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refQUEST; An Exploration of Learning in the 21st Century

refQUEST is the foundation's way of incorporating the community in an open forum discussion that enhances the mission, to “fulfill learning at every age.” Through community conversations, ideas are explored, “hot” and current topics are tackled, demystifying some burning questions about recent research on learning in the 21st century.

Here's what we've done over the years and project to do…

In partnership with the Mark Twain Library, REF launched refQUEST, an effort to evolve “adult ed” into a considered approach to learning in the Digital Age. In our first year, we began at the neurological root of learning, a year long exploration of “The Brain Learning Connection” Thanks to the generous support of Crown House Publishing, REF researched and purchased 25 titles accessible through Mark Twain Library, then hosted eight “Conversations” on topics ranging from brain learning basics to non-drug treatments for learning differences, resiliency in the face of genocide, the adolescent brain and Nurturing Creativity. Both the list of books at the library and the conversation on The Teenage Brain may be accessed on our RESOURCES link.

REF focused the next year's conversations on Wellness. In order to learn and function at optimum levels, we have to know how to achieve wellness. REF hosted 8 lunch-time “Conversations” which took place at the Mark Twain Library. The CHEK Institute structured the conversation. The topics ranged from differentiating organic from commercially raised foods, cooked vs. raw foods, food processing, genetically modified foods, what detoxification is, and other health concerns. The Conversations were supplemented with email links and articles of interest. A PDF of books is available for download on our RESOURCES page.

This was the next subject for yearlong focus. This next series of Conversations kicked off with Murry Christensen and Robert Moran leading a discussion on learning in the Digital Age. The introduction was recorded and is available on YouTube for viewing. Just go to our RESOURCES page to make the connection.

REF previewed the movie “Two Angry Moms” to both the Redding and Easton CT communities to help educate them about how to change school food in 2008. It featured two concerned moms who are fed up with the state of food culture in not only our school cafeterias but in our nation. The movie offered strategies for overcoming roadblocks for getting healthy, good tasting, real food in cafeterias. It also explored the roles of the federal government, corporate interests, school administration and parents play in feeding our country's school kids. You can learn more at www.angrymoms.org as well as www.betterschoolfood.org. as well as others on our RESOURCES page.

The original intention of a national school lunch program was to provide calories and nutrients to children at risk. We now provide an over abundance of calories in our school lunches, trapped in unhealthy ingredients. Yet the nutritional value remains in question. Most lunches are commercially produced, packaged, processed and preserved for “eternity.” As a result, schools are able to control stock for the year yet our nation's children are suffering an unprecedented rise in type II diabetes, obesity, allergies & other chronic diseases that were once only found in adults. For the first time in our nation's history, our children have a lower life expectancy than their parents' generation. Clearly, if schools can make the connection between food and health, our children will make healthier lifelong choices.

REF asks for your support to raise $10,000 to hire a consultant charged with transforming the school lunch program to include, real, locally sourced and cooked food and served within the existing price structure. The mission is to partner with others close to home, creating local and planet healthy food programs, build on existing systems to incorporate new, sustainable practices for serving seasonally fresh, nutritional, and delicious foods during school lunch hours. Beyond the school lunch table, the grant will also help schools learn how to build and maintain their own gardens, investigate current agribusiness vs. organic and local farm practice, and even get kids in the kitchen to cook and prepare their own meals!

While no one denies the logic nor necessity of transforming the table, food is an emotional issue to each of us. Let's do this intelligently, with wide community participation and dialogue to enable our children to make sound choices about their long-term health and the planet's well being. Check out our RESOURCES page for an abundance of information about this topic.

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