During my first visit to the Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC), Daisy, a black hen, laid an egg at my feet as the students eagerly acquainted me with their vegetable beds.
It was just one of many astonishing firsts I’ve experienced at this innovative green public school on Chicago’s underserved southwest side.
AGC’s mission is to empower children to be mindful leaders in their community and the world beyond. Schoolyard chickens and edible gardens are examples of how environmental sustainability is embedded throughout AGC’s curriculum, daily practices and culture. Math and science are taught through solar panels, a demonstration wind turbine, rain barrels and vermicomposting bins. Students take part in daily yoga, wellness and nutrition instruction and enjoy healthy, organic, made-from-scratch breakfast and lunch in their zero-waste cafeteria.
Now in the sixth year of operation, this tuition-free, open-enrollment school currently serves 350 K-6 grade students, composed of 91 percent minority, 79 percent low-income and 20 percent special-education children. An International Baccalaureate school committed to academic excellence, AGC students have outperformed their nearest public school counterparts by 33 percent in state testing.
I first learned about the school while writing a series about pioneering green women in Chicagoland, which featured Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, AGC’s founder. Recognized by Forbes in 2013 as one of the nation’s top five gamechangers in education, Ippel notes, “Our larger vision is focused on systemic change and inspiring the way society educates future generations.”
The Academy incubates innovations and is committed to open sourcing best practices—with bold plans to positively impact 20 million students by 2020. AGC has welcomed more than 6,000 visitors from around the world, developed a Sustainable Schools Handbook, and helped create the first school garden food safety manual adopted by CPS. Ippel and her world-class team advance AGC’s vision widely, from TEDx talks to global forums. Accolades for AGC include the Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge Gold with Distinction Award from Michelle Obama, one of the nation’s first Green Ribbon Schools Award, and recognition by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as an “exemplary model” for Chicago.
A showcase school for learning in the 21st century, AGC is planning to build the first net-positive energy, urban farm campus in the country. This dream campus will include vegetable gardens, fruit orchards, a greenhouse and a native forest with walking trails. Power will be generated by wind, solar and geothermal energy, and water will be collected and reused on site. An engaging indoor and outdoor learning environment will follow “The Third Teacher” philosophy outlined by Winnetka designer Bruce Mau and CannonDesign.
So captivated by this groundbreaking school and its nurturing of next generation changemakers, my initial blog post turned to personal action. I joined AGC’s Board of Directors, will serve as co-chair for the upcoming Chef’s Playground gala, and our family foundation has donated a challenge grant to encourage others to join this cause. My enthusiasm is shared by Bon Appétit Management Company’s CEO Fedele Bauccio, 18 top chefs including Tony Mantuano, Paul Kahan and Jeff Mauro, and two rave mixologists who will come together to celebrate this school and movement at Chefs’ Playground on May 15. While Daisy won’t be there to egg us on, join the party to eat up all that AGC has to offer!