Aug 122013

On Monday, August 12th, Constantine and Alyse met with several teachers from Federal Hocking Middle School to further discuss working to develop educational partnerships between Fed Hock, OU, and Athens’ Own. The following is the abbreviated transcript and notes from that meeting, as taken by Alyse.



Third Education meeting: August 12, 2013



Bill Elasky

Constantine Faller

Alyse Carter

Bill Clark

Cliff Bonner

Sarah Russell


BE: CF and AC have been trying to get working with me for about a year now. He’s interested as a business in the area in developing some kind of partnership with fed hock. We had a meeting a few weeks ago to explore possibilities, to see if we could get anything going between FH, AO and CARE. It sounded like you (teachers) were interested in getting some educational programs happening.

CF: Our approach to building resilience is based on the six basic needs. In that education is one of those six, we are open to areas where we can take an active role in building education. Knowing Bill was active in education at OU, I asked him if he was connected to other teachers who might be interested in developing some programs. We [Athens’ Own] have developed a worker readiness certificate to help address some of the gaps we see in education, and help students develop skills that we feel they aren’t getting from traditional education. How can we give college students the opportunity to develop modules, even self-help, maybe online? Even before they start working with us actively. In pursuing that with Bill, he came back to me with: “Hey, one thing I am doing is this program with student teachers at Fed Hock.” So I say, in trying to build community resilience, how can I be of service to Fed Hock’s mission, the care program, and to you as educators? How can we as a business help make your vision happen? Instead of just making widgets happen, our widget is community resilience. How can we build an opportunity to make what you want to happen, happen? How can what we do possibly be of service to what you are doing and what you are trying to accomplish?

BE: So we thought we’d start with something small and concrete with a specific goal in mind. One possibility is to center things around local food production, and looking into the possibility of maybe a meal for the cafeteria, some kind of end thing where we’d draw from local businesses. That would be the end, but the important part would be showing kids that there is a use for what they are learning and building resilience, critical thinking, research skills, composition skills, teamwork, social skills, creativity, all the things you are interested in seeing. It’s something that deals with real stuff, instead of filling in bubbles on a sheet. We thought the 8th grade team might be interested. With the past things that we have worked on together, it seemed logical that we could try to work together again.

CF: Looking at the FH mission statement, teamwork was strongly in there, as well as not just student teamwork, but multi-layered teamwork. The students have a hands on opportunity, and there’s latitude around what they can do. And that type of thing fosters creativity.

CB: At the end of the year, we were having conversations about doing things like this. So when CF showed up, I immediately thought this might fit in. It does fit perfectly with our operating principles. Particularly at the middle school.

SR: My goal is to make the kids think they have a purpose in life, that they can be a valuable citizen: How can I survive, but also learn all the core concepts along the way?

BE: I think it’s a perfect match to what CF is talking about. The students want to learn something to feel like it’s real and important right now. So we need to figure out what to do next and how each of us can contribute.

SR: So is our end goal to plan a meal for the cafeteria?

CF: I don’t think we got that far, it was a possibility. I think we’d rather start with you; what are your goals, how can the student teachers and CARE make something happen?

SR: Within the common core, the language arts portion is huge, and social studies has been pushed to the side a bit. If we could bring that back in, maybe we could add in social studies: what did they eat during a certain time? How could we tie in these other lessons and what he is doing? They could dress in character maybe. So, this could tie in social studies as well.

CF: Am I correct that both of you encompass the entire curriculum?

SR: No, I teach math, he teaches social studies, language, other things. Together we work on projects that encompass all of them.

BE: I think one of the things we’d like to incorporate into it is what is going on in the local area. Transportation, marketing, etc. I think you could do that still. If we’re looking at community development, one of the things that would be nice to look at is what are people doing in Athens county? Food production, distribution, etc, whatever’s involved. How does it get on the shelf? What’s the advantage.

CF: The opportunity there – where do we buy things? There’s math, science, social studies, in that. What does it look like now, what are some of the alternatives to that now?

BE: And I think the idea with different periods of time, I think it could be melded together. We’re not pushing anything in particular on you, but I think it would be great to incorporate what’s going on in the area.

SR: What is the time frame for this thing?

CF: As a pilot program, one year is a good goal. From my perspective, I am not going to only offer one year, these kids are the future, this is a long term investment. How can I be a part of this now, make a more grass roots involvement?

SR: If we started somewhere small, and added a different portion each time?

BE: Yeah, we can evaluate after each time and see what we think.

