Discussion Board

Participant Discussion Board

This page is designed to provide a space for continued conversation around themes related to the 2020 Global Teacher Seminar. Please use this feature to field questions, generate discussion, and share resources with seminar instructors and participants.


6 thoughts on “Discussion Board

  1. Hi everyone,

    Sorry again that I had to sign off the other day due to the tornado warning.

    But I did want to share some initial thoughts related to some of the comments I saw in the chat on Monday. Please feel free to post questions here on topics of interest, curricular needs, etc. and I’ll do my best to keep checking in and keeping the conversation going where I can.

    I think one major way sustainability can tie into cultures and language is through the ideas of traditional ecological knowledge. We should remember that many cultures throughout history have found ways to sustainably derive their food/medicine/material from ecosystems. The Mayan Milpa system is a great example of this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dJEtvasWGY) – what is often scorned as slash and burn agriculture, at its heart, was really a sophisticated and sustainable land-use practice that rotated from field crops to forest gardens over the span of decades, creating as ecologically diverse of a farming system as possible. (https://polyculturedesign.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/milpa/)

    Much of sustainability rests on ecosystems. Ultimately, we all have to eat and through eating is actually one of our primary interactions with the world’s ecosystems. If the way we produce food is extractive, drawing down natural resources and polluting – there are just too many people on the plant for that to carry on for long.

    We have an enormous disconnect between ourselves and ecology today in U.S. society, that is really an astonishing break from the rest of human history. In the Mayan Milpa, one could find all that is needed. Traditional healers can identify hundreds of species of plants, and produce hundreds of compounds out of them, (https://www.zinnedproject.org/materials/a-peoples-history-of-science). Today, our children can barely identify a handful of plants, but can identify hundreds of corporate logos, what does this say about our ability to think critically about ecological sustainability (https://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/article/what-studying-nature-has-taught-us/).

  2. Hi, Chris.

    No worries. We would have felt terrible if you had been blown away trying to finish meeting vs. taking shelter.

    I am fascinated by a rancher in North Dakota, Gabe Brown, who has been revitalizing his soil for over a decade now without using any man-made chemicals of any kind. I think he’s impacted a farm in OH called Sweet Grass Dairy in Fredrickstown, OH. I am really interested in knowing how we can bring these regenerative practices to city lots.

    I know a little about hydroponics, but I am skeptical because it sounds like fish farming where the fish live in their poop as the source of fertilizer for the plants.

    I am excited to hear how other parts of the world are dealing with regenerating their soils naturally.

    Thank you for leading this week, Chris.

    Kathy Ward

    • Hi Kathy,

      Yes, I’m a big Gabe Brown fan. I’ve read his book and seen him at conferences. Very compelling story. Walnut Creek Seeds run by the Brandt family work closely with him, they are in Carrol, OH just southeast of Columbus. I also know of Fox Hollow Farm, also in Fredericktown which uses rotational grazing. But I haven’t heard of Sweet Grass, I will have to check them out, Fredericktown becoming the center of regenerative ag in Ohio, who knew?

      Also, cover crops are a great way to incorporate these principles into a small garden. Here’s a link with some ideas and species:


      Vetch is an amazing weed suppressant in the spring. You plant it in the fall (august-october, earlier is generally a bit better but in my experience doesn’t matter too much). It grows a little, seems to die back in the winter, then comes roaring to life in the spring and is as effective as a rubber mat in keeping spring weeds at bay. It’s a viner and gets huge. It’s flowers are a favorite of bumble bees. Only problem is that its seeds are persistent in the soil and can be a weed problem for years, but not if you cut it out before it ever goes to seed!

      If you have space before or after a crop in the summer, buckwheat is an excellent choice. Grows super fast, faster than weeds and so can shade them out and the flowers are great for pollinators. You’ll see honey bees all over them.

      I’d also throw in tillage radish if you have compacted soil and oats/peas. Those three together planted densely in fall (earlier the better, early-to-mid August in my neck of the woods seems to be ideal), they will frost kill in winter and leave a thick mulch layer on the soil for spring (except in mild winters in which the peas survive like this year). That mulch layer will keep organic matter on the soil, be great for earth worms, and provide some protection against winter annual weeds and early spring weeds.

      Cover crops are really fun to play with!

  3. Thank you for these resources. I was particularly interested in the last one. Outdoor “play” for our children is so important. I agree that children need to have an emotional attachment/ response to their environment which will lead them to care about it more in the future. As a math teacher, I am interested in nature studies that work together with STEAM/STEM studies and how I can incorporate them into my teaching to make it more meaningful while combatting some of these negative behaviors that I see daily caused from lack of environmental time.

    • Lori, what level do you teach? Square Foot Gardening is a popular gardening book that has been used to teach basic math: https://squarefootgardening.org/get-involved/a-square-yard-in-the-school-yard/

      I think the business side of gardening/farming is also a potential avenue for tying in Math. Given a space, and an expected production of a crop by weight, and a price per pound, and wages and etc. calculate revenue and profit. I could imagine a unit in which students get to design their own theoretical farm… also sounds like a lot of work of course! But maybe there are materials out there already.

      And yes, I agree with you, it’s funny to hear my wife describe the behavior of 8 year olds at recess and how they clearly need more moments to get that energy out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *