I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Sarah Elizabeth Ippel last Spring at Chicago Magazine's Green Awards Ceremony, where she was honored for starting The Academy for Global Citizenship, a Chicago Public Charter School located on the Southwest side. She very kindly invited me to the school for a visit, which I was finally able to do this month.
Green Spotlight On...The Academy for Global Citizenship
I have never before seen a school like The Academy for Global Citizenship and left my visit feeling extremely inspired to tell everyone I knew about The AGC! Sarah Elizabeth came up with the idea and model of The AGC and worked tirelessly for 3 years to make it happen. She took the idea of global citizenship - being a steward of this planet and actively engaged with all of those who occupy it - and applied it to many facets within the school. From the moment you walk into the school you are encouraged to take a look at the world around us, how differently we all live & thrive, and the impact we have on this planet.
The students at The AGC learn through themes and are constantly reminded of the impact their actions have on their community and the planet. This innovative curriculum "prepares students to be environmentally and internationally minded by examining how their choices impact their community and the world." Environmental stewardship is paramount in their daily curriculum and educational program, which helps to foster a relationship between the students and the planet as well as work to investigate solutions to real-life issues such as global warming & renewable energy. To learn more about The Academy for Global Citizenship's environmental stewardship program and its mains goals, click here.
The students have a "Wellness & Sustainability Hour" every day where they get exercise while actively participating in the maintenance & upkeep of the gardens and chicken coop as the AGC has 3 chickens on-site, Rosie, Daisy & Bluebell. The school's elaborate gardens have everything from squash and tomatoes to tea leaves. And their coop even has a green roof so the chickens stay warm year-round without having to use any energy! All of the water that the students use for watering the gardens comes from rain barrels and an old water heater that they were smart enough to convert into a rain barrel (note to you DIY folks at home - instead of tossing that old water heater, make it into a rain barrel!).
The students all start their day with an organic breakfast that is cooked on-site using fresh and local ingredients (when possible), followed by a yoga session before instruction begins (all of the teachers at The AGC are trained in yoga). Their lunches are also homemade and organic, and the kids have a choice of milks (organic non-GMO soy, organic rbST & hormone-free milk, organic rice milk) as well. On the day of my class visit the students were offered millet, zucchini, bean burgers, vegetable pizza and fresh fruit for lunch. I happened to be there on a Monday when The AGC practices "Meatless Mondays," and they offer vegetarian choices every day as well. My school lunches as a kid DEFINITELY did not look like anything close to this!
The Academy for Global Citizenship was the second school in the entire country to be awarded with the Gold level of distinction by the USDA Healthier Schools Challenge. To keep up their Gold certification, The AGC must adhere to very high standards of food service by offering meals with a specific combination of fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains. The AGC also takes this a step further by helping their families make healthier choices at home by offering a bread share to all families with Bleeding Heart Organic Bakery and a very reasonably priced CSA where the kids can take home fresh fruits & vegetables. The children also get to take home fruits and vegetables from their garden to share with their families.
The Academy for Global Citizenship is an inclusionary school where all children, regardless of language barriers or disability, are accepted. The AGC is also an International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Program candidate school. It currently goes until 3rd grade and a grade will be added each year until 8th grade is reached in the 2015/2016 school year. The AGC is a lottery-based school and all applications are accepted. It currently serves a community of students where 80% are below the poverty line and 10% are considered homeless.
The school relies heavily on grants and donations as their public funding does not cover the costs needed to run the school. Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, the executive director and founder of The Academy for Global Citizenship, also has BIG plans for the school. A large plot of vacant land was found near the current school which they are hoping to secure for a new facility that is the most amazing and forward-thinking school I have ever seen. The larger school would allow The AGC to serve much more of their community which is desperate for quality free public education.
The new AGC facility would be a net-positive energy site, where more energy would be produced than consumed. The school would have elaborate gardens, orchards, a barn, wind turbines, rain gardens, a farm stand and other extensive outdoor areas for the students to spend lots of time outside furnishing the growth of their community and the environment. To see the plans for the new Academy for Global Citizenship, click here - AGC Site Plan.pdf.
I could go on and on about The Academy for Global Citizenship, for what they are trying to achieve as a school is what I believe should be the model of schools for the future. I can only hope that my children will be lucky enough to attend a school like The AGC...and that their model catches on so that other schools adapt their goals & principals. I have never seen a happier and more positive group of children then when I visited The AGC. They actually have a Sustainability Handbook on their website in an effort to help other schools become more aware of our impact on the planet and learn about easy ways we can all be a bit more kind to our environment.
I was incredibly blown away when I went to visit The AGC, and I encourage you to take a tour of the school to see first-hand how innovative, forward-thinking and unbelievable this school is. There is actually a tour schedule up on their website where you can visit the school and also enjoy an organic breakfast or lunch. You can also donate to the school on their website or give the gift of an AGC donation to friends & family, where they will be invited to visit the school.
There is still a significant amount of funds needed to secure the land for the new school, and any donation would help them in achieving this goal. Think of how good it will feel to help build a new school which is teaching future generations about how important it is to be stewards of this planet, while also offering a brighter today for so many kids who aren't fortunate enough to be guaranteed a free all-day public education in a safe and warm environment.
To learn more about The Academy for Global Citizenship please visit AGCChicago.org and take a look at the slideshow below of pictures from my visit. Hopefully through this article and the slideshow you will become as much of an AGC supporter as I am!
UPDATE: In conjunction with Red Hen Bread Bakery I have organized a Thanksgiving Pie Fundraiser to benefit The Academy for Global Citizenship. All proceeds will go to The AGC and help them purchase basic necessities such as uniforms & supplies while also helping to expand their after school program so that they can serve a larger portion of the community. To learn more about the fundraiser and purchase a pie for pick-up at all 3 Red Hen Bread locations (Bucktown, Lakeview & Oak Park) please click here. Thank you for your support!