CF: Sometimes things like this can get too big too fast. I want to hear what you two think would be substantive. Here’s one example: how important dirt is. If food is the window we are going through, the importance of dirt, in a very simple way. That kind of simplicity.

BE: Ok so, I guess maybe if you’re interested, part of it is then how we will be able to work together. One of my goals is to help facilitate things between you guys.

SR: I think I have three oo four care students this year. Are you thinking they would be focusing on this project? You might be able to start with some younger OU students and as they go through the program they would become exceptional leaders.

BE: I think that would be great, I’d like to slip some sophomores and freshman in there if you’d be open to it. I’d like them to see some of the planning, maybe contribute to it as well. If that works.

BC: My imagination is going wild with all this.

BE: To me it boils down to language, language is key to everything. I think Constantine comes with a business perspective on the kind of skills you’d like to see creativity, teamwork, etc. I think we have a wealth of resources available locally to us. I think we have a totally unique vision of business here.

CF: Just to throw this out there, one of our partners is the red bird ranch. We buy their beef, that is happening in this circle, in any way that that could be beneficial in this effort. There’s definitely a lot of math opportunities, yields per animal, how much sources to feed a certain number of people, etc.

SR: Or even just to understand that beef comes from a cow! We have students who don’t know that!

BE: There are people that make a living, making that bacon and sausage.

SR: We have kids who have to give presentations on things like that for their 4H group. We want to tie in what these kids do outside of school, bringing that into what they are doing in a school day.

BE: Alyse has experience working with kids in non-traditional settings, so we can bring that to the table today.

CF: I should mention, I live out at the Broadwell stewardship center, in any way that might be of interest for any of the academic disciplines.

SR: Keith does a lot with soil composition. Mixing in Volume with me, cubic yards, etc. That was going to be one of our trips, tying in science with math, looking at the soil in our area.

CF: I’m glad you bring that up, Kathy is an avid worm farmer, she studies soil health, etc. That is definitely an area of strength.

SR: the kids struggled last year with the difference between a square and a cube. So someone brought up the idea of having them dig, and that ties it into science. How can we put all that into it, if we make raised beds, to plant new things, etc.

CF: That’s an awesome challenge of conveying 3d thinking.

SR: So he said, let’s make them actually dig a square foot, how do they measure it, where do they start? Now, let’s make a raised bed, what’s the volume we need to fill it? Proportions, scale drawings, they plan out their garden, then start the process of building it. As teachers, with the new evaluation system, we have to involve businesses, etc in our lessons. We can bring in construction companies, etc to show them how to build, measure angles, etc. Measurements aren’t in the common core anymore, its all algebra.

BE: Is there any modeling involved in that?

SR: It’s used about three different ways with the word modeling in math. There are a lot of different ways to model equations, etc.

CF: With the raised bed thing, it ties in decision-making and critical thinking. Do we just buy dirt? What’s the cost/benefit? If we have compost that we carry out of Athens, there’s a choice, could we build it, with compost, worms, etc? Maybe stepping down from buying it first, and start building it over the years. Building soil out of clay, with Kathy you can see the sequential progress, she has different areas at different places in their life cycle.

SR: Even figuring that out, when the kids do soil testing, what would it cost to transport some of that soil here? There’s a math tie-in again. What PH scale of the soil do you need to grow certain plants? Just getting them to understand just everything that goes into it. What process did food go through to get to you? Kids can memorize equations, word problems, they probably don’t read it, but what does it mean to them, they need to be able to connect to the words in it, make a real-world sense from it.

BC: The only thing I’m personally lacking, I can appreciate the goal of eating a fully supplied meal in our cafeteria, and I think we can understand how to get there. So I need a direction to go in.

SR: It think that is definitely an obtainable goal. I don’t think that is diving in too deep.

BE: There is a lot of stuff available about farming in this area in different time periods.

SR: Maybe we can even have some type of open-community event where the kids can show off what they did and learned. Maybe that can help get out the awareness to the community, or would that be too much?

CF: I don’t think it’s too much. Potentially we could do something with vendors at school events, even. It is important to convey to the public, why this hot dog costs more. The whole goal with the AO model is taking the profit and putting it back into these other efforts.

AC: I don’t want to forget about the OU students. Maybe they can help with some of this planning, creating a budget, presenting it through an educational light to the board if there are budget concerns. Maybe they can help describe this whole web of possibilities, which might help the whole thing actually happen and not get stuck in red tape somewhere.

