myth that kids will always choose the pizza over the salad bar. Just like adults, kids want to make healthy choices, maybe not all the time, but if there is no healthy choice, then it will be none of the time. And that’s no myth.
If you have a child in school these days then you surely have heard of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math.) It’s the big thing right now~ there are STEM schools, STEM measurements, and people compare the STEM-ness of schools when making decisions about where their child will go. Personally, I’m wondering where creativity fits into science, technology, engineering, and math. It seems to me innovation is tied to creativity and we need to foster that in our children just as much as the other things. Not only that, but creativity gives people the space to appreciate art, music, literature, and all the things that still exist beyond our screens. Our kids will be proficient in computers, that’s a given, but do we really want to tie our futures so inseparably with modern technology? Has there really been nothing of use in the world up until the computer chip was invented? What about the natural world? Science seems centered on dissecting it, but what about giving kids the chance to appreciate it? Breathe it. Realize they live in it along with billions of other beings and need to think about that fact. An example of what I’m talking about is the fact our school district does not have art teachers. There are volunteer parents that go in and teach art to classes at most once per month, but often a lot less. Why are we teaching these kids that art in not that important? They have music and PE and library at least once per week, but art for some reason is not valued enough to have at least a weekly class with a trained teacher. This just blows my mind. Kids get so much out of art class and I’m not just referring to the kids who are gifted in it. When I go in and help with art lessons I’m always struck by the highly intellectual students who are astounded they can make something aesthetically pleasing with their own hands, and the hyper-active students who can focus on something that is truly their own, and the quiet students who love being able to work on something as an individual and not be overwhelmed with the constant group activities that are also so vogue in modern education. It gives students a place to pause and consider what art means to them, to recognize every single one of them has some creativity and how good it feels to express it, and to understand it is valuable to work on something purely for aesthetic reasons. These are just a few of things that I see falling out of schools in favor of STEM, and I’d like to propose a post-STEM environment focused on Creativity and Nature. Computers will be integrated in their lives more and more with textbooks changing into tablets, research done on Google, Kindergarteners giving PowerPoint presentations~ that’s all part of the modern world and I’m not trying to stop it, there just needs to be some focus on what goes on outside of a screen and perhaps inside of a head. Of course, I have to bring up the Edible Schoolyard Project as I so often do because it embraces nature and creativity both in such a beautiful balance, and in an increasingly teched-out world kids need to be reminded of the importance of these things. Isn’t education about expanding the mind after all…? It certainly can’t just be about learning how to use a single tool. Our kids are brighter than that and they deserve more.
I had a strange experience last week when I went to my youngest son’s music class presentation. It was beyond cute of course, with all the second graders sounding angelic although I know they are often quite a devilish group as I’ve seen them enough in other settings. But sitting in the metal folding chairs as they sat on the floor or walked around singing, something else struck me besides the sweetness of it all~ when I looked at them each individually, as in really looked at them, they mostly looked kind of…sickly. Granted it was the end of the day and also the end of the week so they had reason to be tired, and maybe the lighting is not the best in their brand new school, but it seemed odd to me that they could all look so sluggish and lacking vibrancy considering their youth. My own son’s cheeks were flared up with the pink that signifies something is bothering him allergy-wise, either the carpet or something he ate, or who knows what, but that is what made me start looking at the other kids. There was one girl who looked completely healthy, alert, and engaged and I happen to know that this girl always looks that way or at least she does at library time where I help out and also field trips and parties, before and after school. She is just that kind of girl who notices everything and is part of everything and probably questions her teachers and parents ad nauseam. She was seriously the only one. The other kids were a mixture of eyes with dark circles, half closed eyes, wandering eyes and hands, bad skin, rashes, confused and disengaged looks, and tired faces and bodies. It made me wonder about kids, schools, and health. Is the modern school a healthy place for our students? Do they get enough outdoor time? Are they eating good food? Are we doing our best to help them learn? I don’t know, it just bothered me to see a bunch of second graders that just didn’t look vibrant and vivacious. They are too young not to be! The edible schoolyard project is one place to look for answers though my kids’ school has put me off for two years now when I’ve brought up planting a garden there. The students would get so much out of it, not the least of which would be a bit more good health. One bright eyed bushy tailed student out of 21 is not enough.
The other day my two sons and I were on a walk and as usual, my older son was talking while the younger one and I quietly listened. The truth is, I don’t always listen as well as I should because one can only take in so much information about video games, YouTube, and unfamiliar book characters, but on that day he said something that caught my attention. He asked, “Have you ever heard that saying: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for a…” “Lifetime” I filled in for him. Yes, I’d heard it of course, and was delighted we could have a real conversation talking about what that saying actually means. It got me thinking about school gardens, and how that’s exactly why they are so important~ not only do they teach kids about growing food. (Chances are they are not going to be in a situation that requires them to grow their own food or they’ll starve, but then again you never can be sure.) But more importantly, it teaches them where food comes from, what it should taste like, and to develop a positive relationship with food as it grows and helps them grow. Once you taste a homegrown tomato it’s really hard to eat something that tastes like what most grocery stores sell. So, I think we could actually modify the original saying a bit more to say: Give a person a tomato and he eats for a day, teach him to grow a tomato and he eats well for a lifetime. My favorite site on this subject is The Edible Schoolyard Project. Check it out when you are in the mood for a little inspiration.
My sons normally bring their lunches to school, unless they are having waffles and then my oldest buys his lunch, therefore I don’t normally read the menu that comes home monthly except to mark the waffle days. (Usually every Wednesday.) For lack of better reading material with my coffee this morning I actually read February’s offerings, and was struck by the little key at the bottom that reads: “**Contains Wheat” and another symbol to show what contains dairy. I went back through the menu and realized every item had a double asterisks by it~ every single thing offered contains wheat. They do have a salad bar each day so I assume a gluten-free child could live off that if they didn’t bring their lunch, but I have a hard time imagining an elementary student getting much from it. It makes me sad for the free/reduced lunch kids who might have food intolerances, and the kids who just want to buy their lunches like their friends do but can’t because they never have good options. But the real thing that I think this says is that we are a wheat nation~ people generally have no idea how much wheat they take in on a daily basis but it is so easy to eat it at every meal. I lived on wheat before realizing I had a problem with it, which I don’t think is a coincidence. A bit more variety in my diet might have saved me some headaches, fatigue, and stomach issues. I love the schools that have gardens on their property and use the food in the schools. Imagine basing lunch menus on what is growing outside the window, what is in season and fresh and healthy, then adding in the other things, such as grains and beans, and dairy. Oh and meat if you like, I always forget that. There is an organization promoting school gardens called The Edible Schoolyard Project and they are very worth checking out. Last year I asked the principal at my sons’ school if we could plant a garden and he said he was thinking about a greenhouse after the school’s construction was finished. That’d work too, but ideally I think both would be best.