Fall 2010 I attended the CU Bioneers Conference, in which people who are making a difference in the world present their ideas and accomplishments. One of the speakers was Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) head chef, Ann Cooper. In addition to being a BVSD employee, she is a national advocate for healthier school lunches across the country and founded the School Food Project.
Ann spoke about the need for our children to have access to healthier school lunches. She spoke of our societal problems of childhood obesity and other diseases, as well as issues of our children's attention and learning problems. A healthier lunch is a concrete step toward addressing these challenges. She shared how BVSD is now offering healthier lunches and a fresh salad bar through the School Food Project.
I was inspired by her talk, and approached her offering my help, since I was a BVSD teacher. She gave me her card and told me to contact her to volunteer.
Spring 2011 The perfect opportunity to volunteer came in the spring, when the School Food Project hosted several "Rainbow on My Plate" days at Ryan Elementary, where I taught music. The School Food Project had just initiated changes to the school lunches that included organic food, more fresh fruits and vegetables, and nonprocessed menu items. At these "Rainbow on My Plate" days, students were encouraged to make a "rainbow on their plate" by choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as the healthier new menu items. Being a healthy eater myself, I volunteered to help.
The excitement of the kids was palpable. If they had a certain number of fruits or vegetables, they got an "I Made a Rainbow on My Plate" sticker. They were helping each other make good choices, bragging about what the had on their plate, and coming back for second and third helpings. I was moved by their enthusiasm.
After lunch, the 4th graders had their music class. They came in so excited about their rainbow stickers that I dropped my music lesson and decided to focus on talking about their experiences in the lunch room and thoughts on the changes. I started with some questions.
"Do you know what foods are healthy?" "Do you know why it's important to eat healthy food?" "Can you name more than 3 fruits or 3 vegetables?" "Do you know where our food comes from?" "Do you understand why the school district is making changes to the menu?" "Do you understand that eating food that is grown or raised organically is healthy for the planet too?"
I was appalled by their lack of knowledge and understanding. I knew what the missing piece was-----EDUCATION! Education that is accessible and appealing to this age group. Education through song!
That afternoon in my car on my way home from work, I started writing a children's song called "A Rainbow on My Plate." I finished it two days later. The song is a start toward explaining what healthy food is and why it's important for our bodies.
Earth Day 2011 I was on a mission to use my song to help fill the education gap. I got permission to produce an Earth Day assembly. At the assembly, some of my students performed "Rainbow on My Plate," which was a huge success. Also, Chef Ann Cooper came and talked with the students about eating healthy. Ghitta Carrol, another district employee, spoke about how the district is making changes to run its operations in a more sustainable way. One of my students performed an Earth Day song that she wrote. It was an exciting assembly.
A few days after the assembly I approached Lisa Collins from the district Communications office about producing a video of the song. She did it for free, and now the video is on the School Food Project website, as well as on YouTube.
Fall 2011 By now, my vision had broadened to include songs not only about healthy eating, but also about healing our planet. I wrote seven more songs that fall. By Christmas, they were in various stages of completion---some were still scratches in notepad. But for some, I created the sheet music and musical accompaniment tracks in my home studio. Now I just needed a children's choir. . . . .
Spring 2012 I was in luck! I discovered that Creekside Elementary had a late start on Wednesday mornings so that all teachers would have common collaboration time. While teachers were collaborating, students got to choose from a broad selection of classes. I approached the music teacher and principal about offering a Sing the World Green choir during this time. They were into it, so I advertised to the school and started my first Sing the World Green choir!
It was comprised of 3rd through 5th graders, and they learned 8 songs, 3 of which I had composed. They loved being in choir and really enjoyed the performance at the end of the year.
Fall 2012 to Fall 2014 I got another music teaching job in Adams 12 for the fall of 2012. It was in a new school district, so I was overwhelmed with work and didn't have time to think about Sing the World Green. By the time I had been in the district for 2 years, I started composing again.
Spring 2015 I had a choir of 3rd through 5th graders, and we decided that our theme for our Spring Concert would be Earth Day, so I considered this choir to be my second Sing the World Green Choir. We also decided that for Earth Day, we wouldn't just sing about saving the planet, but that we would do something about it. So I partnered with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, and worked with their youth coordinator to have my students participate in a mini ecological restoration project. They made seed balls, which were used to be planted in areas that were affected by the 2013 flood. They loved being a part of the solution, and I created a slideshow of them working that we shared at the concert. They also performed 2 of my compositions at the concert.
Summer 2015 to Spring 2016 This is when I decided to take Sing the World Green to the next level. I created logo and website, and started working with a friend on creating professional piano accompaniments and recordings of my songs. I also started planning for the first Sing the World Green choir camp in the summer of 2016.
Summer 2016 Our first Sing the World Green choir camp! There was singing, skits, arts and crafts, a beat-boxing workshop, a water party with pizza, etc. We also did a stewardship project, restoring some damaged open space in Boulder County.
Spring 2018 One of my original compositions, "What a World," was performed by the 5th grade Adams 12 Honor Choir. I got to conduct my song, which was an honor. It was amazing to hear my song sung by so many beautiful children's voices.
Summer 2018 Our second Sing the World Green choir camp. But this one had a different focus. Four of my original compositions were almost ready for publication, except that I needed recordings of children singing them! I recruited the "best of the best" middle school choir students from an old BVSD colleague of mine. They learned all of the songs in 4 days, and on Friday of the camp, we went into the studio and laid down the vocal tracks. The goal is to have them available for sale by the fall.