Local school takes part in Farm to School movement

Inside of St. Catherine’s Greek Orthodox Church in Ithaca, high school students surround a food prep counter, watching as their teacher explains how to properly mix the ingredients for doughnuts.


These students are all taking part in the culinary arts course taught at the New Roots Charter School, where they have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience while also helping prepare lunches for the school’s cafeteria.  

Allyn Rosenbaum, teacher and “lunch lady” for New Roots, said the food that is used in the kitchen is all natural and locally grown.

“More than half the students eat lunch and breakfast here everyday,” she said. “Our change to using locally grown products came out of the desire to serve food that is as real as possible [to our students].”

New Roots is one of 1,453 individuals schools in New York State that is participating in the Farm to School movement, according to the state’s Farm to School website. But Rosenbaum said finding the funding to distribute solely locally grown food to the school was a difficult process.

“New Roots is a part of the National School Lunch Program so we have to operate within the financial rules,” Rosenbaum said. “Natural foods are more expensive, so we had to jump through a lot of hoops to get funding, and we had to counteract the costs by being fast and efficient in the kitchen.”

Rosenbaum is also Farm to School coordinator for New Roots, where she has worked to create a collaborative relationship with local farms.

“We have a Farm to School tract at the school and some of our students participate in the Youth Farm Project as well. This year our students are also going to be using a garden plot at the Ithaca Community Gardens to grow some of the produce we will use in our food,” Rosenbaum said.

The Farm to School movement has been sweeping across the country for the past several years. According to the network’s national website, 42 percent of schools in the United States are participating in some kind of Farm to School program.

In 2015, the national network pushed for the introduction of the Farm to School Act in Congress. Their goal is to have the act be included as part of the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization package, which would allot an additional $100 million to farm to school programs across the country.

The federal funds would help to meet the demands for assistance in implementing the programs into schools, as well as improving accessibility across the spectrum, from farms to schools.

The bipartisan bill was introduced to Congress in February 2015, and is currently being heard and voted on by the federal government, but the movement has also gained support through state governments.

New York State is among 40 states that have policies in support of the Farm to School movement.

In a 2015 press conference, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “The Farm to School initiative encourages thoughtfulness about what we eat and leads to better choices when it comes to nutrition. This program simultaneously educates our youth, promotes locally grown foods, and strengthens the connection between farms and schools across the state.”

But for now, supporters of the movement like Rosenbaum are thrilled just with the changes the federal government is making its lunch program.

“They recently mandated that only whole grains be used in schools, and if more schools are purchasing these products, the prices are going to go down for all of us. It’s important that students are eating nutritionally balanced meals, and at least they are making changes in the policy to promote this.”


Technology in the classroom

Children and teenagers in school right now, and young adults that are attending college, are often referred to as the “digital generation”; a generation that has grown up with the development of technology and has continually had access to the technology throughout their lives.

There is no doubt that technology has become a part of everyday life for many people, but how has it been integrated into education? And what are the impacts of technology inside of the classrooms?

Synthesis of Technology Into The Classroom


Accessed via Creative Commons.

I can remember in middle school when technology was first becoming a big tool inside of the classroom. Besides the teachers having their computers to enter grades and to print, they were using their computers to project onto the board instead of the old school laminate projectors.

In the fifth grade, there was a mobile laptop cart that all of the classrooms had access to, although it only had 25 computers for the 60 students in the grade. In 2009, the National Center for Education Statistics released a study that found that 97 percent of classrooms had access to one or more computers in the classroom everyday. StatisticBrain released findings in 2015 that revealed approximately 77 percent of teachers use their computers for instruction in the classroom.

Educators have also been finding ways to successfully integrate the use of technology into their students education. Edutopia suggested a list of different ways that students can learn through and with technology in their educations like,

  • Project-based Activities Incorporating Technology
  • Game-based learning and assessment
  • Learning with Mobile and Handheld Devices (Shoutout to #ICParkSM for being ahead of this trend)
  • Web-Based Projects, Explorations, and Research, and the list goes on.

