The Ripple Effect of Wellness in Action at AGC

The Ripple Effect of Wellness in Action at AGC

AGC Wellness Wheel

My name is Bryan Soto, and I have worked as the Health and Wellness Teacher for 3rd-8th grade students at the Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) since 2014.  As part of our curriculum, students learn about the six aspects of wellness – physical, spiritual, social, emotional, intellectual, and environmental. More importantly, we learn and discuss the interconnected nature of these different aspects of our lives. 

Living an active lifestyle and following a healthy diet are only part of the equation when it comes to being healthy and well.  At AGC, our Wellness Wheel guides much of the learning in our class as students learn that their social and emotional wellness (and their understanding of it) also play a critical role in their wellbeing.  Students in our wellness program learn about breathing techniques, different forms of mindfulness activities/exercises, and the importance of meditation and self-reflection. Throughout the years, students have completed a variety of culminating projects that have included self-care guides and manuals, personal growth plans, and emotional first-aid kits to demonstrate their understanding of these practices.

This year I was selected as part of the first group of Pilot Light’s Food Education Fellowship where educators are supported in meeting their school’s rigorous academic standards and nutrition requirements while creating exciting and meaningful learning experiences around food for their students.  With the help of renowned chefs and experienced educators, Pilot Light has developed a cohesive model for classroom food education, incorporating food as a tool for learning and teaching to the more traditional subjects such as Math, Reading, History, and Science.

Pilot Light provided our school with $1,000 for food and supplies that students can use during our lessons, but with close to 300 students in 3rd-8th, I knew that the need for resources was greater than what was granted. Shortly after receiving the grant I started a Donors Choose campaign where I shared our story with our AGC friends, staff, parents, board members, and the rest of the world!  In less than 1 week we raised over $1,700 dollars which were used to purchase kitchen and art supplies for all my students.

Thanks to our Pilot Light partnership this year, AGC also received a mobile teaching kitchen cart which was built using repurposed wood boards from old CPS buildings!  Through a series of games and activities, my students are learning to identify different fruits and vegetables and their health benefits, as well as junk food and its effects on our wellness.  During the year students will learn about cooking/kitchen hygiene and etiquette, practice math every time we read a nutrition label, scale a recipe, or learn about portions and ratios. In class, we discuss culturally appropriate ways in which students can encourage healthier grocery shopping, cooking, and eating practices at home today and into their futures.

Our learning at AGC does not stop in the classroom as students are assigned a series of at-home learning experiences meant to give them an opportunity to apply and demonstrate their learning while making real connections from the classroom to the grocery store, the kitchen, and their lives in general.  Some of my biggest successes go beyond the data that assessments provide and include the anecdotal evidence I constantly receive from my students’ parents. Over the years, I have had parents tell me that after my classes their children refuse to drink soda at home, or begin demanding whole grain bread over white bread, or even going as far as cutting out meat or junk food on their own accord. No success is greater than knowing my class has served as a catalyst for real change in their current life paths and wellness journeys. 





Writing a School Food Policy That Everyone Can Stomach (Free Download!)

Writing a School Food Policy That Everyone Can Stomach (Free Download!)


AGC’s commitment to healthy, sustainable food is central to our model and to our students’ success at AGC and beyond.

Food is a community health issue. Children require proper nutrition for optimal growth and development. Eating habits that begin in childhood play a key role in lifelong health issues like cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, and can impact many other chronic diseases.

Food is a social justice issue. Nutrition-related diseases disproportionately impact low-income and minority communities, and one in four Chicago Public Schools students are obese.

Food is an academic issue.  Nutrition impacts socio-emotional and academic functioning. It is well documented that hunger has a strong negative impact on classroom behavior and academic success. Additionally, major studies have shown that the quality of a student’s diet has a major impact on academic performance even after controlling for socioeconomic factors. 

Unfortunately, most young people are not following healthy dietary guidelines. Schools can send conflicting if not detrimental messages when they promote unhealthy food in their cafeterias, vending machines, bake sales, and as rewards for classroom success.