SR: Our school has done pretty well, we serve Shagbark chips now, we have better lettuce, etc. I think students help making a presentation would be great. Our students are always texting, email, etc. they need practice speaking.

CF: Rationalizations like that would help us rationalize our investment as well. Why should we be directing community resources to this task?

BC: Somebody point a direction, I’m ready to go!

BE: It sounds like you two and Keith need to discuss some ideas and make some plans. We are looking at some culminating things, a sampler, a meal, etc. to celebrate everything they’ve done.

CF: It would seem like the hurdles for a sampler would be less than actually making a meal happen that is actually going to get served. Cooks, supportive staffing, etc.

BE: Let’s give some time for you three to talk, to brainstorm. I need to think about my students as well.

BC: School starts next week, so we need about three weeks to get everything settled.

BE: I’d love to sit in to the common planning meetings to see how CARE can get involved. Maybe even bring some students in to get involved. I’d like to be a part of it from the early stages.

Jul 252013



What is Athens’ Own doing?


I wrote recently about picking up turtles from the highway, in an attempt to save them. I also mentioned that in this metaphor, Athens’ Own is trying to do more. However I didn’t say exactly what more means. And unfortunately, I don’t have a simple answer for that. The bottom line is, there are two options when you pick up that turtle. The first one is, you can say: “Good for me, I did something great!” and carry on with your day. The second option is that when you set that little turtle down in the nice cool grass, you think: “Huh.. Is that really the best that I can do?Is it possible that I am I capable of more?”


Sometimes, when you do your best, it doesn’t look like anything at all. The first person to hold up a sign in protest likely went home that day without physically seeing the results of their actions, even if their actions that day happened to start an avalanche that changed the course of history. But that person followed their heart, voiced it, and it catalyzed something happening. Doing more, doing your best, is not about spending time wondering if something is going to happen, its about having no doubt that there is a convergence of forces greater than oneself, that just might join together because of something you did or said. You might not always know what will happen, but the people that make the most difference are the people who do something because they know beyond a doubt in their heart that it is the right thing to do at that moment. And it usually happens that people of like mindedness are drawn together by these actions.


There is a moment in any action when you realize what you are doing is no longer the most powerful thing you can do. For the protester, it might be when they realize people are looking at them and actually listening, and they put down the sign and pick up the petition and start talking to individuals. After that it might be a presentation, a rally, or a roundtable. After that it might be something even bigger, but each action first began with a thought of: “How can I do better?”


This is the feeling that has driven Athens’ Own throughout the many years of work we have done. Keeping in mind our goal of building a better world for our grandchildren, we consider what we are doing everyday, and if it is truly our best. And if it’s not, how can we do better? We aren’t making decisions based on next year’s profit, but on the lives of our children’s children. We may not be able to see them and see how their lives will be just yet, but if we go to bed everynight knowing we did our absolute best for them, then both we and the turtles can get a good night’s sleep, and be ready to do our best tomorrow.

Jul 152013


Meeting at Fed Hock High School – 7/15/13

In attendance:

-Bill Elasky

-Cliff Bonner

-Constantine Faller

-Alyse Carter

-Miles McFadden


CF: To start, a little bit of background with Bill- through the window of business, we are working on building resilience. The solutions lie in places that are not part of our current educational stream. If we are taking interns from all these places (OU, hocking, etc), there are opportunities for us to create some educational models.

Some of the subsequent discussions have moved into evaluation, how to determine what and how students learn. If we’re working with students at OU, with someone who has already been through the education model, that creates its own problems. We say that as a business, you are not ready to work for us. That is usually shocking to students- I got this degree, you’re saying I’m not good enough?

We actually had a student write a piece on the shortcomings of education for one of her first projects.

Bill and I have talked about the care program, so we have the opportunity to get to these students early.

CB: So what type of shortcomings are you talking about?

CF: Research

AC: Writing, resumes, what I would call “common sense” skills.

CF: Alyse talked to a journalism professor who was shocked to hear that we had a complaint about one of her students’ writing. Critical thinking is another one. Social Skills.

CB: What exactly does your business do?

CF: (Explanation of AO, with help from Alyse)

CB: So are you a non-profit?

CF: No, we are purposely a for-profit. I chose it so that I could use that megaphone, that window of opportunity to get my message across. Like Bill said, we are doing a different kind of business.

How can I help the future generations to be better able to handle what is coming in the future? I’m not a doomsdayer, I’m a realist. What do I have in my toolkit that I can give to these kids? How can I use logic to help people see from point A to point B? Yes, this is Athens’ Own, and me, but the goal is that any community can build from the model and make their own marketing network and bring it to their community.

