Field Trips Back in Person!

Nature Art from a student on a field trip

Chatham’s Eden Hall K-12 office has started holding in person field trips again, our team reflects on how they have started out this year. 

This September, we held our first in-person field trip since March 2020! Five trips have been held so far this fall, with over 200 students touring the Eden Hall campus and participating in activities. We are so excited to be able to have in-person trips!

Multiple Chatham student staff members have joined the team this season to help lead and coordinate field trips. Go to the Eden Hall K-12 Program website to learn more about the new staff. 

Our field trips currently include: opening or pre-visit activities related to the Sustainable Development Goals, hands-on activities in the Agroecology Demonstration Garden, lunches from the Eden Hall cafeteria, and tours of the Eden Hall campus to learn about the various aspects of sustainability featured on campus.  

Students learn about the Sustainable Development Goals and how they are used on the Eden Hall campus. Our pre-visit activity connects the various goals to each other with a ball of yarn, showing how all of the goals are connected and work together. 

Working in the Agroecology Demonstration Garden (ADG) has been described on post-surveys from K-12 students as their favorite portion of the trip. Students tour the gardens where they meet the goats and chickens, learn about sustainable agriculture practices, and do hands-on planting, harvesting or other garden maintenance activities. One group planted garlic and learned how to use tools to aerate the soil. Another group planted winter rye cover crops in open plots of the ADG and learned about the importance of cover crops. Other groups also helped in removing weeds from the beds. Students also are working together to define agroecology and connect how the practices of the garden promote sustainability. They are learning about the practice of composting and why this method is used to manage waste on campus. 

Goats in the Agroecology Garden

On tours with Chatham students who have personal knowledge of the campus, K-12 visitors learn about the sustainable systems on campus, which include but are not limited to a wastewater management system, solar panels, an aquaculture lab, and nature incorporated into buildings (which is called “biophilia”). 

After their trips, students provided us with lots of feedback. They loved the goats and hands-on activities and thought that the Chatham student facilitators were well informed, friendly, and good at answering questions. A few students even said that they plan to apply to Chatham after their trip. They described how their understanding of sustainability improved and some ways that they will include sustainable practices in their lives. 

If you want to sign up for a trip in the spring or know someone who may be interested, share this information! To sign up, visit the Field Trips page of the Eden Hall K-12 Program website for information on how to apply, program options, and scholarships. In the spring, we have expanded the field trip activities being offered, to include the games and activities on the Challenge Course, and aquaponics chemistry and farming. Information on these activities can be found on the field trip page linked above. 

Students on the Challenge Course

Sustainable Leadership Academy (SLA) program feature

SLA summer 2019 group picture: Julian as a participant

Julian Kroger is a member of the K-12 Education Office at Eden Hall, enjoy his reflection on his time as a participant, counselor, and program assistant. 

The summer before my junior year of high school, way back in 2019 (that was three years ago?!), my mom told me about an opportunity to spend a week learning about sustainability. Despite my reservations about writing an essay so I could get a scholarship to attend, I was intrigued by the prospects of free college credits and a week away from home (ish). So, I got over the pains of the essay and was soon on my way to Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus to take part in the Sustainable Leadership Academy (or SLA).
Now the word ‘academy’ might make it seem like the program is a week of sitting inside stuffy classrooms listening to people four times my age ramble on for hours. Fortunately, this was not the case at all, and SLA was one of the best experiences of my life. Through a host of different trips, tours, panels, and other activities, I got to see first-hand what sustainability was and why it mattered. Even from the first evening of the program, I remember learning about various definitions of sustainability, from balancing the three E’s (environment, equity, and economy) to the Sustainable Development Goals. From that point on, we got to go on a green building kayak tour, meet and talk with professionals working in the frontlines of the field, see how renewable energy was being generated on campus, and get to know people our age who shared similar values to us. To this day, I still talk to some of the friends I made while at SLA.