As we were creating this unique school, knew that we wanted to develop a schoolwide culture that supported our mission and vision surrounding healthy food.

But how do we define healthy food in a way that makes sense to students, is accessible to students, and matches ever-evolving research and medical perspectives?  How do we get our teachers and families on board? How do we ask an entire community to change the way they eat? How do we honor important cultural food norms? How do we ensure that no one feels ashamed? How can we meet our students and families where they are and inspire them to grow?

We knew that it was important that our staff and parents model healthy choices for our students. We knew we wanted to help our students develop a healthy relationship with food and an appreciation for healthy food. We knew that we needed to create a schoolwide wellness policy that included nutrition guidelines.

Like most things at AGC, our food policy grew organically, over many conversations with different stakeholders. Our policy was a living breathing thing. It began as a sensible “stoplight” based on nationally accepted best practices. Over the years, specific items would appear at school that would challenge the framework. We had heated debates with our students over the hot sauce they brought from home which was salty and processed, but, they argued, encouraged them to eat more vegetables. Over time, the food policy stoplight developed into a lengthy and confusing mix of broad categories and specific products. In recent years, we reflected on the purpose and process of the stoplight in order to better clarify and curate the information.

AGC Food Policy Poster KED.jpg

Click to download AGC’s Food Policy poster for free!


Would you like to implement a food policy stoplight in your school or community?

Contact us at to share your stoplight success story or to inquire about support with culture, curriculum, and operations integration.

Can Yoga Help Disrupt Cycles of Violence in Chicago? AGC and Partners Featured in Illumine Chicago Article

Can Yoga Help Disrupt Cycles of Violence in Chicago? AGC and Partners Featured in Illumine Chicago Article

Last week, AGC was featured in Illumine Chicago’s Anniversary Issue. The piece, which can be explored in full here, follows the work of Carla Tantillo, founder of Mindful Practices.

While teaching in South Lawndale, Tantillo felt powerless to protect against the cycles of violence that ravished their community. While she practiced yoga regularly for her own emotional and physical health, it was’t until she read an article about yoga being taught in schools that she realized the same techniques she used to manage her stress could help her students manage theirs, to lessen the emotional impacts of community violence and even to prevent violent incidents.

Tantillo set her sights on creating an accessible yoga curriculum for students and teachers. AGC was one if the first schools to implement Tantillo’s Mindful Practices approach, which debuted during AGC’s  first school year in 2008, but many have since followed suit. Mindful Practices now offers a dozen unique K-12 programs and teacher trainings in 50 communities all over Chicago, and in 130 schools and schools districts around the world.

Mindful Practices conducted a two-year study with an 80% low-income school and found a 21% decrease in disciplinary referrals for students participating in yoga and mindfulness programming. When a special-needs school implementing the program lost their yoga funding,  they found that disciplinary incidents increased over 300%.

AGC students practice morning yoga / Kristie Kahns for Ditlo


At AGC, the Mindful Practices curriculum has facilitated student-led morning yoga. Students take turns leading their peers through a series of centering poses which help them transition from the excitement of breakfast into their work day. Students, staff, and parents alike have learned to use yoga as a tool to manage their energy and stress.

Tameka Lawson
AGC parent Tameka Lawson leads yoga in Englewood / M. Spencer Green for AP Photo


AGC’s work with Mindful Practices is part of a much larger movement in Chicago and across the world. I Grow Chicago, led by AGC parent, Tameka Lawson, uses yoga and community gardening to bring peace to Chicago’s Englewood community, one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods. Ms. Lawson explains, in this piece from People Magazine, that her students “live in an environment where everything’s rushed, everything’s pressured. So if you breathe through certain things, you are able to see clearer. Then they can act rather than react.” Chicago Police officer Daliah Goree, who refers at-risk youth to Ms. Lawson’s program, agrees: “when they get in a tense situation, they can breathe and relax and make the right decision instead of jumping out at someone and hitting them.”

Academic research supports the work of I Grow Chicago. In a study featuring at-risk and incarcerated youth, researchers in Oakland found significant improvements in stress resilience, self-control and self-awareness among youth in a participants in a yoga and mindfulness program.