CB: So what were you thinking? What are your ideas?

CF: In the sense of pathways of decision making, I asked Bill if he was interested in an overall project in which the first slice, a micro-project, is a part of. For example, if building resilience is too nebulous, one slice of building resilience is local food security. One slice of that is local farms, what can we grow, how can we grow more locally. So, strengthening local agriculture. It is also a way to help me apply my training as a chef to help make this happen. If in any way the project is related to healthy community, somewhere further down the line is the Red Bird Ranch, a slice as a starting point is healthy soils. I’m not saying it might be the best one for these students coming in, but if you have a study of a healthy soil food web, how can that be broken into something the kids can do for one quarter, how long is the project?

CB: Were you thinking with the CARE?

BE: What I would like to see, is if we can get some CARE kids, something that would involve all three of us, the school system, AO, CARE. If you’ve got contacts with local food producers here, it makes sense to involve them also. It makes sense to start with something concrete that gets us all working together. I know you want to move beyond something short term, but coming up with something concrete would be a good way to get people thinking and working together, as long as there is an understanding that this is just the first step, trying to get some successful experiences under our belt. My involvement at this point would be a semester, but I wouldn’t want to stop with that. I like the idea of a partnership with a business, especially one who is trying to be as progressive as the district. I think our goal is similar. Perhaps one of the goals for Fed Hock is to start stepping out into the community and have a bigger impact on what’s happening in the community, beyond just sports and entertainment, but something that helps bring the community together. I think in doing that both the OU and Fed Hock students would feel inspired to be a part of that.

Students turn in sub standard work because they’ve never done anything REAL. They turn in the paper and skip off, whatever grade they get is fine. They want to do something real, something that inspires them.

BE: (Explanation of foxfire project in Georgia). The kids loved it, they were doing something that MATTERED. If it was a good issue, it was because the kids put into it what needed to be done. If they didn’t feel it, they would put out something that was substandard, but they didn’t do that, they had a personal stake in what they are doing. That’s what we want in our educational system, that’s what kids will get excited about, it doesn’t matter if they are in college, or a freshman here, etc. If you talk about social skills, it gives them reasons to work together and develop those social skills. All these things that you want, I think are things that we want, all these things are there, and it’s because of the partnership. What we need to do is figure out where we can begin to cooperate. You want to develop these skills, and you want to do it under your business models. So where is it that we start? How can we begin to cooperate so that we are helping our community become healthier, more self-sustaining, we’re helping kids become more involved in doing something that matters in the community. And how can my students assist?

CF: Is there anything in the educational models that illustrates the interconnectedness of life on this planet?

CB: Our science programs definitely touch on some of that…You can do things two ways- in a classroom or in some outside activity. Kids here have to have citizenship points to graduate. As little as going to a board meeting, but it gets more involved from there. Bill, you’ve usually worked with teachers in the CARE program.

BE: Yes, and there’s difficulty finding the time and space to make these things happen in the way that we as teachers want it to. I haven’t always been successful in getting our end of the needs spectrum met, some of that has to do with the curriculum, and the test. It might be good to do something out of school at first.

CF: What I was asking was a question of whether a project base could help them reinforce what they are learning. If they are going to take their square foot of dirt and farm it, do the water and air matter? The usefulness of giving them real-world application. And what are the hundred year effects, and if this could be a useful real-world thing, a starting point to help reinforce some of those science type things.

CB: That is definitely part of our science program here. There is a garden out back, our teacher has been doing that for years. The teachers are in tuned with environmental issues. So yeah I think that definitely would be a real world application. I don’t think it would connect with the agriculture department, I don’t think they get that kind of spin in that department. They don’t quite have that kind of slant on things. So that might not work as well there.

(Discussion of AO’s beef processing, locations, people, etc)

CF: There are job opportunities for someone who would like a local job- helping process meat, etc.

CB: So back to the question of where do we start. How do you get the kids, how to get them to buy in? It would be a little bit of a commitment outside of school. We are a big district, but we do run activity buses…so how do we get them to buy in and then get there?

BE: Could we do over lunch?

CB: Definitely. We had a nutrition group come in one time. Lunch is a great time. But teachers do have constraints on their time.

