As a professional chef, I know how important an understanding of mathematics is for success in business and everyday life.  The tools and methods I have used for running a profitable kitchen have aided me in gaining control over my personal home economics.  Setting a budget, maximizing materials and minimizing waste, cost analysis and menu pricing, creating tasty recipes, and sourcing the highest quality organic local produce all involve math skills.  Many people in Santa Cruz are health conscious, so attention to nutritional value and using alternatives to processed ingredients is imperative.  Not everyone will become a professional chef, but everyone needs to eat and feed their families.  I believe we all have a right to sustainably grown, poison free and highly nutritious food.  Learning how to set a food budget and prepare wholesome meals has many benefits such as building personal responsibility and developing an ecological consciousness.  From my personal experience and perhaps yours, many people believe eating healthy costs far more that eating convenient foods and fast food.  To test this assumption, our school will be conducting a year long project where students collect their grocery and fast food receipts.  We will chart healthy and non-healthy items and compare costs and nutritional values of all food purchases to test this theory.  We will compile daily nutritional values to see if our students meet their daily intake requirements and develop a math curriculum to calculate deficiencies.  Our students will also research health care related issues and costs to evaluate the real costs, both immediate and long term, of unhealthy lifestyles.

The general principles related to our curriculum are as follows: Mathematics curriculum is project oriented and builds essential life skills.  Grade appropriate lessons which are interactive with our sustainable garden will provide an opportunity for both direct instruction and guided discovery.  Two year length projects will be assigned for each combination class to work on collaboratively under the theme of sustainability as follows:

  1. Eating for Sustainability, both personal and planetary
  2. Rainwater Catchment Tank Program

The first item is described above.  The second is based on a grant similar to Alameda Countywide Clear Water Program.  With this grant, our school was able to secure a rainwater catchment tank, collecting 200 gallons of water for every inch of recorded rainfall.  Our other year-long math project is to use the water program grant to calculate storm water runoff, rates of erosion, and water table levels

The curriculum is geared to opening a dialectic inquiry and necessitates the students explaining how they arrived at their findings.  Along with our ongoing projects, students will have the opportunity to engage in smaller projects, such as calculating water usage, weighing trash, comparing costs of traditional and "green" materials, and using the garden to examine the cost of sustainability.  Because we care about the health and well being of our students, lessons are sometimes planned around food preparation.  Creating recipes and math problems based on these brings the function of an understanding math into focus in a relevant way.