Summer 2021 SLA: Julian as a counselor making baked goods in the bread oven at Eden Hall

Despite all of this, it’s clear to me that the most impactful part of the week was the time spent in intergroup dialogue. These conversations forced me outside of my comfort zone and into a place of learning as our group dealt with the dynamics of our diverse social identities. At times, this meant pre-planned activities designed to stir thought, and at other times it meant stopping what we were doing and addressing problematic actions or words that came to our attention. Understanding how social justice was directly related to the environment has been one of the biggest influences in my life, pushing me towards my pursuit of a sustainability degree here at Chatham.
Flashing forward to this past summer, I was given another opportunity to be involved with SLA, this time as a counselor. Having the experiences that came with two years, a pandemic, and a world much more conscious of social justice made this week different from the last, especially considering the fact that I was no longer a participant. Even with these changes, the experience was once again meaningful, although in a different way. Getting to reconnect with the other counselors (as well as meeting a few new people) while also transitioning from high school to college was an amazing opportunity to reflect on the relationships I made during my time as a participant in the program. Further, this reflection helped me learn a lesson on the importance of community when addressing sustainability. If I hadn’t had those open, sometimes raw experiences with my peers (and now friends) when I was a participant, I likely wouldn’t have truly grasped the importance of the issues we discussed and wouldn’t be where I am today. Being a part of that community inspired me to continue learning about the role I can play in making a more equitable and resilient future.
Now, as SLA Coordinator, I have an even better grasp of how important these experiences were for me. The behind-the-scenes work that goes into connecting students with effective methods of learning and the people who inspire change in the world is not insignificant, and helping Kelly in this process has given me a greater appreciation for the time I had as a participant. I mean, when else do you get to pick the vegetables that go with fish you just learned how to fillet during a sustainable food systems workshop? SLA is a really unique program, and I am honored to have been a part of it for so long now.
Looking ahead to this summer, we are making a few changes, like incorporating more time in the city again, introducing a session on sustainability in fashion, and making the panels more hands-on and interactive. Additionally, we have several early bird scholarships available for the program, with applications due by March 31st!
As we continue to prepare for this summer’s SLA, I hope to inspire students just as I was inspired when I participated in the program three years ago. We can’t wait to see you there!

Summer 2021: Julian as a counselor spending time with the goats in the Agroecology Garden at Eden Hall


EnvironMentors Feature

What is EnvironMentors? To Sean Russell, a former mentee, the program “gave [him] the voice to be able to spread activism in regard to the environment”. Sean’s mentor, Clara Kitongo, says that the program serves to expose young environmentalists to the environmental field, and that it helps students to develop their skills. EnvironMentors is a national college program which connects high school students with professionals in the field of sustainability. Clara, for example, works for Tree Pittsburgh, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the urban forest. The program works with students from communities underrepresented in the sciences who have interest in sustainability. 

Pictured: Clara Kitongo, EnvironMentors mentor

Some of the program’s key features are the aspects of mentorship and project-based learning. Clara is particularly passionate about mentorship; she has a vision of one day founding a mentorship organization, similar to EnvironMentors, to serve young girls from Uganda, her home country. The mentors of the EnvironMentors program help to guide their mentee as they complete a project based on an environmental topic of their choice. The process is heavily student-led, so these projects end up looking very different from student to student. Sean’s project was a collection of poems on Pittsburgh air quality, which he presented in a public event at Tree Pittsburgh in summer 2021, and in an online format. Sean’s poems discuss Pittsburgh’s unique history with industrial air pollution, and he discusses its impact on him and on the community around him. One of his poems discusses his experience of trying to go for a run in Pittsburgh, and feeling betrayed by Mother Nature when he suddenly felt the air “scratch [his] lungs”. Since that day, as a high school track athlete, he’s resorted to running indoors. 

The EnvironMentors program is designed to give students like Sean the opportunity to express and advocate for themselves, be it through science research and also through community organizing, poetry, authoring a children’s book, or any other means of expression they might choose. But the program doesn’t just benefit the mentee, it also benefits the mentor. Clara says she feels Sean helped her stay on track with the program goals, because he was very well-organized. She feels that the program allowed her to, “grow as a person who can s

Pictured: Sean Russel, EnvironMentors mentee

upport other people.”  

To those interested in becoming a mentor, Clara recommends remaining open to the process of learning and growing: “It’s a newer program, so there are a lot of things that we’re developing… I would encourage anyone who comes in to just be open-minded.”She also encourages prospective mentors not to tell their mentee what to do, and instead to allow new ideas to emerge. Interested in becoming a mentor? Please complete this 2021-22 Mentor Interest Form.

