Teach Every Child About Food

Have we lost our connection with food? Are we raising children who do not know anything about food? Should it be a required survival skill for our children to know how to cook their own food? In this riveting TED talk Jameie Olive brings home the cost of food ignorance. James Oliver is a chef and a food activist and is leading a worldwide campaign to turn back the clock on our over-reliance on processed food.

Processed Food In Schools
Did you know what’s in your ice-cream?
Seven Ways To Take Charge Of Your Food

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A Mystical Connection

Mystical Connection

Don Greiner, president of an Oklahoma nursing home chain, noticed a school district owned daycare center next door to the facility he was constructing at Jenks. Sensing an opportunity he approached the Jenks Public School to explore the possibility of a collaboration. Eventually this snowballed into something spectacular. The nursing home agreed to build two classrooms inside its facility and lease it out the school district at a nominal $1 per year.

Parents now drop their kids at the front door of the nursing home and the children snake through the nursing home to class. The classroom itself has glass doors that open into hallway and pane-free windows that allow children’s voices to float through the home.

As soon as class opened, many of the residents stopped by to see what was going on. One by one, several residents asked if they could help. The teachers quickly set up a program called Book Buddies. The program pairs a member of the retirement home with one of the children. The children read to the adults and the adults help them read for about 30 minutes several times a week.

The program has been a spectacular success with some remarkable results. Children here have been outperforming other children of the district in standardized reading tests. More than 70 percent are leaving the program at age five reading at third-grade level or higher. Parents are so pleased with the results that a lottery is now required for admissions as demand for the program is so strong.

Because of this success teachers began brainstorming how the collaboration between nursing home residents and children could be expanded. This is how Lise Morehouse describes the additional programs in her article:

Another key program is “shared study,” in which elders join small groups of kindergartners in hands-on activities. On the day of my visit, Grandma Irene rolled her wheelchair up to a round table where a handful of kids were creating books of fall leaves. She talked about making Christmas ornaments from leaves as a child, and throughout the activity helped students measure, color, describe textures, and make rubbings. Earlier in the month, students had made scarecrows while elders talked about growing up on farms; they worked together guesstimating the circumference of pumpkins. During a unit on senses, residents helped with taste tests.

According to kindergartner Liam, “We do activities, like trying new food. I tried a mint leaf and dark chocolate. I like school better with grandmas and grandpas.”

Site principal Suzanne Lair says shared study is developmentally appropriate for both groups. “Things like cutting and pasting with the kids helps the residents not lose those motor skills,” she adds.

Dramatic play is also important, as residents join pre-kindergarten students in enacting a scenario connected to the unit of study. Using props and costumes to set the scene — like Thanksgiving dinner, a vacation, a trip to the doctor’s office — the teacher gets the ball rolling, then kids, grandmas, and grandpas begin improvising. “This is all in the service of language development, interacting with vocabulary,” says Lair.

To promote connections between the generations, teachers look at class themes through the lens of “then and now.” In the My Classroom unit, for instance, students and elders compared how they traveled to school; in Healthy Habits, they discussed lunch choices and options from the past and today. Sometimes those discussions become big books created by the students and elders.

The remarkable thing is that the collaboration between the daycare center and the nursing home is not just benefiting the children. Something else is also going on. Medication levels in the nursing homes are plummeting and residents are living longer. It is as if the adults participating in the program have come back to life. Instead of whiling away their day they have a reason to get up in the morning and look forward to the day ahead. Because of this they are literally living longer.

The collaboration across generation is not something new. There is a mystical connection that happens across generations and from ancient times families have known about this. We have always leveraged this connection by allowing grandparents to spend time with their grandchildren. Unfortunately with the creation of nuclear families and migration to different towns, traditional family structures have broken down and this mystical connection is being lost. It is time that we use creative ideas as highlighted in this post to restore this mystical connection.

Senior Citizens Help Young Children with Reading — and Relationships
How to build intergenerational opportunities for learning
Watch the video/slide-show
Pictures from another intergenerational program

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah. The original inspiration for this post came from “The Element” by Ken Robinson. The picture is taken from the slideshow that accompanies Lise Morehouse’s article.

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Back To Basics

Stuck in Complexity

Stuck in Complexity? Time for Back To Basics!

