Unity Students Come Together to Give Back

Written by Deborah Marcus. Posted in Daily Life at Unity Charter School, Health and Nutrition, Middle School, Uncategorized

by Marie Collinson IMG_4494

Two days before Thanksgiving, one of Unity’s learning groups, the 7/8 Jaguars, took twenty-four boxes of food to the Interfaith Food Pantry. For several weeks leading up to the delivery, students from all the learning groups brought in canned and boxed goods to donate: 263 cans, 44 boxes of things like macaroni, and 32 miscellaneous items such as jars of spices in all. These items were placed in decorated cardboard boxes by the front door.

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The boxes were decorated during an extended morning meeting time when the learning groups got together with their buddy classes. Children cut autumn leaves and “hand” turkeys from construction paper, made origami shapes, drew colored patterns directly on the boxes, and generally made the boxes look festive. This was a great bonding time for the different ages as older students helped little ones create the decorations.

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On delivery day, the Jaguars carried the loaded boxes onto a school bus for the short ride to the pantry. Once there, the food was taken into the center, and one of the volunteers gave the Jaguars a tour of the facility, which includes a room with shelves stacked with non-perishable food and refrigerators for perishable goods, a kitchen where clients may receive cooking lessons, and a large garden in the back. The garden coordinator spoke about the work she does there.

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The Jaguars asked thoughtful questions. One student wanted to know if there are restrictions governing who is allowed to come to the pantry, and as a group, the students were interested to find out that anyone in need can come, that even someone with what seems like a good salary might not have enough money for food if the family’s budget is overwhelmed by paying for cancer treatments or something of that nature. Another student asked how often the cooking classes are held. Still another asked about the big pieces of equipment and what they are used for.

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Overall, the food drive was a success as Unity families were able to offer a little comfort and hope to the community at large.

Increased Sustainability to Replace Bin of Bags

Written by Deborah Marcus. Posted in Daily Life at Unity Charter School, Health and Nutrition, Sustainability

By Jennifer Carcich

Over the past three years the students and staff have been able to recycle all of the plastic that has entered our building through our very own “Bin of Bags” program. Unfortunately, the company we were working with has gone out of business. Our plastics were among those being sent to China for recycling and they are now enforcing stricter (and healthier) guidelines in this country. This is a healthy reminder to all of us that reducing waste is a much more effective choice than trying to recycle or dispose of it!

We are taking this as an opportunity to reevaluate and revive our practices at the school. Our mission of sustainability is the essence of our school. Please help us reinforce the mission by revisiting how you are preparing and sending in your child’s lunch and snacks. For those who are sending in lunches and snacks, please consider buying in bulk and sending portions in to school in reusable containers. This will not only reduce waste but may also reduce your expenses. Individual snack item wrappers were the most common item on our old Bin of Bags recycling program followed by juice/milk boxes. Yogurt tubes are another big landfill item in the Bin of Bags. Here are some helpful tips on how to provide some popular items in a more sustainable way:

  • Purchase large containers or yogurt and send in portioned amounts (reusable food pouches or containers)
  • Purchase cheese in blocks and cut into pieces for each day
  • Make your own lunchables with cut pieces of cheese and favorite crackers
  • Consider making your own cereal bars, nut-free granola bars, and other delicious snacks (visit the Unity Blog for some sustainable food recipes!)

We recognize that moving to more sustainable lunches and snacks may change the way you shop and may take some additional time for preparation. However, moving to a more sustainable practice is just a matter of starting new habits and these new habits will leave the planet healthier for you and your children. Perhaps try just changing one item at a time until you get the hang of it. Together, our community can make a difference!

Articles related to this topic:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/china-recycles-plastic/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/california-plastic-bag-ban/ http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/oct/06/smelly-contaminated-disease-worlds-open-dumps

About the Author:
Jennifer Carcich is the 2/3 Grade Teacher and Lower School Team Leader at Unity Charter School. This is her fourth year teaching at Unity Charter School. She is certified to teach both general education and special education students and has been in the teaching field since 1994. Jennifer takes pride in helping Unity Charter School continue to strengthen its unique and innovative approach to education and bring forth the school’s mission.