To those interested in joining the program as a mentee, Sean encourages students to push themselves if they feel unsure: “Maybe you have to get out of your comfort zone, but if you do it you can really benefit from it.” This year, Sean is hoping to work with Clara and expand his project to work with a team of other students and do something at the next level with the work he’s already done. 

Interested in starting an EnvironMentors program at your school? Please contact

Virtual Field Trips and Meeting the Staff

Hello, my name is Jeremiah Davis, and I am a new member of the Chatham University’s Eden Hall K-12 Program staff. I am a first-year Sustainability student interested in community development and public service. I have been working on developing a virtual community development field trip to introduce students to the cool field of community development. When I first heard about virtual field trips, my head tilted: ‘How are you going to have a virtual field trip?’

Well, I have been pleasantly surprised by the awesome work that my fellow staff members have been producing! Through the use of virtual learning tools, video production, and interesting topics such as climate change and pollution, finding a unique angle to approach it and then connect that back to Eden Hall has made for some really interesting content! Lexi Kalpa, our Field Trip Coordinator, and undergraduate education and sustainability student and long-time staff member at the Eden Hall K-12 Program, developed one of our field trips on green buildings. I had no idea about green buildings previously; I was vaguely aware of LEED as a certification system for buildings, but that was about it! In the span of 40 minutes, we explored the science behind green buildings, different certifications, the value of design and space, and how buildings can be used for social justice. My favorite part of the field trip was the video filmed and produced by our team showing behind-the-scenes footage of the sustainable Eden Hall Campus. K-12 students are going to love seeing the physical beauty of Eden Halll’s buildings and learning about all the creative solutions being implemented that align with the concepts from the other parts of the virtual field trip.

Although being in a virtual space has been a challenge, it has pushed us to be more creative in crafting an experience that is engaging to students. That is a hard task to achieve with in-person field trips, and is doubly as hard in a virtual space! Using virtual learning tools such as Google Jamboard, Padlet, Menti, and my personal favorite, 3D images, has been crucial in developing engaging field trips. For younger students, we are excited to partner with other organizations to provide hands-on learning extension kits to have a tactile aid to help with their learning and engagement.

Members of the staff have been tasked with working on different field trips and other things around the office, so I also wanted to introduce the newest members to the team and talk about what they have been working on:

H.R. Liotta, our social media manager and sustainability educator, has been working on updates to the Green Building field trip developed to further improve the experience for students. H.R. is also a second-year arts management major and involved in theater and other things around Chatham.

Nora Robb is a sustainability educator and a second-year early education major. She has been working on our K-3 energy and ecology field trips, the latter of which will introduce students to Eden Hall’s sensory garden. She hopes to become an elementary school teacher, so this is great practice for her future career!

Jared Greenberg is our sustainability educator/blog manager, and he is a first-year master student in the food studies program. He has been working on the behind-the-scenes videos of rainwater capture systems and the sensory garden at Eden Hall for the 4-8 pollution and K-3 ecology field trip, respectively. He hopes to be a food writer, writing about the intersection of food and social justice.

Brooke Duplantier is a sustainability educator, and she is a second-year master student in the food studies program. She has been working on our 4-12 ecology field trip focusing on Chatham’s landscape management practices, introduced species, land colonization and indigenous ecology.

Our veteran student staff, Rashmi and Lexi, have also been hard at work on:

  • K-3 food field trips where students get to meet Eden Hall’s farm animals and learn how they help the garden grow
  • 4-12 food field trips exploring norms and rules we give each other around food in society, who benefits from these rules and who experiences social barriers to food sovereignty
  • 4-12 energy field trips digging into Eden Hall’s renewable energy systems and their data and then learning ways to make energy efficiency and renewable energy more accessible to all

All of us can’t wait to facilitate trips for your students!

For more information about field trips or to book a “trip”, visit our Virtual Field Trips Website or contact Lexi Kapla by emailing

This post was written by Jeremiah Davis

Growing White Teacher Advocates – Summer 2020

In June and July 2020, Chatham University’s Eden Hall K-12 Program piloted Growing White Teacher Advocates. This study group for K-12 in-service educators, administrators, and out-of-school-time educators was a learning community, caucus group, mindfulness-based experiential gardening program and book group, all in one. Educators met four times over twelve total hours as they read, discussed and embodied Leah Penniman’s book Farming While Black. We talked deeply about the history and current state of racism in the food system, education system and society at large. We dug into whiteness and why it’s important to talk about racism with white students. We planned personal action steps to integrate positive white teacher-advocate practices into teaching and daily life.