CF: In the sense of a resilience building company, these things we sell are just the fundraising efforts. To be halfway good at that, one needs to be flexible. I can say, you will learn. If you come in and say you want to learn and here’s what you have in your toolkit, coming up with projects is an easy thing for me. Listening to everyone’s needs, how can we help being a part of making them happen? These are things I currently have on my slate, but it certainly isn’t limited. I’d rather hear, what is your primary need, and how we can be a solution to that.

BE: A need I have is to show that education doesn’t have to be book-centered. It is best when it is set into something real. It doesn’t have to limit you, if you can integrate the whole thing, especially things like math that you tend to break down into little things. You can use math or science to accomplish many things. There’s no advantage to knowing something if it doesn’t have any use. We teach things that don’t have use because it doesn’t have any context. All those other things come because you are doing something real, because of the context you put it in. So that’s my goal. Many college students are going into education because they had such a meaningless experience, they want to do something to change it. So our need is to do something real.

AC: I assume you’re familiar with the term experiential education? That’s what you are talking about, right?

Be: Exactly.

CB: So how do we get this started?

BE: The beef thing, gives us a window to look at all these things, jobs, resources, businesses, etc.

CB: There’s so many levels to this. The middle school science class would be great for this. But there’s also these levels, like jobs, non-typical business models, sustainability, there’s so many levels.

AC: I think a good star would be to start with seeing the story

CB: I think that’s great, “what’s the issue?”

CF: My definition of food security is to be able to feed ourselves on an open timeline from sustainable local sources. As a scenario of a problem to solve, do we have the square footage, that’s tillable, to feed our current population? That reality of how much agriculture does it take for a family of four? Etc, etc

BE: even if you are’t going to look at this as a potential emergency situation, if you rely on local people, what does that do for the health of the community? If the money stays in the community?

CB: Well I’m thinking kids need a hook!

AC: Show them the food! Feed them a steak, show them a cow.

CB: I’d say every one of our students knows a farmer. The hook could be that, we are helping people we know. People know the Lackeys. Maybe its leanring more about the food.

BE: Going back to the 30 mile meal, how about the hook is, trying to construct a meal, one meal that is 30 mile meal. In the cafeteria.

CB: Whats a feasible number of kids? The middle school science teacher, he doesn’t have as many constraints. We want to make a more real middle school concept- inter-departmental cooperation. They can use their time for anything around the core classes.

BE: We could facilitate beyond just that too.

CF: There’s a lot of power in what a 7th grader can say….they’re old enough to speak with a mature voice. Without wagging a finger of negativity, going into a rotary that might be buying from GFS- giving a presentation on why they should buy food from the Lackeys. Get the kids to understand that the research might tell them that they might need to do things a different way. If it can potentially convince a rotary, then its one more body that is focusing on this: Make them say “when we eat at the country club, we are gonna eat 30 mile meal, that 8th grader convinced us to do something better for our future.”

CB: I think you’ve got your hook: your lunch prices are going to go up if you don’t find a way to buy local.

BE: 8th grade would be perfect.

CB: We have three teachers who I think would buy into this.

BE: So we have language, social studies, math, science. It’s a hook to get them out into the community and get involved.

CB: It’s got interdisciplinary written all over it. Do we just want to start with one class, you have a lot of kids…

BE: In effect what we are doing is giving these teachers a way to change how they teach. To put all the subjects together and to do something that is real. I think these deficiencies that you see, I think will become part of that. And at the end, the big thing is, we need to consciously look at how this 30 mile meal thing impact the community.

CF: One of the things we are trying to do is show kids and help them understand what they can do with their square foot. I think somewhere in there is where our solutions lie, from the ground up.

BE: Does this 30 mile meal thing start to get into where you want to go and what you want to do?

CF: Yes, I think it is a great hook.

CB: One of our challenges here has been to bridge our community-school gap. I think we’re starting to do that, but I think there’s ways that we can do better. I think this is perfect for that. I think the first step is to talk to the teachers and if they buy in and this goes well…we do have a lot of teachers who do project based things, we have practical assessments, the senior project. They know the idea, now how do I more engrain it into what they are doing in the classroom, and it takes outside people to come in and facilitate that. You (CF) help to bring that community connection.

CB: Well I can invite in that middle school team, would you like me to do that?

BE: I think a good next step would be to talk to these teachers, and see if they are interested. That gives us a place to start. I want my students to have some part in developing this, I dont’ want them to step into a project thats already full blown.

CB: Would the first teacher day, august 16th be too late to get together?

BE: I’d like to present the information to them sooner, let them think about it, talk about it. Then on the 16th come in and talk to them a little bit more. I don’t want to have it too finely developed. I’d like to give the students an option to come in and listen.

