Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Paperless Classroom…?

Never thought you would read those three words, did you?

Growing up, all of us lugged around dozens of binders and notebooks filled with an immense amount of unnecessary papers. Every little thing was written down, from notes to tests to homework.

Ever wonder what it would be like to enter a school and not see any paper? No textbooks. No written homework. It’s hard to imagine. One school in New York City found that during the school year it wasted an average of 28 pounds of paper for EVERY student, teacher and staff member. So how is it possible that a classroom can go from using 28 pounds in excess of paper a year to barely using any? Technology.

Recently, tablets have taken over the technology realm. Whether you’re riding on a bus and reading your e-book or navigating the web during some time in between work, they are easier and more portable than the laptop we’ve grown accustomed to. Tablets have reached every market, from little kids playing games and using apps to college students – even the elderly use technology regularly. Their lightweight size and cheap price (relatively speaking of course) makes them an attractive buy.

Education systems worldwide are noticing this recent trend and turning this popular technology into an academic tool with the help of computer companies. These companies are increasingly expanding and improving on their tablet products. Their ability to personalize apps and provide ease of access to information makes them a go-to for educational purposes. Apps and programs to aid with educational progress are increasing on the market. Even in college, books are now being turned into E-books. For some books, the option of a paper book is completely gone.

In the United Arab Emirates, U.A.E., the government has begun the process of phasing in iPads to 14,000 first-year students at their three top prestigious universities. Their goal: to roll out iPads to all incoming students for the next three years to have complete saturation. We could see this trend continuing worldwide as we see a new tech-savvy generation emerge, helping to reduce that 28 pounds per year per student consumption of paper.

So goodbye to the days of kids using their dog eating their homework as an excuse… or any excuse for that matter. No more problems with illegible handwriting or kids complaining their backpacks weigh more than they do. Every book, every assignment and every note can fit into an 8” x 5” tablet.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

I’m For the Farm. Are You?

This year’s NC State University’s Earth Week featured “From Barn to Brick: Sustainable Food and Agriculture at NC State.” It focused on educating the campus and community about the importance of sustainable food. To kick off Earth Week, 100 helping hands from all over the community grabbed a shovel and got to work on the Agroecology Education Farm located off of Lake Wheeler Road. This event was co-hosted by the Education Farm and Campus Dining as the first step towards incorporating local and organic food throughout campus Dining Halls. NC State’s Sustainability Office is working hard to gain support For the Farm to further enhance this partnership between the Farm and Campus Dining. The more support this partnership gains, the more it and the Farm will prosper.

When the farm first started out about 3 years ago, it barely had a tool shed or access to water. It was used as a hands-on learning aid for students taking Agroecology courses for the minor and concentration that are offered at NC State. Now, they have a well-equipped tool shed, their own tractor, a well for spray irrigation and access to electricity. The Farm even receives compost from Campus Dining to put the tremendous amount of waste that accumulates in the dining halls to good use. The Farm had such great production success last summer that extra produce was donated to Raleigh’s Interfaith Food Shuttle. Green Planet Catering has also had great success growing produce in its very own portion of the plot. The farm takes tremendous pride in natural farming methods by using organic fertilizers and limiting the amount of tillage done to preserve the soils. Additionally, a beneficial insect border was established in 2008 to attract insects to better the farm, and plant cover crops are planted in winter and summer months by students on the remaining acreage to help protect the farm. This Farm’s hopeful message is to show that small, sustainable plots of land can provide a better source of fresh, local food.

If you’ve ever eaten at a campus dining hall, you’ve probably noticed that a large amount of food is tossed out and many dishes are used in the process of just one meal. However, NC State’s Campus Dining has been working towards becoming greener. Campus Dining contributes their waste as compost to the farm and has a goal to increase the amount of waste redirected away from landfills to 65% by 2015. Additionally, 26% of the food is sourced from local areas. Howling Cow Dairy products, including fresh milk and ice cream throughout campus comes from NC State’s very own farm and on-campus dairy plant; they feature pita bread, dinner rolls, and artisan sandwich bread from Neomonde, a local bakery that uses natural products and high quality ingredients. Campus Dining also started a program called “My Roots Are at NC State” which connects Dining with NC growers, manufacturers, producers and processes to further increase local and sustainable purchases. The program also allows NC State alumni to share their own stories about working for these companies and how their work positively impacts NC State’s efforts to provide the best food possible for the campus. It is a great program to trace one’s roots back to the University that made their career possible. Recently, Dining created the “Take Out Program” which features reusable, recyclable take-out containers. One must bring back a used container in order to receive a new one, enforcing the concept of reuse and recycle. Containers are washed alongside dirty dishes to be reused. Campus Dining also recycles their cooking oil. In fact, 55,000 gallons have been recycled into sustainable fuels since 2008, which is enough to run 10 Wolfline busses for 10 years!  

The future of agriculture lies within small, sustainable plots like the Agroecology Education Farm. The farm allows for students and the community to become educated about the importance and convenience of local food sources, and the partnership between NC State Campus Dining and the Farm will add to the community’s awareness. So I ask, are you For the Farm? To show your support, click here and help strengthen this partnership that could act as a leading model for sustainable food everywhere. Support For the Farm, and watch as the cycle comes full circle; from Farm-to-Fork, or as we call it here, from Barn-to-Brick.

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