Last updated: 23 March 2015
Students at Miami Country Day School in Miami, Florida, learn about solar cooking at a very young age -- four years old, to be exact. That is the age when the youngest students begin to explore the possibilities that abound when the sun's energy is exploited for cooking and water pasteurization. "Granted," instructor Rowena Gerber says, "the four year old will most likely hand you his super-melted crayon biscuit he made in his 'sun trap', but ... that same child will be designing his own unique solar cooker by the tender age of eight."
The innovative Rowena Gerber, director of The Abess Center for Environmental Studies at Miami Country Day School, leads students ages 4-12 through a project-based curriculum that encourages critical thinking and questioning and allows children to explore a fascinating range of subject matter in a hands-on manner. Students assume the roles of scientists, journalists, illustrators, poets, teachers, cooks and young socially conscious entrepreneurs, among other things.
For years Ms. Gerber's students have traveled to New York for the annual YouthCaN conference to present solar cooking workshops to over 1000 students exploring environmental issues and solutions. In preparation for the workshops, her students research the history of solar cooking, study the environmental and social implications of cooking with traditional fuel sources, write poems and songs about solar energy, and design solar cookers. In addition, the students recently presented solar cooking workshops to children from over 100 countries at the International Children's Conference on the Environment held in Canada.
Miami Country Day School students are active in "real world" solar cooking projects as well. They produce and sell herbal vinegars, solar-infused oils, salsa, and many other food items from gardens they plant and tend at the center. With money from these sales, the students have been supporting a solar cooking project in Haiti for the past eight years. More recently, they have partnered with Rotary International to help fund solar ovens for refugees in Afghanistan. These are the high-capacity Villager ovens produced by Sun Ovens International, costing over US $10,000 each. To date at least five of the ovens have been shipped. The funds raised by students for this effort already approach US $4000!
Rowena Gerber was recently presented with an Excellence in Teaching grant from Curriculum Associates, based on her efforts to incorporate solar cooking into the classroom. We congratulate her and her students and colleagues for this honor, and thank them for all their wonderful work and dedication.
[This text was borrowed from http://solarcooking.org/newsletters/scrnov02.htm#classroom.]
News and recent developments
- October 2012: Students, parents, faculty, staff and friends gathered at Miami Country Day School located in Miami, Florida, USA on Friday, April 20, 2012 and set the Guinness Book of World Records™ for “The Most Cookies Baked in One Hour Using Solar Ovens”. Trays of unbaked cookies were placed in 40 smaller solar ovens, as well as, two Villager solar ovens. After the cookies were baked and 1225 counted....a World Record was set! The event raised over $18,000 USD, which was used to send the 40 solar ovens and a Villager oven to Haiti. The cookies baked in the event were donated to Feeding South Florida. The event was lead by Matthew Cohen, a high school junior who has been actively involved in the solar oven movement for the past nine years. Cohen launched the website Power from the Sun to educate people worldwide on the benefits of solar cooking and help raise money to send solar ovens to needy families in Haiti. Cohen’s latest project is aptly named “The Life Of The Traveling Solar Oven” and encourages students, parents, teachers, and local businesses to sponsor a solar oven. Participants are asked to use the solar oven, document their experience with video or photos and share it on their facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/PowerFromTheSun. The event will conclude on Earth Day 2013.
- November 2010: On November 20th, Rowena received the Global Educator Award from the 6th Annual MY HERO Film Festival to recognize the incredible impact of her Solar Oven Project. Over the years, Gerber and her students have raised thousands of dollars to send solar cookers to Senegal, Haiti and Afghanistan. Gerber chose sites that were “sun rich, but so poor otherwise.” These solar ovens harness sunlight to make a tremendous difference in the lives of families. In the process, the Solar Oven Project also teaches children about the importance of protecting and preserving their environment. More Information...
- August 2009: Rowena Gerber was honored as a Teacher Hero on http://www.myhero.com. Click here for a the full article, including a statement from a student as well as an interview with Rowena.
- November 2007: Rowena Gerber, director of the Abess Center for Environmental Studies at Miami Country Day School, reports that her students’ solar cooking activities during Earth Day in New York’s Central Park were quite successful. At 6:00 a.m., Paul Munsen, president of Sun Ovens International, set up one of his company’s giant Villager Sun Ovens® as a teaser to draw a crowd. ABC television broadcast solar cooking updates throughout the day, at various stages of the process. During one segment, the anchor man was served a solar-cooked breakfast of sausage, eggs and cinnamon rolls! As the day progressed, thousands of people filed by to taste the food and learn about solar cooking. Gerber’s students brought some of the solar cookers they had made from recycled materials, and cooked chicken, sausage, hotdogs, corn-on-the-cob, fondue, cookies, bread, and lots of other goodies. Gerber’s students collected donations throughout the day as part of an ongoing effort to raise funds to send a Villager Sun Oven® to Mekhe, Senegal, for a program run by Abdoulaye Toure.
Audio and video
- July 2011:
Miami Country Day School
P.O. Box 380608, Miami, Florida 33238-0608, USA.
Abess Center for Environmental Studies
Miami Country Day School
601 NE 107th St.
Miami, FL 33161
Office: +1 305-779-7272