As we discussed the book and what it means for white educator teaching practices, the ten participating educators also worked on the agroecology garden at Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus to help build new growing beds. This “work and talk” space allowed educators to be in a mindful, meditative, body-centric space as we dug deep into racial justice topics and their connection to sustainability and food systems. It was wonderful to be able to have an in-person program with social distancing and tool sanitation practices in the middle of so much virtual life this summer.

All program fees were donated or are in the process of being donated to local Black Indigenous Person of Color (BIPOC) led businesses and organizations. The participants chose where to send their individual fees. Organizations that have received or are receiving these program fee donations include: Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers of Pittsburgh, Sankofa Village Community Garden, Oasis Farm and Fishery Bible Center Church, The Citizen Science Lab, and Pittsburgh Village Project.

Here are a few of the action steps mentioned directly by the program participants:

  • “Be part of the committee at my school formed to support our Diversity Director.”
  • “Meet with our AP Coordinator and principal about getting more black students into AP courses and supporting them in those courses.”
  • “Continuing to advocate for the removal of police from schools via OnePA.”
  • Push for anti-racist training for our faculty. Include BIPOC students and community members in planning next steps.”
  • “Work on an evaluative system to hold all teachers accountable to anti-racist, anti-bias, cross-culturally responsible teaching in their classrooms. Draw together an advisory council of community stakeholders and teachers and students for a listening session of improvements.”
  • “Explicitly predicate my teaching on anti-oppression from the outset”
  • “Explore land acknowledgements.”
  • “[Race and racism will be] the key objective in all my lessons.”
  • “Time must be made in every teaching day to talk about race so that my students become comfortable talking about it and building a vocabulary to talk about it.”
  • “Small issues that come up in class are not small and need to be addressed immediately.”
  • “We need to help our colleagues with this effort, sometimes as much as we need to help our students.”
  • “I plan to do some reflecting on how my curriculum and grading practices can be more equitable. I plan to teach more specifically about anti-racist leaders (both black and white) in my history classes, and about how social movements develop and grow.”
  • “The topic of race and racism requires schools to hire teachers who are specialists/trained with a deep understanding of the issues so that a sustained focus is happening for the school community.”
  • “[I will be] an advocate for black students, especially when it comes to taking more advanced courses and also when it comes to disciplinary practices.”
  • “I need to find more co-conspirators on our school board, alumni group families and together find a strategic, methodical way to dismantle the systemic ways oppressing our our Black and Brown students and staff.”

We were so deep into the program that we didn’t get any pictures of the participants, but here’s a picture of program co-facilitator Madeline Hennessey, Chatham Bachelor of Sustainability student and trained Intergroup Dialogue Facilitator, in front of the garden beds we built together. Check back in with us for future versions of this program. We plan to run it again as a white caucus group and also for an interracial group of participants.

Written by Kelly Henderson, Co-Facilitator for Growing White Teacher Advocates

Announcing Sustainability and Social Justice Career Webinar Themes for 2020-21

With the switch to virtual learning, Eden Hall’s K-12 office has been offering Sustainable Career Webinars since April. These events are meant to help young people better understand the variety of careers in the field. They also are meant to help students better identify the connections between social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Offered at a 6th grade vocabulary level, and open to any grade, we’ve been excited to see 3rd-12th graders and educators from a wide variety of schools on the calls so far. Our speakers have worked in various sectors, including: renewable energy, green buildings, air/water quality, conservation, community development, affordable housing, climate change, environmental education and more. All of which work towards achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Did you or your students miss some of our webinars this spring? You can check out all past career webinar recordings on our resources page, including links to related reading and tips for taking action from the speakers themselves.

This fall, we are excited to announce that the webinar series will continue with a monthly theme. These themes will highlight the connections between sustainability topics and social justice. In the same month, you will hear from climate scientists while also hearing from organizations that work with refugees and immigrants. Why? Because climate change is causing people to have to leave their homes and migrate all over the globe! What happens when that movement is met with xenophobia? Each month will be intersectional in nature, but will start with the history and current nature of a particular form of social identity-based oppression.

