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"Thanks to a grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative our students and community are beginning to develop a deeper understanding of the work it takes to feed the world, new technology that can assist in those efforts, and the importance of adopting healthy eating habits."--Joseph Fatheree

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Food Fixes Your Mood

Effingham, Illinois

April 03, 2018

Editor's Note: As we garner applications for next year's Grants in Place programs, it seems appropriate to highlight one of our very best projects from this year. Effingham, Illinois Grants in Place recipient Joseph Fatheree has provided us with this project summary, which clearly illustrates how place-based work enhances learning and builds community! Thank you to the Central Illinois Rural Schools Partnership for supporting this effort.

By Joseph Fatheree

Thanks to the financial assistance of the Rural Schools Collaborative, students at Effingham High School are learning the value of healthy eating by growing their own food.The funding was used this past fall to purchase a hydroponic tower from Tower Garden (pictured). Freshman biology teachers are using the technology to teach the students in their classes how to grow plants. In addition, students who participate in the science department’s Green Team help oversee the maintenance of the tower. Through that work they are learning the benefits of alternative farming methods. Another classroom at the school is using the produce to start a smoothie business. They have created recipes for a number of different smoothies and are just starting to experiment with the development of different flavors of popcorn. This past week they worked on integrating kale, which was grown in the tower, into a cheese flavored popcorn recipe.

The students in the creativity and innovation program I co-teach have developed a healthy eating campaign to help encourage students to make better food choices.The name of the campaign is “Food Fixes Your Mood.” The students have created a logo, series of cartoons, and videos that are being shared on the district’s social media channels to help encourage the residents of our community to eat healthy. The food grown in the tower is the centerpiece of the campaign. The result has been a growing interest in hydroponics. A variety of different business people have stopped by to see the technology and to learn from our students.

Thanks to a grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative our students and community are beginning to develop a deeper understanding of the work it takes to feed the world, new technology that can assist in those efforts, and the importance of adopting healthy eating habits.


Joseph Fatheree was a Top 10 Finalist for the 2016 Global Teacher Prize, a recipient of the NEA’s National Award for Teaching Excellence, and a former Illinois Teacher of the Year.He is the instructor of Creativity and Innovation at Effingham High School and is a Varkey Teacher Ambassador.



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