Students learn green living, eating at Chicago school

February 26, 2010 3:28:48 PM PST
For one charter school, living 'green' is more than just a goal; it's a way of life. At the Betty Shabazz International Charter School, students learn lessons of agriculture and sustainability as a way to live self-sufficiently.

School leaders say they hope the ideas spread from the classrooms into the community.

Students start each day with African drumming and self-affirming chants.

School leaders instill principles like cooperate economics and self-determination, along with recycling and organic eating.

Chief education officer and Supt. Elaine Mosley says the 'green' movement is finally catching up with the practices of their ancestors.

"They're learning in textbooks, and they're able to actually connect what we know [to what] our ancestors did historically, in terms of using everything. They used everything. There was no waste. So, recycling existed thousands of years ago," Mosley said.

ABC7 Chicago first caught up with Mosley and her staff last summer at Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Living in Pembroke, Ill. while they were visiting the eco-campus to take classes on how to live more sustainably, cultivate agriculture and change personal behavior.

The idea was to bring what they learned back home to their students. They are now incorporating lessons about farming and sustainability into the classrooms.

"Last year, we had baby chicks here, and we grew them from babies. And now they're at the farm in Black Oaks," seventh grader Ghana Horton said.

And the school's vegetarian lunch menu is including more organically grown produce.

"We serve fresh salad daily. We serve fresh fruit daily. We do that so the children will get used to eating healthy foods instead of fast food and everything like that," said Ejeama Martin, foodservice manager.

"I say, why do we always eat vegetarian? Then I found out, it's because it keeps our bodies healthy and the environment," sixth grader Marshawn Hatcher said.

Two Saturdays a month, students set up a farmers market, selling fresh produce, including some grown at Black Oaks. The goal is to make the school a 'healthy food hub.' School officials and staff members want to encourage the community to also eat healthier and live more independently.

"Sustainable living, it means that you can plant your own vegetables, have your own market, all that. You're practically self-sufficient," said Teya Hamilton, who is in the sixth grade.

The students will be selling food from their own garden this summer, and they say they try to keep their prices low so the produce is affordable.

For more details on Black Oaks or the school's next farmers' market, go to or