Without further ado, here are the themes for next year:

  • September – Climate Change and Ethnicity-Based Oppression
  • October – Food Systems and Racial Oppression
  • November/December – Clean Air and Water and Gender/Sexuality Oppression
  • January – Energy and Class Oppression
  • February – Community Development, Ability and Ageism
  • March – Ecology and Religious Oppression

Have an idea for a speaker you admire locally or nationally that work in any of these areas that you want to learn more from? Let us know! We can’t wait to have this conversation with a local and national pool of students, educators and speakers. We are currently busy scheduling virtual careers webinars for the whole school year, and are aiming for at least one per week. Keep a look out for our Career Webinar Schedule and do not forget to register in advance, please! In the meantime, we can’t wait for our next sustainable career webinar event this summer with the Global Sustainability Lead for Facebook on June 24th.

Post written by Rashmi Salamani and Kelly Henderson

About the author:

Hello Everyone! I am Rashmi Salamani and I am the newest member of the Eden Hall Campus K-12 Programs team. I have come all the way from India to dive deeper into the world of sustainability and help humans become a more responsible species for this planet.

A civil engineer by profession, my work experience with construction companies back in India is where I first began observing the hostile attitude of the sector towards environmental issues. I was surprised by this since it seemed to me that they are well-known facts that the built environment accounts for 40% of global energy use, 30% of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, high waste generation and the highest consumption of natural resources compared to other industries like agriculture and manufacturing. It is ironic that the construction sector with its Environmental Health and Safety policies is almost always inclined towards human health and safety and environmental health is conveniently ignored. This motivated me to delve deeper into concepts of sustainability in the built environment, leading me to Chatham’s Falk School.

With its aspirations for a self-sustaining and energy efficient campus, including solar and geothermal energy, an onsite wastewater treatment plant, and many other sustainable design features, the Falk School lives by “practice what you preach” motto and enables its students to think about and experience sustainability in many ways. I aim to learn and be able to execute projects that strengthen the relationship between people and the environment and inspire people to live in harmony with nature.

From facilitating field trips to now leading our office’s efforts with the sustainable career webinars, I am ecstatic to be working with the Eden Hall K-12 Program. It is my first time working with school-aged students, and I consider it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I have particularly been fascinated by the work because it allows me to explore simple ways to help youth understand a complex topic like sustainability.


Intersection Between Soical Justice Issues and COVID-19 Response

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on the social injustices that exist in our systems and institutions. A national crisis like this tests the strength and resilience of our society’s systems, infrastructure, and leaders, but also exposes their weaknesses. During this pandemic, vulnerable populations are facing the compounding systemic effects of social injustice that continue to be embedded in our society’s structures, combined with a biased national and statewide response. The COVID-19 crisis is a teachable moment for the United States, highlighting the social injustices that exists in systems (from healthcare to education and beyond) and demanding that we do better in providing equitable and just circumstances for all the members of our communities.

Many states and cities in the United States have noticed an unequal racial distribution of COVID-19 cases and deaths1. Specifically, African Americans have experienced greater threat from COVID-19 relative to the total population in many locations across the United States2. This trend has largely been attributed to pre-existing social injustice in our nation’s health care system1. Race and income are often linked to a lack of access to health insurance and medical care, as lower income jobs tend not to offer health insurance1. Often health services in racially diverse and low-income communities have less access to resources1. To make matters worse, economic, food access and environmental justice disparities experienced by minoritized communities combined with discrimination in the healthcare system leads to an increase in chronic diseases. COVID-19 symptoms are more severe for people with pre-existing chromic disease like diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and heart disease2. As a result, we see now how some groups of people, including African Americans, are experiencing more severe effects from COVID-19 because of the circumstances created by socially unjust healthcare, economic, governance/planning, and food access systems.

Race and income have also affected the rates in which people encounter the disease. Social isolation is considered the strongest preventative measure of slowing the virus. Many jobs have transitioned to an online format, but those whose jobs are considered essential, including grocery store and public transit workers, are still at high risk of contracting the disease1. Recent data has revealed that, especially in urban locations, African Americans make up a large percentage of those employed in essential jobs putting African Americans more at risk of contracting COVID-191.