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Unity Charter School. Unity Charter School is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the author.

Unity Eco-School Interest Group Creates a Healthy Crunch Recipe

Written by Cat D. Posted in Health and Nutrition, Interest Groups, Sustainability

By Amy Hoffman
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The Eco-School’s Healthy Foods group is working each Thursday to redefine snacking here at Unity! We worked tirelessly to investigate produce that we could grow quickly and here at school.

We have been fortunate to have been able to use the grow station that, parent, Rich Hoffman generously donated to grow Sprouts! So, the group needed to think of a snack that we could “invent” using sprouts…. Here is Unity’s very own snacking creation – Healthy Crunch!

Ingredients:
  • Gluten Free Bagel Chips
  • seeds for sprouts, soil, water, and sun.
  • hummus
Procedure:
  1. Plant seeds. Grow sprouts. Harvest. To harvest, cut near the bottom. Cut in small pieces. Wash well.
  2. Get a bagel chip. (G-F)
  3. Spread the hummus on chip.
  4. Sprinkle sprouts on hummus.
  5. Eat!

D.A.R.E. comes to Unity Charter School

Written by Peter. Posted in Health and Nutrition, Whole Child Education

– by Tanya Seaward

Did you notice that police cruisers were often parked in front of the school during April and May?  No, it was not trouble brewing.  Quite the opposite: officers from Morris Township here to teach the D.A.R.E. program for the very first time to our 5th and 6th graders.  D.A.R.E. which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is a 6 week long internationally recognized program that aims to educate children about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.  The D.A.R.E. program is taught by specially trained police officers in order to foster positive attitudes between the police and students.  We were fortunate to have Officer Heather Jones, a Unity parent, teach the program to our students.  The students had fun watching Doug demonstrate the “drunk goggles,” but they also tackled more serious issues such as drug abuse, bullying and internet safety.  

The program culminated in a graduation ceremony on May 10, 2013 which was attended by a number of local dignitaries including Chief of Police John K. McGuinness, Deputy Mayor Bruce Sisler and Morris Township Councilman Scott Rosenbush.  The students also received a D.A.R.E. diploma signed by State Senator Anthony Bucco.  Later, they enjoyed a fun-filled morning at Collinsville Park followed by a pizza party hosted by the Morris Township Police.

 

portrait of Tanya Seaward  Tanya Seaward is a Unity mom to three students; Jeremy, Abby and Theo.  She served on the Board of Trustees and chaired the Communications Committee.  Tanya is a Chartered Accountant who enjoys gardening and leisurely rides on her bike (no hills please!).

Community Members Share Recipes for Sustainable Eating

Written by Peter. Posted in Health and Nutrition, Sustainability

Here are two recipes for sustainable eating, contributed by Catherine Delett.  Do you have a favorite vegan or vegetarian recipe you’d like to share?  Send it to blogeditor [at] unitycharterschool [dot] org. Slow Cooker Refried Beans:
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
  • ½ fresh jalapeño or other hot pepper, seeded and chopped (or powdered cayenne pepper)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or garlic powder)
  • ¾ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • One big pinch of cumin
  • 6 cups water
1.Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. [Catherine uses a six-quart slow cooker -Ed.] 2.Cook on high for 8 hours or overnight while you are sleeping. 3.Remove the bigger onion chunks and drain the excess liquid. (Save excess liquid to adjust beans to desired consistency.) 4.Mash remaining beans with a potato masher. Serve in bowls, in tortillas, or however you like.   Honey Cookies: 
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar (for rolling – optional)
1.Preheat oven to 300. 2.In a mixing bowl combine flour, soda, and salt. 3.Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the honey and cream well. 4.Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just blended. cookies Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls into bowl of sugar and roll to coat, if desired. You can also chill and make into cut-out cookies. Bake for 15-18 minutes until edged are golden and set. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to rack to cool completely.