There have also been frameworks (SAMR and TPACK) published by education experts to explain the successful integration of technology into classrooms so that the technology is seen as much as a learning tool as a dictionary or graphing calculator.

Positive Impacts Made By Technology in Classrooms

“A Look at Recent Findings on Technology in the Classroom,” published in The Huffington Post in 2013, reported that 78 percent of teachers found technology had been a beneficial tool in their classrooms.


Accessed via Creative Commons.

The United States Department of Education also found several positive effects of the use of technology in their classrooms, including:

  • Increased motivation and self-esteem,
  • An impressive apprehension level of technical skills,
  • Accomplishment of more complex tasks,
  • More collaboration with peers,
  • Increased use of outside resources, and
  • Improved design skills

But, with the good comes the bad…

Technology undoubtedly provides students with more access to materials and learning tools than they’ve ever had before, but there has also been several negative thoughts of use of technology in the classroom.

In 2015, Edudemic published a post, “The Four Negative Sides of Technology,” citing technology

  • Changes the way children think,
  • Changes the way children feel,
  • Puts our safety and privacy at risk, and
  • Can lead to less physical activity.

Psychology Today has published studies saying that the technology does change the way that children are wired to think, and that there are being multiple studies completed to look at the short and long-term effects of the usage.

With great “power” comes great responsibility, and seeing as technology is becoming a necessary tool in life, it’s important for teachers and individuals to learn of the effects that come with the integration of the tech.

Our #ICParkSM class and myself will be live blogging #EdTech16 on Thursday, 3/24. Check out our site to see some of the technologies that are being introduced into classrooms!

Indebted to education


For the past few years, the public has made it clear that the cost of education is a problem in the country that needs to be addressed, with multiple news outlets and politicians like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) calling it a crisis. 

The cries aren’t far-fetched. To break it down, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, in the United States,

  • 69 percent of college students graduated with student debt in 2014
  • The average amount of debt, per student, was $28, 950.
  • According to Statistic Brain, there are currently 17,487,475 students enrolled in a higher education institution.
  • Equating these statistics together, that would mean the total amount of student debt in the U.S. would be three hundred forty-nine billion, three hundred twenty-one million, fifty-six thousand, eight hundred and sixty-two dollars and fifty cents. $349,321,056,862.50.

The numbers are there, and there is no denying the amounts. But why is it so newsworthy?

The Huffington Post published three analytical charts about a month ago to show “just how dire the student debt crisis has become”.

According to the charts, the real problem stems from the fact that while the amount of debt has stayed relatively the same, keeping in mind the effects of inflation, the average income has not moved with the times. In the first chart of the article on HuffPost, it is stated that “median wages have increased 1.6 percent over the last 25 years while median debt has risen 163.8 percent.

The student debt could also have lifelong effects also, or that’s what Mark Kantrowitz said in Time.

In his article “Why the Student Loan Crisis is Even Worse Than People Think,” Kantrowtiz said,

“students who graduate with excessive debt are about 10% more likely to say that it caused delays in major life events, such a buying a home, getting married, or having children. They are also about 20% more likely to say that their debt influenced their employment plans, causing them to take a job outside their field, to work more than they desired, or to work more than one job.”

Photo courtesy of Donkey Hotey on Flickr, part of Creative Commons.




Local middle school team encourages community to be #allweatheractive

On a Wednesday afternoon, seven middle schoolers are in a classroom at DeWitt Middle School using arts and crafts tools to create a set for their presentation, and creatively thinking about solutions to challenges their team leader gives them.

These students are members of the local Destination Imagination team, known as “The Flaming Fries”.

Destination Imagination is an international non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage students to be innovative thinkers, through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Fine Arts and Mathematics) activities.

“We encourage the teams to use the creative process in their problem solving,” Abby Goldman, regional director of Central NY DI, said. “Once the team has decided on a solution and begins to work on it, they inevitably hit some stumbling blocks and have to figure out how to modify their plans and accommodate changes to their original plans.”

