Food For Thought
The Ecology and Geography of Local Food and the Science in Food Prep
Have you ever wondered where the apple in your lunchbox came from? In this module, we’ll explore where the food that we eat comes from and how the local climate in Fairbanks limits the local production. We’ll visit local farms to learn about varying farming techniques and practices. We’ll explore the different techniques farmers use to maximize yield during our short growing season and keep pests away. Students will study agro-ecological concepts with hands on lessons and on-farm experiences. They’ll see where farmer’s market food comes from and understand the steps to how it is produced. Additionally, students will use Google Earth to map the distance their meals travel to get to Fairbanks. Final projects include: 1) student designed and planted garden and 2) individual maps tracking the distribution of Fairbanks grown products after leaving the farm.
Everyone needs food to live, but you have to prepare that food correctly so people don’t get sick! Lots of wild foods grow in Alaska—but which ones can you safely eat?This module will focus on the biology and chemistry of food preparation. Students will collect and identify wild foods, such as berries, then learn ways to prepare them and even preserve them to eat later in the year.Did you know that you can cook with acid as well as heat?That even though some bacteria can make you sick, others can be used to make cheese and yogurt?Students will learn how to use yeast to bake bread and to make easy, tasty carbonated soft drinks. Finally, students will learn the difference between a fruit and a vegetable, understand how bees make honey, and explain which taste buds are responsible for those foods that they love (or don’t love). Students will learn how to preserve meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit safely, and try out some traditional foods from other countries, as well.They’ll even make some yummy snacks to take home and share with their family!
Sally Kieper has a BA in Elementary Education and Environmental Education. She also has a BS in Natural Resources: Environmental Education and Interpretations with a minor in Camp and Youth Agency Administration and Programming. In addition to her education, Sally has extensive experience as a teacher and is currently a teacher for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. Aside from her teaching experience in a classroom, Sally was also the Program Head of Hidden Villa Summer Camp and an instructor for Upham Woods 4-H Environmental Education Center where she taught ecology lessons and led outdoor activities for youth grades K-12.
Rebecca is a M.S. student in the Biology and Wildlife department at UAF. Her research focuses on boreal wetland ecology and permafrost thaw cycles. Currently much of interior Alaska is underlain with discontinuous permafrost but climate change is taking its toll on frozen soils. Increases in disturbance events, such as drought and fire, warmer air temperatures, and longer summers, have created widespread thaw of permafrost throughout Alaska. As a result, ecosystems shift from frozen spruce forests to soggy wetlands and lakes. Rebecca is monitoring these shifts by studying changes in soil conditions, plant growth, and nutrient cycles to gain a better understanding of the possible effects of climate change.
Before attending UAF, Rebecca work on a variety of science ventures, both as an undergraduate and as a technician. At George Washington University in Washington D.C., she earned a B.S. in Environmental Science, and went on to work for the USGS, the US Forest Service, the state of Colorado, and private consulting firms on various wildlife and ecology survey, monitoring, and research projects. Additionally, Rebecca can often be found running, skiing, and generally frolicking on trails throughout the Fairbanks area, with the occasional stop to pick berries, identify a rare flower, or just take in the beauty of Alaska.