Conclusion: BE and CB will discuss with FH teachers, contact AC for more information later and to facilitate the OU student’s introduction to AO.

Jul 112013

As Miles, Constantine and I walked into the shared ACEnet kitchen this morning, like we do almost every morning, we halted suddenly, surprised by what lay in front of us. “What is this? Is this for anyone?” We remarked at the tray of four or five loaves of cinnamon sugar bread, left out on the counter in an enticing and inviting way. The bakers informed us that it was bread that was a bit old, didn’t sell well in the store front, and that would need a bit of “culinary expertise” to make it acceptable again. At that comment, I swear I saw a light bulb go off over Constantine’s head. From that moment on, today was Athens’ Own culinary school.

When we talk about resilience, we usually mention utilizing any and every opportunity you have, including making the most out of every situation. Many times, that includes a sense of mystery. We don’t ever know what will be put on the table in front of us today. We might wake up to a power outage, a surprise visit from a friend, a crate of spoiled eggs, or any number of positive or negative unforeseen events. A resilient team, as part of a resilient community can take whatever pops up and make the most positive results out of it. Today, on our table, in front of us, appeared some loaves of stale bread.

The team swung into immediate action – “Miles! Go get a knife, butter, a skillet and a turner!”, “Alyse, get out your camera!”, “Hey Crumbs, can we borrow some cinnamon sugar?”. Within a few short moments, Constantine was instructing Miles on the procedure of quickly and effectively buttering and grilling bread. “No, no, put the butter in the pan first, then slide the bread around to coat it. Those are thick slices so you need more butter.” Interspersed with suggestions of how to organize the cooking area, flip bread with a flick of the wrist, and what “golden brown” meant, the smell of lovely cinnamon began to fill the kitchen. Then appeared a nice silver tray, and the next class, how to attractively display these tasty morsels, had begun. “Tap the side of the sugar sifter, don’t shake it, gently, just like that, very nice…”. And before 8:30am, we were handing a tray of warm, gooey, fried cinnamon bread to the bakers to try. An odd silence fell on the kitchen, interspersed with chewing noises and nods of approval. But we’re not done yet! “Go get some eggs, we’re going to make French Toast next!”. And a relatively short amount of time later, I had learned what “lacing” syrup was, as I photographed Miles’ attempts to pour a stream of Athens’ Own maple syrup in a steady, zig-zag fashion across the toast. Personally, I preferred the grilled bread to the french toast, but they were both excellent.

As I struggled to get Miles to hold up his culinary creations and “SMILE!”, I documented the learning process as best I could with my camera, and marveled at how in only an hour, Miles (and myself!) had effectively learned how to up-cycle bread. Two delicious dishes created from something that was previously thought to be borderline inedible, which we saved from the trash can and used to feed an entire bakery crew a delicious breakfast! Not to mention the continuing education on sanitation, organization, and teamwork that happened simultaneously.

A Facebook post regaling our morning adventure, accompanied by a photo of Miles almost smiling was quickly uploaded, to inform the community about the spontaneous learning which happened today. Responses came in with excitement, asking if we would offer this new treat at the Farmer’s Market. And suddenly, we had another opportunity appear on the table. If we sold grilled cinnamon bread at the market, think of all other projects we might be able to put those profits toward, and what we might learn, or what else we might find in front of us along the way. Time to swing into action again! The resilience team is on the job!



Jul 082013

Today we set out for our meeting with a local education professional with this thought in mind: How we go about using the day in front of us to make the most learning out of every experience?


Constantine and Alyse met with BE, director of the CARE program, on Monday, July 8th, for a discussion about Education. The following is a summary/ transcription of the discussion, as taken by Alyse.



BE- So, why don’t we start with what ideas you have?

Constantine Faller- Well, we are all “teachers”, some more than others. What I can offer from an employers standpoint, and what Alyse’s first task was is a way to explore the gaps in the education system in modern society. Our business has a firsthand view of these shortcomings. I have tried to develop a worker readiness certification but have encounted problems in methodology, etc. One of the things I brought up this morning with Alyse is how to explain this in an education context. Also, I want to hear the kinds of things that you are currently involved in: your “square foot”. There’s faculty around you, some I guess you are closer to than others, that you might get into discussions with about “what if” types of scenarios, and I want to know what I can do as an employer to help be a guinea pig and help provide a place for these things to happen. How can I be of assistance helping us all get somewhere we can’t get by ourselves. So this meeting isn’t just about me, that’s part of our company’s vision, to see where our goals align and how we can work together.


