Center teaches students sustainable living

September 18, 2009 (PEMBROKE, Ill.) A Chicago area couple is trading in their home in the Beverly neighborhood for life on the farm with primarily solar heat and electricity, and they hope their decisions might inspire you to make some changes.

Class is in session for teachers and administrators from the three Betty Shabazz charter schools on the city's South Side. They left their neighborhood to get a hands-on lesson at the Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Living in Pembroke, Ill.

"This is an eco-campus where communities can begin to prepare to be fossil fuel independent, decrease their fossil fuel use and prepare for an energy descent," said Dr. Jifunza Wright-Carter, a former executive in the auto industry and family practice physician.

The eco-campus is the brainchild of Wright-Carter and her husband, Fred Carter. The two built a structure, called a "yurt," by hand to hold retreats and training sessions.

The 40 acres of land also house a library, a small farm, two homes and room to grow.

"Black Oaks is going to be designed to train and educate the community," Fred Carter said. "Come here and learn very definite skills about how to live more sustainably."

The schools are planning several field trips to the campus during this school year as part of a focus on science and sustainable living.

"The whole goal is to begin teaching our children as young as kindergarten through the twelfth grade about the need for them to insert themselves in the process of creating renewable energy," said Elaine Mosley, chief education officer, Betty Shabazz International Charter School.

But the teachers needed their own experience first. Sixth grade teacher Roberta Ingram helped organize the trip with that mission in mind.

"Bring the teachers to the land. Let them experience the land so that they can have an understanding that they can take back to their children in the classrooms and share," Ingram said.

The couple lives primarily by solar heat and electricity. They hope more city dwellers will learn from their example. The public is invited to lend a helping hand on campus projects.

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