To see firsthand the impact of yoga and mindfulness on youth, we invite you to visit AGC for one of our monthly morning tours. See our schedule and sign up here.

AGC 4th Graders Ask McDonalds to “Retire the Clown” in Local Protest

AGC 4th Graders Ask McDonalds to “Retire the Clown” in Local Protest

Last week, on Tuesday, November 12th, AGC’s 4th grade classes joined Corporate Accountability International in protesting McDonalds’ restaurants targeted marketing to children. Their demands were simple: retire the clown! The students’ homemade signs included slogans like “Kids NOT Lovin’ It.” kids not lovin it Siram Madhusoodanan, the director of Corporate Accountability International’s “Value the Meal” campaign, explains that McDonald’s marketing “take[s] advantage of the developmental vulnerability of kids.” In his coverage of the protest for the Chicago Tribune and Pioneer Local, Chuck Fieldman adds “just as the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel were used by tobacco companies in cigarette advertising before being retired, it’s time to retire Ronald McDonald.”

AGC 4th grader Joaquin Valencia and his family were interviewed for the article, as they stopped eating McDonald’s altogether four months ago. “I loved it,” Joaquin said, “but I know that food isn’t good for me.” “Fast food is easy and cheap,” his mother, Minerva acknowledges, “but we need to educate ourselves about what we eat and have to make healthier choices.”

Healthier choices are a foundation of AGC’s educational program and philosophy. Nutritious, local and scratch-made foods are showcased in AGC’s breakfast and lunch menus, explored in AGC’s curriculum, whose International Baccalaureate Programme includes Units of Inquiry like “Farm to Table,” and “We are What we Eat;” and reinforced by the school culture, including in parent-run events like the Taste of AGC Fall Harvest Festival.

4th grade teacher Trey Thompson explains how this field trip fits into AGC’s philosophy and curriculum: “We have a pretty progressive view on how food affects kids, and we eat all organic food at our school. We just finished a unit of inquiry on persuasion, so this was a great exercise in talking about how people are persuaded.” Read the full Chicago Tribune article here.

AGC Seeking Wellness Teacher

AGC Seeking Wellness Teacher

One of our amazing colleagues will be following her husband out of state for an exciting career opportunity, leaving a vacancy in our Wellness program. Please help AGC find our ideal candidate by sharing this job description far and wide.


Third and Fourth Wellness/Physical Ed Teacher/Instructional Interventionist

The Academy for Global Citizenship is seeking a full time Third and Fourth Wellness/Physical Ed Teacher/Instructional Interventionist for the 2014-2015 school year.  This is a position with a flexible schedule that will grow into a full time Wellness/Physical Ed position for the 2015-16 school year.

Teachers are responsible for helping our children learn, classroom management, participating in professional development, providing feedback to others, assisting in the development and improvements of curriculum, and communicating to staff and parents regarding student performance. Teachers must be committed to promoting in students the student profile qualities as described by the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP): inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, well-balanced, and reflective.  Teachers report to the Principal.

Responsibilities include:

  • Teach Wellness/Physical Ed
  • Be an active part of the third and fourth grade teams
  • Providing in-classroom set up with partner teacher for the first four weeks of school
  • Working with the Literacy Specialist to establish a schedule for student intervention
  • Providing small group interventions outside or in the classroom
  • Providing classroom coverage for designated partner teacher during testing
  • Lunch and recess duties


The Academy for Global Citizenship…

  • Believes great teaching can transform the world
  • Strives every single day to make our school a remarkable place
  • Is not afraid to take risks to do what is best for students
  • Takes our name and mission seriously
  • Doesn’t settle for good but strives for great

We are looking for staff who…

  • Believe in culturally relevant teaching
  • Establish relationships with the families in our community
  • Want your work to define best practice
  • Respect and thrive in a dynamic, changing, and growing environment
  • Have a big heart to match a big brain