The U.S. has also been criticized for not taking social justice issues into consideration in its response to and evaluation of the COVID-19 crisis. While many counties and states themselves are tracking the demographic trends of the virus’s infection, the CDC was critiqued for not publishing data on the racial differences of COVID-19 cases in the United States1. Data on the racial and socio-economic trends of COVID-19 cases can be used to evaluate which groups are most vulnerable, distribute resources and aid, and improve strategies. Without collecting data and acknowledging how different groups are being affected, the nation cannot improve its response. The COVID-19 response has also been criticized for being impacted by pre-existing gender biases3. Many are being negatively affected by the decision to make sexual and reproductive health services a “non-essential,” business, even though they provide critical aid to girls and women3.

Beyond the immediate impacts of the disease, existing systemic inequities in education institutions are also being bared to the world. As software companies offer free services to schools that are switching to virtual learning, how to students without access to internet or devices at home take advantage of these new modes of learning? The digital divide impacts black, Latinx and low-income families the most, so how do we prevent this sudden switch to virtual learning from exacerbating existing inequities in schooling4.

For those that have not lost their jobs and who hold relative privilege in normal times, and in this time of crisis, it is important to take action. In Pittsburgh, here are some ways you can help bridge systemic inequities right now:

The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging and trying time for the United States of America. As we all try to move forward and make the best of a universally challenging situation we look to our friends, families, and communities for strength. But, the lessons of this experience should not be forgotten. This experience reveals how much work we still have to do to fix broken systems and gives us the opportunity to create a more sustainable, resilient and fairer world moving forward. Looking for ways to be an advocate while stuck at home? Focus your reading list to learn more about systemic change and inequality and then talk to leaders of institutions within your personal spheres of influence.

If you are aware of additional opportunities to help through donations, advocacy or service, please email them to and we will add them to the above list.



  1. Evelyn, K. (2020, April 8). “It’s a racial justice issue”: Black Americans are dying in greater numbers from Covid-19. The Guardian.
  2. Aubrey, A., & Neel, J. (2020, April 8). Cdc hospital data point to racial disparity in covid-19 cases. NPR.Org. updates/2020/04/08/830030932/cdc-hospital-data-point-to-racial-disparity-in- covid-19-cases
  3. Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. (2020, April 10). Centring sexual and reproductive health and justice in the global COVID-19 response.
  4. Fishbane, L. and Tomer, A. (2020, March 20). As classes move online during COVID-19, what are disconnected students to do? Brookings.

Why Project Based Learning and Sustainability are the Perfect Pair

When we talk about sustainability, we are really talking about transforming communities. When we are dealing with the big, wicked problems listed in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (No Poverty, Gender Equality, and Climate Action, just to name a few) we need all hands on deck. Then why does our schooling system effectively separate K-12 youth from their communities and our democracy for the first 18 years of our lives? Why don’t we have a global call to focus 100% of school time on learning about and solving community problems? And it’s not just schools that contribute to this exclusion of young budding activists. Many community based organizations have minimum age limits for membership or participation. If a 12-year-old is really passionate about affordable housing and ending gentrification in your community, why should you not let that passionate and conscientious digital native run your social media campaign to help get folks out to community meetings?

Have I convinced you that we should use the school day to transform our communities? Here at Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus K-12 Programs, we believe that Project Based Learning (PBL) is the pedagogy that allows for this transformational work in the classroom most effectively. According to a summary of existing PBL research, collected by the Buck Institute, PBL brings the following benefits to schools:

  • Deeper understanding of content and improved retention
  • Improved performance on standardized tests
  • Better problem-solving skills
  • Improved collaboration and conflict resolution skills
  • Increased student engagement and attendance
  • Increased job satisfaction for teachers

On top of these, PBL also allows students to drive their own learning, builds relationships between the school and the community, and is a perfect tool for practicing culturally sustaining teaching and working to close the opportunity gap.

Digging deeper into the seven essential elements of “Gold Standard PBL,” we can see how this pedagogy works so well with the concept of sustainability. Authentic, challenging, place-based problems are brought to the table. Student voice and choice determines where the project goes, while sustained inquiry, reflection and critique and revision guide the solutions and deliverables presented to be high-quality. Presenting solutions in front of a public audience of community members and stakeholders that care about the problem make student work meaningful, and show adults in the community that youth can contribute to some of the biggest problems we face.

