Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Sunday, July 21, 2013

First Field Trip: Soulard Market

Sorry for the late post. We've been working hard to get ready for our Shakespeare scenes we're putting on in the park this Friday. More posts about that coming soon.

On the way to the market
Two Fridays ago, the EEC had its first field trip. We packed the kids in the bus and headed over to Soulard Market. A few days before our trip, I saw our partners at Gateway Greening teach our kids about the different food groups. Once the bus stopped, we divided the kids into four groups, gave each group pencil and paper, and had all of them participate in the Great Foodstuff Scavenger Hunt. 

Each group had to find as many food items as possible and organize them by food group. Whoever had the most foods in each food group would get points.

Hopefully now, having charged the children with a purpose, we could unleash the groups into a crowded space and expect more than aimless wandering.

Apples and melons and pears, oh my!
We could hear the hum of undifferentiated noise up ahead, a mixture of boxes dragging and being emptied, shoppers talking and buying, sellers shouting out prices and explanations. As we turned into the first lane, created by a row of vendor stands on either side, there was an explosion of color and excitement. Fruits and vegetables everywhere! 

The Scavenger Hunt was on.

The older kids needed more motivating and the younger kids needed more reminding, but the game channeled the kids' excitement and gave them a reason not to run too far off.

Some serious learning going on in the background
Some kids brought money with them to buy food, and maybe a few kids got a dollar from a teacher or two. I eventually realized that some of my kids were getting discouraged by the price signs, not understanding the difference between price per unit and price per weight. 

I tried to explain it to them, but then I decided it would be better if they figured it out in practice. Some very patient vendors introduced our kids to the foodstuff marketplace with great success.

This required a rock to open

As much as Soulard was a treat for our kids, I think it was great for the regulars there too. Many of the vendors enjoyed being teachers for a few minutes. Several patrons smiled as kids mispronounced new vegetables they had just discovered. One man asked me what grades of kids had come (to which I responded, "All of them!"). 

The trip became more than a learning experience for our kids. It was a moment of inclusiveness in which our community came together to educate children. That's what our program is all about.

As my group of kids got to the end of the first row of food displays, there was mumbling of joining the other kids on the playground. 

I reminded them of the Scavenger Hunt, of how champions pay the price now, of how victory would taste as sweet as the peaches some of them purchased. And so we continued on, finding the mother lode of dairy products attended to by a vendor who explained how mold is used to make cheeses.

Champions did pay the price. We had close to 170 different food items on our list. And we still got to play on the playground.

Play time

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Week in Review: AC, Puppy Chow, and Independence

This week was shortened because of the holiday, but that didn't stop the party!

On Monday, our kids learned how to make a homemade AC system. And puppy chow!

Rain fell on Tuesday, preventing the kids from visiting the garden. So Gateway Greening brought the lesson to them, organizing a gym-wide food group scavenger hunt.

On Wednesday, my group, the middle schoolers, read through the Declaration of Independence, made wigs, and wrote their own declaration of independence from the rule of King Sam of Clay's Landing.

And then this happened.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Desperate Times Call For... Engineers! Homemade AC Systems

The heat can be brutal in St. Louis, and it can be devastating in a well-insulated brick school building when the AC system is broken.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Clay Elementary!

Normally, the AC system works just fine. Just a few days ago, children hesitated to visit the frigid confines of the gymnasium. Without AC, that hesitation transforms into lethargy as the heat seeps every ounce of energy from the school's inhabitants.

Hey, we warned these kids we were going medieval.

Last summer, the three week program was cut in half because the AC system failed. This year, I had nightmares of a repeat. After researching how the world existed pre-AC, I realized three things:

1) Either the world really is hotter or our hardiness is not what it used to be.
2) I would like authorization to grow large plants on school grounds throughout St. Louis City.
3) I can build an AC unit.

The latter of the three points proved to be the most important. All you need is a fan, water, and a freezer.

I gathered my middle school kids on my first full day. "Knights of Justice, the Kingdom needs you! Today you are engineers!" We spent much of the day teaching the rest of the groups how to make AC units, how to use the scientific method, and that science is cool (get it!?).

We even talked freezing point depression. Put a bunch of salt in water and the freezing/melting point is lower. Just try taking an ice cube in your hand, pouring salt on it, and squeezing that sucker hard (in the other hand, just squeeze an ice cube without salt). Beware frostbite thanks to the very cold layer of salt water that doubles as a good conductor of heat.

Anyway, tomorrow we'll have salt water baths straight from the freezer sitting in front of fans blowing cold air.

Yeah, the kids did that.