Working at AGC means…

  • Being surrounded by extraordinary, inquisitive students and hard-working, like-minded colleagues
  • Being held to high standards for continuous personal and school improvement
  • Having high academic expectations for every student in the school everyday
  • Getting your hands dirty in our school garden
  • Supporting Teaching through interdisciplinary International Baccalaureate Units of Inquiry, balanced literacy, arts integration, and TERC Investigations Math
  • Working in an environmentally friendly setting
  • Working hard and thinking outside of the box to do what is best for our students

Preferred Skills and Experience:

  • 2+ years of related experience
  • Strong leadership skills and personal drive
  • Familiarity with an educational environment
  • An entrepreneurial spirit

Education Requirements:

  • Bachelors degree or higher
  • State of Illinois teaching certificate in physical education


To view up-to-date grade level vacancies and to submit an online application, please visit:

We are an Equal Opportunity Employer. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, gender, age national origin, or disability.


Artisan Food Delivery Customers Become “Part of the Loop” for AGC’s Healthy Cooking Club

Artisan Food Delivery Customers Become “Part of the Loop” for AGC’s Healthy Cooking Club, a craft, local and artisan food delivery service has developed an innovative new approach to charitable crowd funding and they have just announced that AGC will be their first beneficiary!

About Artizone ChicagoWe are thrilled by Artizone’s mission to provide– through strong community relationships with small vendors– access to superior quality food. Artizone partners with some of our favorite local, organic and intentional providers, including the delicious and nutritious Green Grocer. We would also like to applaud Artizone for being so motivated to give back to the community only a few months after moving to Chicago. Welcome to town!

Part of the Loop’s Innovative Process: On the first day of each quarter, Artizone will donate $1,000 to an organization that is doing great things for Chicago. AGC will receive this first check in July. Following that initial check, Artizone will donate an additional $1,000 for every 250 Artizone Chicago customers who join this incredible movement. To become “Part of the Loop,” Artizone customers are not asked for donations, they must simply check a box during checkout after an order to show their support. The Artizone Chicago staff deserve a great big ACG Orca cheer for their hands-on approach to this partnership. They said some wonderful things after visit to our school, which you can read on their blog here.

What This Will Do for ACG: Artizone’s initial $1,000 check will fund the first 8 weeks of Summer programming for our Healthy Cooking Club. Once 250 people show their support by becoming Part of the Loop, Artizone will donate another $1,000, which will fund the rest of our 13-week Fall session and allow us to put money aside for the Winter session!

Healthy Cooking workshops are an important part of our mission to not only to provide healthy organic breakfast and lunch to our hard working students but to nurture responsibility for their own health and wellness.

To become Part of the Loop and help support our Healthy Cooking Club, simply place an order with Artizone Chicago and click that box! We will track the progress of this exciting new initiative. Check back here for updates.

A Garden From the Ground Up

A Garden From the Ground Up

After a Summer of hard work by our devoted volunteers, our Annex location now has a new raised garden, which will soon bloom into an edible schoolyard! Today, our 3rd & 4th graders kicked off the school year by mapping out the garden and planting Fall vegetables like carrots, beets, broccoli, and pumpkin. They even had an impromptu planting lesson from one of our helpful parents. We can’t wait to watch it grow!

AGC on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Blog

AGC on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Blog

AGC’s food program was featured on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution blog this week.  Check out the article below or link to the site here!

Chicago Public Schools Organic Food Pilot Program

Fri 27 May 2011

Story by Sarah Elizabeth Ippel and Stephen Menyhart

The Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) is a Chicago Public Elementary School that opened in 2008 on the Chicago’s under-served Southwest side. AGC’s mission is to empower children to become active global citizens by positively impacting on their community and the world beyond.

Our innovative and holistic approach to education aims to revolutionize the role of a school. AGC engages its students in a learning style that traverses far beyond the classroom. Math and science are drawn upon in the cultivation of an organic garden; language arts are incorporated as the students tend to their urban schoolyard chickens; and health and wellness are promoted as students walk to school and enjoy AGC’s fully-organic breakfast and lunch.

Fundamental to its values, AGC focuses on being a replicable model that improves the quality of life, learning and leadership from within. At AGC, a sustainable life is considered to be one armed with mental agility, physical health and unlimited vision.