BE: Let me tell you what I do- This program is called the CARE program, it started about 25 years ago.We were truthfully very upset with the college of education, decided we weren’t going to have these people in our classroom anymore, it was less than worthless. So some people came up with this program and they wanted us to be involved. The program has basically these purposes: 1. It gets education students in the classroom early and often – before they even start student teaching. 2. It is a progressive, democratic education. We believe that kids don’t turn 18 and automatically become good citizens. “How” you teach is more important than “what” you teach, it is school’s job to make kids ready to be good citizens. There is a lot of critical thinking, developing programs. We work with the students as collaborators and partners. I coordinate the program, I bring kids into it, do the adminstrative stuff. I work closely with Fed Hock because we are in a partnership as well. Several of our instrtuctors are also Fed Hock teachers. The goal right now is to develop long-term programs or projects that our studnets can work on with Fed Hock students and teachers where all three groups have input into what is going on. We did a project recently [where there was a chemical spill on a 6th grader’s farm, and the students worked together to investigate, clean up, and learn about the soil and water]. The students came up with the project and developed it themselves. We were able to incorporate math, social studies, science, and language all in a project that the students had created which was really great for them.

So with this opportunity, It sounds like you are looking for entreprenurial type things.


CF: In the sense that our company is building resilience it is in a sense entreprenurial, different than selling “widgets”, like most people do. In doing what I am trying to do- build solutions, build ways for communities to pull them selves up, as an engineer, instead of trying to say “this is what we need to do first” I am trying to identify the starting point. The best place to start with – is it education? Communications? So, trying to decide what is the most important element. This came up because an infinite number of people have asked me, when asking about what Athens’ Own does: “Can you give me that in writing?” So then, what skill do I not have that would help get them their answer, better than it is being communicated now? Which skills should be able to write something like that?


Bill: So it is ok that there aren’t projects fleshed out, that doesn’t bother me, there are other people i’d like to bring into the process.

CF: Great! It should be a democratic process, and we should talk about what can everyone bring to the table. So that is great. What are people’s skill sets? I know a lot about food, and engineering, so that’s what I personally can bring to the table. And that’s part of our strategy, identifying what is in everyone’s “toolkit” and how we can work together.


B: I like the idea of education contributing to a healthy community


(I missed some conversation- was eating delicious sausage and eggs!)


CF: We are trying to get across the idea of looking beyond the widgets, beyond the money, to what else is happening. Particularly in rural life- how does a community come together in order to sustain itself? One thing I thought about recently is how the linkage through church isn’t as strong in our society as it used to be in the past. However, there is still a link through schools. It used to be that churches were a central link in the community, with kitchens, gatherings, etc. Not so much anymore, but schools have the opportunity to be this type of link.

In terms of business, if I was just focusing on next quarter, I would just focus on widgets. If I am focusing on the next 100 years, I have to focus on more. It makes business sense to focus like that, it is cheaper in the long run, the cost to our future greatly outweighs the cost to me right now. It’s long-term cost savings.


BE: Sounds like we have a lot of overlap in what we want to do. The question is, where from here? I like short term projects that I can get kids involved with, but I like them to have long-term applications.


CF: How soon are you ready to hit the ground running with something?

BE: August, when the studnets come back. We have some students who are really capable and enthusiastic, and I want to throw them into something meaningful right away.


CF: How much would it entice you if it were a building block type of thing?

B: That’s an essential part of it, it’s potentially a good thing, although it needs to be something real.

CF: Not to overshadow what we are talking about, but I doubt this concept is confined to local. With this kind of progam, I would like to see it as a kind of model of our effort for other communities. How can students be an intimate part of changing their future?

  • Game idea- entreprenurial ideas for prizes, cash, charities, etc

BE: I think a project that is meaningful can have more inspiration than a cash prize.

CF: It has always been a goal of Athens’ Own to have the company be student-run eventually. There’s just so many possibilities. How do we come back to a kernel and start? With Fed Hock being an agricultural, rural setting, do you think having it food-oriented in some way would help people see that we are going to buid better community and this is how we are going to do it? Again, this is just throwing out ideas. We are certainly doing a lot with food, but what does food have to do with building resilience? Helping the RBR be a viable farm, building food security, etc.

BE: And the advantage would be you cast the net and bring some kids in, and get their families involved, they can see in their lives some application.