The idea of encouraging students to actively make choices, make mistakes and learn from them, is one of the reasons mom and team manager Lauren Loiacono decided to start up “The Flaming Fries”.

After learning about the organization at a local STEM night presentation from DI, Loiacono decided to ask around at Dewitt Middle School and Caroline Elementary to see if students would be interested in joining.

Currently the team is working on a service learning challenge for their regional showcase in which they are inspiring the community through social media to be “all weather active”.

Emma Loiacono, a sixth grader from Dewitt and member of “The Flaming Fries”, said the group came up with their idea after meeting with the mayor of Ithaca, Svante Myrick, and the superintendent of the school district, Dr. Luvelle Brown.

“We asked them about a problem a problem that was specific to Ithaca,” Loiacono said. “We decided that people are less active in the winter or when it’s rainy outside, so we met up with people from around the community and filmed videos with them being active.

Starting on February 22, the team has been posting these videos on their social media platforms, encouraging their followers to share videos of themselves using the #allweatheractive.

“It’s #allweatheractive because no matter what the weather is, you can find a way to move around,” Loiacono said.

Loiacono has the right idea according to President and CEO of the Medical Fitness Association, Bob Boone.

Any movement is beneficial, even just standing up from time to time is good for the circulation,” Boone said. “And, exercise should be fun, so whatever people like to do and video [like what The Flaming Fries have produced] should be a great motivator to others who watch it.”

“The Flaming Fries” aren’t the first to endeavor into using technology to encourage physical activity in people. Since the 1990s the MFA has been try to incorporate technology into their campaigns for exercise and Boone said recent technologies like FitBits and mobile phone pedometer apps are making it easier for people to be more conscious of their physical activity.

“The mobile technology now available has 2 primary motivation purposes in my opinion: The device provides instant feedback so the individual gets immediate reinforcement,” he said. “Many of the devices also allow what once many people saw as mundane exercise to be gamified… We have found this to be highly motivational as well as these types of activity add fun to the otherwise routine activities of exercise – particularly in the winter months.”

After the regional showcase in March, the team will advance to a state competition in April and potentially make another appearance at the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee.

What about a gap year?

Here at Ithaca College, we are at the double-digit countdown to graduation which basically means seniors like myself are currently applying for “real-life” jobs while also questioning every choice they’ve made over the past four years.

After a fantastic, eye-opening experience studying abroad in Fall 2014, I’m often left to question whether or not I should have taken a gap year between high school and college so I could have made these revelations a little sooner.

Gap years have recently become all the rage, with data from the American Gap Association suggesting that there has been an intense increase in interest in the past 4 years. So what are they, and are they actually beneficial to one’s future?

History of the Gap Year

A gap year, according to Gap360, originated in post-WWII Britain as a theory gave in to the belief that “giving young people the opportunity to travel and experience new cultures, there would be a greater chance at achieving world peace as new generations gained understanding of each other cultures and ways of life.”

The site also says gap years are reminiscent of “Grand Tours,” or year long trips the young bourgeois used to take before beginning their careers.

The Debate of the Gap Year

Signet Education, a tutoring and academic consultation organization, hosts a pro/con list on their website of whether or not you should go on a gap year.

While many worry that their will lose their motivation to go back to school after a year off of academics and worrying that they won’t have peers their age, the site insists taking a gap year will give a student time to mature and self-reflect.

A contributing writer for Forbes magazine writes also how a student can explain a gap year to their future employers: “Potential employers may view it as a vacation, so put thought into how it’s described in your resume and CV.”

On the other hand, Randye Hoder, writer for TIME, highly advises high school seniors to take a gap year. And Hoder writes that more colleges and universities are supporting the idea of the gap year:

“a handful of colleges—Princeton and the University of North Carolina, among them—offer scholarships and fellowships to incoming freshmen who take a gap year. Harvard has long encouraged the practice. And in February, Tufts University launched its 1+4 bridge program, which, starting in fall 2015, will offer gap-year opportunities for national and international service regardless of a student’s ability to pay.”

