JULY 11, 2018
Taipei: Fighting food waste one rice ball at a time
TAIPEI. Global Scholars in Taipei, Taiwan had everything they needed for a successful Community Action Project, although they confessed to some self-doubt. First, they reviewed data from a school survey they had conducted as part of Feeding our Cities.
Taipei students were stunned to see how much food was wasted
They learned that Taipei schools throw out 10 tons of food each day.
When they interviewed a local food worker, they learned that nearby tea shop workers threw out “a huge amount of fruit peel and tea leaves.”
Many students disliked school lunch. (“Sometimes it is greasy. Sometimes it's too bland. Once we had bubble milk tea and we found milk powder at the bottom of the drink. These make us doubt if the food is cooked properly.”)
For the final Community Action Project, Global Scholars knew they needed to search for bite-sized solutions to global problems, something they could do in their own schools and cities to make an immediate difference.
They brainstormed and came up with a multi-part solution to food waste, even to disappointing lunches:
Project 1: Rice balls
“We plan to shape the leftover rice from our school lunch into round rice balls using beeswax cloth.”
Project 2: disappointing lunch
“After we talked with our principal, we decided to take photos of the leftover school lunch and make posters to ask the school lunch company to provide fresher and healthy school lunch. “
Project 3: recycling fruit peel
"We are collecting the fruit peel from the tea shops and our school lunch to make dishwashing soap!"
Learning to Take Action
Food waste was one challenge; skepticism about taking on such a large challenge was another. “Students think these projects are fun, but they still doubt if they can make a change in school and community,” reported their teacher, Lingyun Chang.
Self-efficacy is one of the general learning outcomes that global digital education can advance. Global Cities defines self-efficacy as the ability and motivation to learn, adapt, take action, and put forth one’s best effort, particularly in challenging situations. Research suggests that students start to develop self-efficacy during the middle school years. (Here is a helpful overview by Frank Pajares.)
That doesn’t mean that students ages 10-13 need to solve the world’s problems before summer arrives. But they do benefit from identifing problems and taking local action. A global e-classroom provides exposure to new problems and allows students to consider the impact their actions might have on their peers, communities, and even world.
Taipei students found ideas and encouragement for their Community Action Project in the Global Scholars e-classroom. They also found inspiration in their community, visiting a local nature park to see how a professional created something delicious and healthy from food on-hand.
Encouraged, the students began to collect leftover rice from their lunches. They completed their poster advocating for better lunches, securing signatures of support from teachers as well as the principal. They even worked with local tea shops to collect leftover fruit peel.
Each action helped students envision small actions with clear personal pay-offs. The rice balls, for instance, would not only salvage food leftover from lunch, but would fend off a common afternoon problem among middle school students: "it can make me not hungry in the afternoon."
Early results are promising. The school lunch vendor, for instance, "accepted our opinion and poster and have committed themselves to providing students better school lunch next semester!"
Taipei students present a poster with 129 signatures to the school lunch vendor
As for sharing rice balls with other classes, Lingyun reports: “The students eat the rice balls they make! We are sharing the idea with other classes so that they can make their rice balls if they want to 😊” Inspiring others is a form of community action, too.
What would Taipei students tell other students? “They can make stuff and make a difference,” said Aashika. George added: “My advice is to continue trying, no matter if you think it is going to fail, because from my experience, to give up is to throw away your chance.”
See community action projects around the world on Twitter by following the hashtag #GlobalScholarsTakeAction.
Nina Sonenberg, Global Cities Communications