“Teaching kids to count is cool but I believe in teaching them what counts is so much more critical.” – Stephen Ritz
On January 18, 2016, Stephen Ritz brought his unique brand of enthusiasm and inspiration to audience members at the What Works Dubai Steam event, hosted by Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) at the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Medical Center Dubai Healthcare City.
The collaboration between the KHDA and Mr Ritz, highlights the important work that the KHDA is doing in providing educators with effective continuing professional development sessions that feature international presenters, who bring with them fresh, innovative and proven strategies that are changing the way in which we do teaching and learning.
Mr Ritz is a Global Teacher Prize Top Ten Finalist (2015), educator, CEO (Chief Eternal Optimist) and founder of the innovative Green Bronx Machine. He expounded on the importance of students not only knowing where their food comes from, but actively engaging in the process of growing their own food.
Hailing from South Bronx in the United States, he describes his neighbourhood as a desert with limited opportunities for students to excel academically and to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In an attempt to effect a positive change in his students’ lives and circumstances, Mr Ritz embarked on an innovative project. This project merged technology with growing seeds to create green, edible walls inside classrooms and buildings.
The success of the project captured the attention and imagination of his students, his entire school, his community, the entire country, and provided them with amazing opportunities, as well as needed resources to further expand what is now the Green Bronx Machine.
At the conclusion of a very engaging presentation, Mr Ritz received a standing ovation from the audience, who were impressed by the project and inspired to join in the campaign for healthier students, teachers, families, communities and a healthier world.
This project proved to be hugely successful as it helped students to achieved the following:
- Improved student attendance ( from 40% to 93%) and overall academic performance
- An increased understanding and application of knowledge obtained from the project across subjects
- Healthier students, families and by extension community, as parents became involved with the project
- Actual job opportunities as well as positive attention from the media and influential people (CNN, NBC, the White House, Oprah Winfrey among others).
To learn more about the work that Steve is doing, check out his Facebook page and Ted Talk via the links below and look out for a more detailed exclusive interview with him in the next issue of Teach UAE Magazine!
Green Bronx Machine Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/green.BX.machine
TedX Manhattan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7uFnvnjIKw