Gold Standard PBL design elements from the Buck Institute

Feeling energized to try integrating sustainability with PBL to bring your practice to the next level? Join us for a “PBL Through the Lens of Sustainability” Workshop, join a community of educators committed to this work on Facebook (where you can also find sample units), or see some student-presented results of PBL at the annual Seeds of Change Conference. Already doing PBL in your classroom but focused on simulations or design challenges that don’t actually create products that are authentically useful outside the classroom context? Not all PBL is high quality and not all PBL contributes to community change efforts. We hope the network of peers that comes together at Eden Hall can help you get there.



Livestock Integration in Agriculture

When we think of a farm in our heads, we picture cows, chickens, and vegetables all growing together. While many family farms used to be run this way, conventional agriculture has introduced a monoculture approach to farming. Specialized machinery has made it more efficient to grow only a few crops in large quantities. Farmers increasingly concentrate on only livestock or produce. While this helps increase efficiency it also weakens the overall environment of the farm.

At Eden Hall, we approach agriculture very thoughtfully by combining new and traditional concepts. Intercropping and livestock integration are crucial to the health of our growing spaces here. Increased biodiversity, especially through our use of livestock, helps enrich our soil quality and decreases the impacts of pests. Currently, we have 7 chickens, 4 ducks, and 9 goats. Our chickens are our longest livestock residents and we continually research and experiment with how we can use them to enhance our growing abilities. Our chickens’ coop is mobile, and we move it every other week during the growing season so that the chickens can fertilize the soil and eat insects to prep the beds. We use the goats to help mediate invasive species in our forests.

This upcoming growing season will be our first opportunity to integrate the ducks into our agricultural practices. Farms can use ducks to manage pests. Orchards have used ducks to control snails that can damage the trees. We are also working to create a compost pile for the livestock manure that we will be able to add to our beds to increase the organic matter in the soil. Our approach to livestock integration is multi-beneficial, allowing us to harvest animal products as well as sustainably enhance our growing capabilities as a farm.

In the past, we incorporated the livestock into our farm and garden service activity, but as our awareness of the beneficial purposes of livestock has grown, we have decided that livestock integration is a subject so rich it deserves its own lesson plan. Therefore, our program has decided to create a new activity focused on livestock. During this activity, students will learn about the importance of livestock in sustainable agriculture and will make treats for them to supplement their regular diet. This hands-on experience will bring students face to face with animals they have only seen in pictures giving them a deeper understanding of where their food comes from.

Felicity Moffett

Introducing Our New Program Assistant Christopher Soares!

Hello! My name is Christopher Soares and I am the new K-12 Program Assistant. I am excited to separate the veils that shield people from how food systems work. My journey with food systems began while I was still an undergraduate student. Despite being on the path to go to medical school I found myself unsure of the decision. I felt that the medical field lacked a holistic approach to health and did not put enough weight on the topic of nutrition.

While previously engaged in education and community building my interests drove me to look for opportunities to seek a deeper understanding of the food system. I began working for an organic farm in Connecticut to get personal experience. There I was able to help cultivate nutritious local food. I aspire to become a full-time farmer in the future, especially with the number of farmers retiring versus the number of new farmers entering the field (no pun intended). These are concerning statistics regarding our nation’s ability to provide an equitable and healthy food system. Local farmers are often underappreciated and poorly compensated given the hard work and resources it takes to grow the nutritious food that fills people’s plates daily. For those without access to healthy food, some farmers have the generosity to donate what they produce to local food banks and soup kitchens and encourage other farmers to do the same. Eden Hall’s farm has a field space for crops that are specifically dedicated to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s Green Grocer truck.

Picture of the Connecticut farm I worked on

Dahlia grown on the organic farm

I am excited to share my previous experiences and passion for the food system with visiting schools and programs. If you feel that you need assistance introducing agricultural concepts combined with social justice issues in the classroom, please feel free to reach out to me. Furthermore, when you participate in our Farm and Garden Service opportunity at Eden Hall, prepare to fill the role as a farmhand and get your hands dirty!

P.S. Currently, I am developing a lesson plan on Mushroom/fungi production for 9-12 grade students – fungi are vital for our ecosystem! Also, I am planning our annual Seeds of Change conference that is set to take place on Tuesday, May 12th, 2020, at Eden Hall. Here is the link to learn more and register your team:

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