An AGC education extends far beyond a solid academic foundation. Organic, nutritionally balanced meals provide a strong mental and physical basis. Daily yoga centers the body and mind. Gardening teaches about life and food. Wellness instruction helps to forge healthy habits and sound ecological practices throughout the school encourage learners to develop sustainable lifestyles. Ultimately, AGC engages the whole child in an enriching educational community, focused on fostering wellness, international awareness and environmental stewardship.

At AGC, we celebrate global cultures through food with our “International Menu Days”. This activity is well suited for upper elementary grade levels but can be adapted for any age students. It is a student-led process that begins about a month before the actual menu day. At that stage, students browse through cookbooks from around the world, and decide which nation to select. The students then work closely with the school chef to set an authentic menu that both reflects the cuisine of that nation, and meets all USDA requirements. Two “sous-chefs” are chosen by the classroom teacher based on their excellent behavior, solid academic standing, and proven interest in food and cooking. These “sous-chefs” assist the chef by making small batches of each recipe, the day before the menu is featured school-wide. Consequently, they become the best advocates for the food the next day as they encourage other students to try the new foods on the lunch line.

On the day of the event, the culture of the chosen nation is brought into the lunchroom through music, flags, and informational displays, all coordinated by students. So far we have celebrated the cuisine of Egypt, Brazil, Mexico, and Spain, and have plans to visit the renowned food cultures of France and Korea before the school year is through. Specific dishes of note have included Kosherie (Egyptian Street Food with Lentils and Spicy Tomato Sauce); Chicken Pozole (Spicy Mexican Stew with Hominy); and Spanish Paella (both Chicken and Tofu versions).

As an International Baccalaureate Candidate School, the characteristics of international mindedness are woven throughout our operational practices – from the classroom to the lunchroom. As such, the International Menu Days have been a wonderful opportunity to bring this mission to life within our school community. Our students have been exposed to new tastes and cultural traditions, and their interest in trying different foods has been ignited by their active engagement with culinary planning and preparation.

The Academy for Global Citizenship is grateful for the vision of both Chicago Public Schools and (the district’s food service provider) Chartwells Thompson Hospitality, AGC’s partners for the organic food pilot program. Although AGC is responsible for the additional food and labor costs associated with the initiative, the partnership has created opportunities to systemically extend recipes and lessons learned to the rest of the district. Over the past three years, Chicago Public Schools has become nationally acknowledged for their innovation, including local procurement strategies and robust nutritional standards. As a result of our collaboration, AGC was the first school in the Midwest to receive the USDA’s Healthier US School Challenge Gold with Distinction Award, in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative.

About the authors: Sarah Elizabeth Ippel is the Founder and Executive Director of AGC and Stephen Menyhart the AGC Chef.

Third Grade Thinkers Yoga

Third Grade Thinkers Yoga

How does AGC help our third graders do their best on the ISAT (the Illinois Standards Achievement Test)?  Not only do we implement a robust and challenging curriculum, we also attend to our students’ physical and emotional wellness.  Yoga is a wonderful tool for doing so.  In preparation for our testing days in a few weeks, our students and their families will have a “Third Grade Thinkers Yoga Retreat” this afternoon.   Below is the guide our third grade teacher Regina Harris created.  It is full of beneficial yoga poses you can do with your children at home or at school if you are a teacher!

Third Grade Thinkers Guide to Yoga

Today in Third Grade

Today in Third Grade

From Ms. Harris (Third Grade Teacher)

We won a Donor’s Choose grant that included basketballs and soccer balls that we will use during Friday’s Energy-a-Thon!
We first needed to blow them up! Hm…. Kaimana saw Ms. Anna blowing them up using our electric pump. Then he suggested why don’t we plug the pump into the bike that our friends at Working Bike let us borrow today. The video below is demonstrating how third grade students are already using their own energy to create energy!  Yay! The organic carrots we had for lunch today gave us lots of energy to blow up our balls!

Grade 3 is the place to be!