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FOOD WORKS

Founded in 1988 in Montpelier, Vermont, Food Works is an educational non-profit organization offering teacher education courses, workshops, instructional videos and guidebooks focusing on the natural and cultural heritage of rural communities.

As the global economy continues headlong into the information technology era, it has become clear that communities everywhere are facing a common but historically unprecedented challenge: to keep pace with the demands of global competition while maintaining their own unique identity and integrity -- culturally and economically. The nagging question first posed at the end of World War II by a social historian from Africa seems more relevant today than ever: "How do we maintain our identity -- preserve what is ours -- and still achieve liberation or progress?"

Having now published several educator's guides on place-based curriculum, the Food Works teaching staff has shown that when people address this complex issue on a local level through their educational system -- including schools, businesses, civic organizations, government, churches, and outreach programs -- what results is a strong, self-motivated generation of young learners ready to take on the new challenges of a global society while maintaining their respect and reverence for the lessons of the natural world. Backed by their own community, this generation is practical and versatile enough to adapt to the changing demands of a high-tech society, and at the same time culturally aware and ecologically sensitive enough to be committed to maintaining the habitability of their own region.

This has been the program focus at Food Works since the inception in 19990 of its Common Roots Schools Program, a community-based curriculum development process for educators. Through professional development courses, in-service workshops, instructional videos and curriculum guidebooks series, teachers are developing integrated learning units that focus on learners' basic needs and primary interests in their immediate environment. This work is helping to broaden the educational agendas of communities across the country and around the world to include an ongoing process for understanding the natural and cultural heritage unique to every place; an understanding which serves as the common touchstone for each student’s lifelong learning.

 

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