Sometimes we over think and make things complicated. This need not be so because there is great wisdom in simplicity. Here are five things that can allow you to simplify life by going back to the basics:

1. Speak to communicate

The purpose of speaking is to communicate. If your words are not going to be understood or misconstrued why utter them? If your words are going to hurt feelings why speak them? Truth is not a weapon you use to beat others with. If speaking the truth is going to unnecessarily hurt somebody or is not going to be accepted or understood, silence may be preferred.

2. Eat to live

The goal of eating is to get the right nutrition to live. It is not a way to manage your stress or a way to make you feel good. Choose what you put into your mouth consciously and not by habit. You should not put stuff in your mouth to gain social acceptance or show off. You should instead put stuff in your mouth because it is what you need to live.

3. Spend what you can afford

Telling yourself that you “need” something is the wrong starting point. The first question to ask is: “Do I have the money to pay for it?” If the answer is no, stop right there. No need to go further and entertain a million thoughts of why you need something. Here is a simple rule: “If you cannot afford it then you do not need it.”

4. Drive to get there

Your purpose of driving is not to get there quickly (while putting your and other people’s life at risk). It is not to be entertained while getting there. It is not to make a statement while getting there. It is not to judge other drivers while getting there. Your first goal is to make sure you get there alive. Everything else is secondary.

5. Sleep to rest

Are you waking up tired? You have most likely not slept enough. Rather than sleeping to be fully rested, you have chosen to get as much sleep as possible in the available time. Now the entire day is shot, the body is in imbalance, stress levels are high, and the brain is in turmoil. Your body needs rest, healing, and relaxation. Only a full restful sleep achieves that. Always choose to get enough sleep and a full night’s rest.

6. Live to love

Living for your ego? Maybe it is time to rethink your life’s plan. Only outside the ego is there love. Only outside the ego you can do something bigger than yourself. Only in love and selfless action is there meaning. Maybe it is time to let go of the superflous and grab the meaningful by breaking the habit of ego-centered thought and action.

Do you have any more Back To Basics? The rule should be five words or less and the explanation in a paragraph of few lines. Please send this to us in a comment to this post or on our Facebook page. If we like it and we get enough of these we will post them together in a follow-up article.

You may also like: Vow Of Silence

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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The Recycle Orchestra

When eight year old Luis Szaran heard a classical guitarist play, he immediately knew that music was his life. However Luis was the eighth child of a poor rice farmer and when his father learnt about his ambition to become a musician he was forbidden from playing music. Luis did not allow this to deter him and he secretly practiced music with a neighbor. By 12 he was composing short songs. Soon the head of a music school recognized his genius and sent him off to Europe on a scholarship to study music. When Luis returned he was an accomplished musician and slowly rose to become the conductor of Paraguay’s most prestigious national symphony.

However Luis was not satisfied with his spectacular success. He saw the role of music as an instrument of social transformation. He began touring the country, trying to establish a connection and trust with local communities. He wanted to bring music to the poorest of poor and he wanted his program to be completely free. This is how “Sounds of Earth” was born. For poor children music became an avenue for hope. Where formerly they had no purpose and resorted to drug and violence, now they have music to look forward to. Even communities benefited as they learnt to organize themselves to raise funds, to organize community events, to find a home for the music school, etc., The Sound Of Earth is now a fantastic success. It is self sustaining as it is run by local communities, and it thrives in hundreds of villages and poor communities.

One spectacular offshoot of “Sounds of Earth” program is the “Recycle Orchestra”. This came about when Sound Of Earth went to Cateura, a very poor community at the outskirts of the town. This community literally exists on top of a landfill, where people make a living by recycling trash. The response here was so great that the number of students outstripped available instruments. On a whim, Favio, the director who is in charge of the Sound of Earth program in Cateura, approached Cola who is an expert recycler with an idea. Could he fashion instruments out of trash? Cola was given a violin as a sample and soon he had fashioned an instrument from scraps of recycled trash. They laughed when they first saw the instrument, but soon realized that this was something that could be really useful. This could give a poor kid a chance to practice music, which would otherwise not be available to him. From this grew the idea of Recycle Orchestra that has now come to symbolize the hope of poor children of Paraguay.

