Pupils Pose Questions

Pupils Gather Facts on Food

The Republican

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


GREENFIELD – Shel Ball, of Greenfield, was busy yesterday, but not too busy to take a few minutes to answer the survey questions a Greenfield Center School student asked her about food choices.

“Where do you usually go to buy groceries?” RF of Turner’s Falls, 10, a fifth grader at the school asked. “What is most important when you shop for produce?”

He asked her about her favorite locally grown food and what percentage of her food is locally grown, among other questions.

Every year, fifth and sixth graders undertake a data project as part of a math class, usually tied to the science curriculum, according to Christopher L. Sanborn, a fifth and sixth-grade teacher and a member of the school’s board of directors. They work with a local organization and a local issue, he said.

This year the students’ focus is local food systems, and they are working with Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture in conjunction with the statewide initiative Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week.

Five groups of four students and a chaperone positioned themselves along Main Street from 10 to 11 a.m. and noon to 1 p.m.

Through the survey project, the students learn about math and analyzing statistics to see how the numbers of a survey can be represented in different ways, Sanborn said.

They can be effective in swaying people’s opinions, he said.

The students also learn how to approach people, to gather information and the social skills involved with talking to people they don’t know in a friendly, polite way.

RF, sporting a red T-shirt with the school name on it, said it was hard for him to go up to people he didn’t know and ask them questions. But JB of Montague, 11, a sixth grader, said she thought it was fun. “It’s nice- to know how people are shopping for locally grown, organic food,” she said. “And it lets them know hey should.”

Rebecca L. Golden, a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at the school, said the food issue is an important one “because our average food travels 1,500 miles to get to our plate.” And in a world where oil and gas prices are rising, it’s important to know where to get food locally and also to buy organic J food.

After collecting the survey responses, the students will crunch and interpret the numbers then create a report complete with pie and bar charts to take to the agricultural organization and interested town committees.

Last year, Greenfield Center School students surveyed nearly 400 people; they hoped for 500 this year, though some people indicated they were too busy. Nonetheless, “They get a good response. Adults seem to like to talk to kids,” Sanborn a said.

© 2007 The Republican Company.  All rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission.

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