South Fayette receives grant celebrating bold ideas for a preferred future and “Freight to Plate” concept

South Fayette Twp School District  |  Posted on

The administration of South Fayette Township School District (SFTSD) is excited to announce the receipt of $70,000 in funding through Remake Learning’s Moonshot Grant program, generously provided by The Grable Foundation and The Benedum Foundation. The award is a result of a successful application showcasing the district’s bold ideas for the future of K-12 education and willingness to challenge what has become the status quo in primary and secondary schools.

“South Fayette strives to always be future-focused, student-centered, and innovation-driven,” said Director of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships Dr. Matthew Callison, who is tasked, along with Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kristin Deichler, with implementing the award. “The Moonshot Grant pushed us to look ten to fifteen years into the future and really consider where we want to be as an educational institution. As it turns out, our vision is an extension and expansion of what we have already begun to do in our schools.”

Much of the district’s grant application revolved around a developing Freight to Plate program which is intended to challenge traditional notions of classroom-based learning and conventional career exploration by integrating agriculture with culinary arts and cultural education. Funds from the grant will be used to purchase a 16-foot food trailer complete with commercial-grade kitchen that will be used for demonstrations and hands-on interaction.

As a result of a grant received last year, South Fayette has already installed a Freight Farm on campus – a solar-powered, vertical, hydroponic, climate-controlled growing environment located within a shipping container. Students at South Fayette are currently involved in planting, tending, harvesting, and marketing produce grown in the farm, and the district has partnered with Parkway West Career and Technical Center to make crops available for their culinary program as well as their on-site restaurant and store.

The Moonshot Grant will allow for expanded use of the existing freight farm and the mobility of the Freight to Plate trailer will allow for a broader range of instruction and participation. “Our community has grown exponentially over the past decade,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michelle Miller. “We have welcomed students from dozens of different backgrounds into our schools and are seeking ways to encourage involvement and reduce barriers among various cultures to build a more inclusive community. The more we have thought about it, the obvious connection – the universal language – is food.”

In the grant application, district administrators stated that the preferred future at SFTSD includes the following:

  1. Workforce exposure and exploration beginning well before high school,
  2. Authentic experiences that engage whole-person development and participation in the larger community and world,
  3. Sharing/transferring of learning experiences across districts so students are not limited by the financial resources of their home district, and
  4. Community and family engagement in education with a focus on relationship building and cultural understanding.

The existing freight farm, plans to add bee hives (also funded through the Moonshot grant), and the ability to develop a cohesive Freight to Plate program with the food trailer, captures all four goals. The practice bridges the gap between theoretical learning and real-world application, and makes it possible for students to investigate a variety of interests and career possibilities from farming and beekeeping, to environmental science, to banking, business and marketing, culinary arts, and more. The climate-controlled freight farm allows for the cultivation of ethnically-diverse items that may not be typical in our region. Those plants become ingredients cooked up in the Freight to Plate trailer which serves as a mobile classroom and will be accessible to both urban and suburban learners. The opportunities for career and cultural discussion, exploration, and participation are endless.

The district’s grant proposal included implementation details of the Freight to Plate program. “Over the past year, we have been partnering with Avonworth, Elizabeth Forward, and Duquesne City school districts and World of Work Pittsburgh to put into practice the RIASEC career initiative to prepare our students for career development and gainful employment,” said Dr. Deichler. “Starting as early as Kindergarten, our learners begin to identify their interests, explore their strengths, and develop workplace values, all of which will grow along with them. With a fully mobile Freight to Plate program, students across all four districts, and potentially more, will connect with a variety of potential careers and gain responsibility and skill-development. Plus we can involve the community through food-centric cultural events and shared dining experiences.”

In addition to being a mobile agricultural hub, proposed plans for the Freight to Plate trailer include that it double as a video production studio allowing for sessions within the trailer to be aired live or recorded and rebroadcast. SFTSD anticipates an immediate launch of their grant proposal including purchasing the fully-outfitted trailer, aka Food Truck, by January 2024.

Of the ten Moonshot Grants announced by Remake Learning, SFTSD is also a joint recipient, with Baldwin-Whitehall and Beaver Area school districts, of the funding to continue the Fly Like a Girl (FLAG) Drone Academy that was hosted on the SFTSD campus last summer.