Frontline Program on Sound Of Earth.
Full You tube movie on Recycle Orchestra

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Nine Things To Know To Expand Your Intelligence

Can You Expand Your Intelligence

Here are nine things you need to know to expand your intelligence. The first three are related to the nature of intelligence:

1. Intelligence is multifaceted. It is silly valuing a car by a single feature such as its mileage. And just as there are many factors like comfort, safety, acceleration, power, durability, looks, mileage, etc., that go into determining the value of a car, our intelligence too is multifaceted. We have emotional intelligence, social intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence, musical intelligence, spatial intelligence, spiritual intelligence, mathematical intelligence, language intelligence, verbal intelligence, poetic intelligence, and so on. There may be thousands of different ways intelligence may be expressed. Do not allow anybody to tell you that the number represented by IQ (Which primarily focuses on problem solving math and language problems) measures the complete spectrum of intelligence that you have access to.

2. Intelligence is dynamic. One prevailing false notion is that everyone has a fixed quantity of intelligence that we are born with, and we can do nothing to change it. In fact intelligence is dynamic and it can both grow and ebb. It grows as we learn new things and our brains builds new connections and it ebbs when we under-use our brains.

3. Intelligence is a muscle. “Use it or lose it” works for both your muscle and intelligence. The metaphor of the muscle is useful when it comes to intelligence. You can grow it by practice and you have to work towards maintaining it. And just as a muscle is best worked by doing various types of exercises and stretches, your intelligence is expanded and maintained by engaging it in a variety of different ways.

The next three are related to the bottlenecks that limit us from expressing our intelligence:

4. Do not put yourself in a box. The biggest obstacle to expand our intelligence is the belief that our intelligence is limited and it cannot grow. If you convince a frog that its abilities are restricted to swimming in a small pond, it will never venture out in the open ocean. Similarly if we convince ourselves that we are not intelligent enough to tackle some of life’s demanding problems then we unnecessarily hobble ourselves. It is best that we cast away such mental shackles and prepare ourselves to swim in the open ocean.

5. Be wary of the ego. The ego is a huge roadblock to access the deep reservoir of untapped intelligence and creativity within us. The ego creates unnecessary stress and fear and prevents us from entering a state of “flow”. When we are in a state of “flow” we work at our peak level with all aspects of our brain fully engaged. The state of flow is a completely egoless state. Rather than spending energy with questions such as: “What will others think of me?” or “What will happen to me if I fail?” all our energy is directed at the problem itself.

6. Out-of-control stress is an issue. A big factor that prevents us from tapping the full scale of intelligence available to us is stress. When we feel under attack, or when we feel insecure or fearful, or when we feel threatened, our body responds by triggering a stress response. This type of stress prevents us from focusing our energy on any given task. All we can do is to have very short attention spans and nervously jump from task to task without accomplishing anything. If we want to expand our intelligence, the first step is to learn to control and reduce this type of stress.

The final three are things you can do to expand your intelligence:

7. Constantly work the intelligence muscle. Challenge yourself in all areas. If you are not musically inclined take music lessons. If you are not a hands-on person take up hands-on hobbies such as sculpting, painting, or wood working. If you are mathematically challenged try your hand at math games that will improve your math skills. If language is not your strong suit set a challenge to read at least one book per month. When you expand your brain in one area, new connections are built and the brain expands in all directions

8. Do yoga to control ego and stress. The oldest known remedy against both ego and stress is yoga. Since both ego and stress are big bottlenecks to expand and access your intelligence, a regular practice of yoga becomes mandatory. If you practice all eight limbs of yoga that would give you even better results. This means you should be doing regular meditation, have a daily routine of breathing exercises, have a regular yoga practice, and make life style changes that put you in line with Yamas and Niyamas suggested by Patanjali.

9. Fine tune your diet. The brain is extraordinarily sensitive to the foods we ingest. Extra-spicy and sugary foods should be avoided. You should also put aside any habit of regular drug use if you want to expand your intelligence. Heavy, fatty, and greasy foods that make you dull should also be avoided. Over-use of caffeine, nicotine, and stimulants such as tea should also be avoided.

In an increasingly fast-paced world where information and complexity is growing exponentially, it is important that we expand our mental faculties. This article provides important pointers that will help move you in this direction. Please feel free to share this article by pressing on the like button to share these ideas with others.

Related: Superbrain Yoga

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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