CF:There’s a lot that is viewable through the window: the inter-connected businesses, getting the product to cusomers, the social situations, the biology of the soil food web, etc. The linkages outward, not just the teachers, but the “trickle-down” tertiary effects…

BE: Yeah, the more people you bring in the stronger it is, the more ideas you have, the more you are able to come up with something.

CF: Without losing this point: the heart of this is education, not food.

BE: So it sounds like what we need to think about, is what are the initial building blocks, what kind of process type things, at least.

CF: I think prior to putting food on the table, I think I heard some of the conceptual building blocks of the program (CARE), I would be quite excited to just open it up to group discussion, including creating a forum…although people don’t need another forum to be a part of so maybe not… It would be nice to hear directional-type things that other people have, their own goals. How to weave as many pieces as possible together. Maximum positive effect.

BE: We want to give kids an education that matters, not just filling in bubbles on a standardized test. I think when kids have the kind of education we have been talking about, the standardized test takes care of itself. They have that and beyond.


BE: So would it make sense then to get together again with some more people, teachers, administrators, and try to come up with what are some of these building blocks, and what process can we use to get there, and what building blocks we can use over time. You’re wanting to change the educational system and I think this is the place to do it. The district is in a good place to do these things, to move in a this type of direction. I think you and I are in a good position to enable certain aspects of what they want to do. They see value in what we are talking about, we can become somehow a part of what they are doing, We don’t have to sell them on anything, we are already a forward-looking, progressive, democratic community.


CF: And I have an opportunity to field test the results.

How soon should we have a larger group meeting?


BE: Either the 16th or 15th of this month, or right after the first of the month in august


CF: So basically what we are talking about is,

How can food help edcuation?

Education is the foundation- how can all these other things help build towards education?

How can the sale of a steak help fill in these gaps we see?


BE:The beauty of it is, all you need is something that matters to the kids, something they care about, the education will happen on its own. Good teachers can see these opportunities for learning in what they are doing.



Set meeting for the 15th at 10, tentatively at the high school


Jul 032013

I think it’s safe to say that at some point in your life, you have uttered the phrase: “I’m going to do something about this!” For the purposes of this explanation, what “this” is doesn’t particularly matter. It could be a cause one feels strongly about, a percieved injustice, something one loves so much they feel compelled to help, or maybe even something that makes a person so angry they finally have to stand up and say that sentence. Whatever the reason, and whatever the feeling which caused the statement, whether it was positive or negative, now there is an hanging question in your path: So what exactly are you going to do?

It seems to me that the people who are going to actually stand up and make this type of claim have basically two choices. The first choice, which I think most people would pick, is the path of direct action. This is where people grab their signs and join the protest crowd, where petitions are signed, where fundraisers are held, where invasive species control hikes are, and where people might pick up a turtle and help it cross the road. It is the type of work which gives any human being a feeling of intense satisfaction and a confidence that they did something great today, however large or small the result.

Now, I want to take a moment to pause and make one thing very clear: These people are wonderful. They are essential to our world’s survival, they are caring, loving, motivated people, and they do certainly make a difference in more ways than one.

However, this isn’t the path that Athens’ Own is on. It isn’t the path that Constantine chose, it isn’t the one I chose, or the one our interns will need to choose. As I said above, when faced with the daunting question of “What can I do to help this?”, we have two options. The first is to pick up turtles. The second is to build the systems, shape the plans, create the models, and build the solutions to the real causes of the problems. Athens’ Own does not necessarily want to be the ones picking up the turtles, we want to be at the head of the drafting table, leading the team to design and build a world that doesn’t need to save the turtles because we all live in a way that they are already and always safe. And honestly, we can’t do that if we are spending all our time standing in front of a building with a sign or pulling up garlic mustard.

It is incredibly difficult to put down the turtle, tell it “I’m sorry, but I promise I will save your grandchildren”, and leave it there. However some of us have to do to that if we want to see this real change happen. It is even more difficult to let go of specifics and launch yourself into the bigger picture and understand how by fixing a different, bigger problem, you can save the turtles without ever touching them. In a way, Athens’ Own is trying to help everyone save everything they love all at the same time. We are trying to fight the forest fire, not put out each individual leaf. That would be a race we could never win. But, by taking a step back, focusing our energy and weaving our collective efforts together into a greater plan for a more resilient future, we just might be able to show our grandchildren a real live turtle, and not just a picture and a story. And they might be proud of us, because we really did do “Something”.

In future writings, I’ll be attempting to explain just how Athens’ Own is creating this plan and the types of things that entails.