So should you take a gap year?

I think it’s all about personal choice in this respect, but being fully aware of all of your options after high school never hurts.

Education ’16: The issue not talked about

As the campaigns for the presidential elections continue, education has been one of the least discussed topics that the candidates have been debating.

In the middle of January 2016, Slate featured the article, “Why Don’t the Presidential Candidates Want to Talk About Education?”. In the article, journalist and education blogger Laura Moser, writes education seems to be at the bottom of all candidates’ agendas.

Moser goes on in the article to quote research published in  Ed Week surrounding the noticeable absence. Rick Hess, the researcher, found that education has continually dropped as a issue in importance to the voters: “Overall, in just six of the 21 surveys did even 5% of respondents name education as the nation’s top problem…Since May … it’s been seventh or lower in 14 of 16 polls. Of the eight polls conducted after Labor Day, it ranked tenth or lower six times.”

Since the issue is not talked about often in the media or by the candidates themselves, this is a compilation of the general thoughts and policies each running candidate has on education:

Hillary Clinton (D): Clinton has, since her 2008 election run, been in favor of universal pre-k, higher teacher salaries and the lowering of tuition costs for colleges and universities. Her views on public schools versus charter schools has been called into question, as she recently changed her opinions of them.

Bernie Sanders (D/I): This candidate has proposed for the federal government to spend more on state grants in order to allow public universities to cut their fees.

Jeb Bush (R): Bush seems to be a proponent for giving control of education back to states and local districts. He published an editorial in January that discussed his view on education.

Ben Carson (R): Carson believes in local power being given back to school districts, as well as “school choice”. He also has said that the payment for higher education should be of higher responsibility.

Ted Cruz (R): Since 2014, Cruz has been a supporter of school choice.

John Kasich (R): In his action plan, Kasich wrote that he wants to reduce the power of the Department of Education, as well as its size. Kasich, also an advocate for local control and school choice, supports performance-based pay systems for teachers.

Marco Rubio (R): Rubio supports the decrease in funds that go towards the Department of Education. He also wants to fight the strategies behind the Common Core and adopt free online courses for college students.

Donald Trump (R): Another supporter of local control in education, Trump has been quoted calling for the end of the Common Core curriculum.

This information was gathered from multiples sites including: Medill On the Hill, Ballotpedia, and each candidates respective websites. 

Common Core changes in NYS

Earlier this month, the New York State Education Department announced they would be reviewing and changing the state tests following a statement of need from teachers’ unions in the state.

The New York State United Teachers told the state the test was too long, too stressful and many students, with their parents permissions, were opting out of taking the tests all together. In fact, the NYSED said in 2014 almost 20 percent of third through eighth grade students in the state opted out of the test-taking.

What is the Common Core?

The Common Core tests were developed in 2009 by 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia, and were made with the goal of creating a set standard of education across the nation. The standards were published and adopted by 42 of the participating states in the summer of 2010, and have since risen to mixed reviews across the board.

The Mixed Reviews

The group Parents for Public Schools released a pro/con chart on the Common Core that pinpointed the biggest issues many have with the standards. In their chart, the group counts a pro  as professional development for teachers becoming the same across the board because they will be teaching for the same standards, but list the expensive implementation of the program as the biggest con for most school districts.

Pauline Hawkins, a former English teacher, and blogger for The Huffington Post, published an article in 2014 that discussed her reasons for exiting the teaching profession. Her resignation letter, which gained her national attention said,

“I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find solutions to problems,

help them become productive members of society. Instead, the emphasis on Common

Core Standards and high-stakes testing is creating a teach-to-the-test mentality for our

teachers and stress and anxiety to our students…”

This sentiment has been the biggest criticism of education standards in the country. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development describes the phrase “teaching to the test” as preparing solely for the standardized test instead of including the items of test into the curriculum.

In an editorial from the L.A. Times, a reporter suggests in order for the “teaching to the test” education to end, the Common Core needs to put less of an emphasis on test scores as a measure of success.