In Grade 7, students learned about the food industry and the power of the consumer in their second unit, Healthy Living & Consumerism. This 12-week unit challenged students with various criteria across English and Humanities through reading and analyzing the class novel, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Young Readers Edition, presentation and cooking skills for the MasterChef Challenge and synthesis of knowledge and understanding in their Healthy Meal Project.

Using The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Young Readers Edition as the backbone of this unit, students learned about how ‘fast food’ has changed the food and consumer culture not only in the United States, but across the world. Students also encountered a number of documentaries relating to the food industry and consumerism and made connections across the several sources. They learned that eating healthily and buying products that are not harmful to nature are more complicated than it may seem.

Gaining better insight into the food industry and how food is produced and sold, students were tasked with choosing and preparing a signature dish in the MasterChef Challenge. Students had to explain the process for producing their dish, including the origin of the ingredients, reasons and the ecological impact(s) of the ingredients. As a summative assessment, the students tested their cooking skills a bit more by preparing a whole meal for their family and present their process in their Healthy Meal Project. This summative task tested students’ understanding and application of their understanding of the past 10+ weeks in the Healthy Living & Consumerism unit into their presentation.

The culminating activity was a Sustainability Field Trip on 11 February to various locations in the Beyoğlu area of Istanbul. This experience allowed students to see the real-life application of such issues in their host country.

Students split into groups and, on the rainy Thursday, visited a local restaurant (Ek Biç Ye İç or Heirloom) and Closet Circuit, a creative arts space where students learned about how clothes are made. Students even visited the Istanbul Modern Art Museum, which hosted an exhibit on Sustainability and Nature. All venues allowed students to experience how citizens in Istanbul are promoting sustainable living and healthy food using local, clean ingredients.

“[The field trip] definitely reflected on how we have learned about sustainability and globalization well… Not only was the food delicious but it sums up what we have learned about how localisation is good for the economy and how food without GMO’s and chemicals in it tastes much better than processed food,” said Adam.

Some students even made connections to their own lives.

“[At Closet Circuit,] I was impressed by the video about fair trade cotton, as I’ve lived two years in Kolkata and I felt sad about the Bangladeshi people. There is a possibility to help them,” said Phillip.

Overall, the general consensus was that even though students had to walk to each of the venues in the rain, the trip was worthwhile.

“I believe that this trip was beneficial to me and to everyone else because throughout the unit, we have learned so many new things like where our food comes from and what is in it, and for [restaurants] to be supporting that and promoting sustainability made me realize that we didn’t just learn everything for nothing and that people do care about what they eat and how it affects them and the world,” said Selin.