The Gillings Sustainable Agriculture Project: A Gillings Innovative Laboratory

Back to middle school I go….

It had been a long time since I last found myself in a middle school, and as I pushed my way through the glass doors into Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill my pre-adolescent memories suddenly swirled back to me – the excitement and stress of dances, trying desperately to open my locker (I was always forgetting the combo), trapper keepers, middle school plays, basketball games, the list could go on and on. I went to middle school in Tokyo, but walking down the halls of this middle school here in the Triangle, I found it felt very similar to my own.

Though this trip down memory lane was nice, I was really here to help with the 3rd annual Cyclone Games – an event sponsored by the booster club and organized and supported by Dr. Alice Ammerman and several UNC graduate students. The event started a few years ago when the scoreboards in the gym needed replacing. Instead of traditional fundraising activities, the parents decided to hold an event that would bring together families, teachers and students while promoting physical activity.

As in the past, this year’s games turned the gym into a sort of Olympic stage where different games took turns as the feature presentation, with teachers playing against students. An announcer provided the running commentary on volleyball matches, relay races, scooter basketball and other traditional and non-traditional games alike. Admission fees were charged for the event and this money helps raise the funds necessary to continue to promote healthy physical activity at Smith Middle.

Local food played a part too! Graduate students made pizzas with local sausage from ECO farm as well as a steamed cabbage slaw from Lyon Farms and helped dole out food to a long line of hungry students once the games finished. (They served an impressive amount of people quickly – 140 people in fifteen minutes!) The kids loved the meal with many braving veggie topped pizzas and the cabbage slaw. We hope that families were inspired to seek out these farms in the future to enjoy similar kinds of locally grown and raised products in their own households.

It was a fun event to be a part of, and with memories of how hard the pre-teen years can be (in Tokyo, Chapel Hill or elsewhere), it was especially great to see the kids just letting loose and having a good time. Many thanks to May May Leung for leading the volunteers and Smith Middle’s cafeteria staff for allowing us to come in to prepare food for the games! Follow this link to read about the event in The Chapel Hill News. Posted by Anna.

Ovens inside the Cafeteria

UNC graduate students, Lucia Leone and May May Leung, help get pizzas ready in the kitchen.

The meal finished with students sampling healthy desserts that were rated in a contest. Here, a delectable looking fruit pizza.