Tenderfoot Fair Trade Learning Lab’s goals are 3-fold: to foster self-reliance, to teach sustainable habits and ways of thinking, and to make a college education, particularly a liberal arts education, more affordable. This organization grew out of the founders’ desire to do more than simply complain about a few persistent issues they’ve faced while working in higher education: students’ sense of being unprepared for what they call “adulting”, curricula that give the illusion of separateness rather than revealing the endless cause-and-effect connections between our disciplines, and the crippling price tag that comes with an education. Tenderfoot seeks to prepare students for life beyond college, teaching them to be self-reliant critical thinkers who understand the ripple effects of their decisions in their local and global communities, and helping them lighten the burden of their student loan debt.
Our approach to achieving these goals is, in the short term, to hold regular mini-events where we learn/teach new skills, such as our Tenderfood series and our group hikes. We’re also raising money for scholarships so we can start right away with helping a few students reduce their sticker price. In the long term, we’re developing a study-away site where students can spend a semester immersed in sustainable living, earning college credit to learn skills necessary for self-reliance and responsible citizenship. This experience will essentially be homesteading– we’ll grow our own food, cook for ourselves, and maintain infrastructure to produce our own energy. Students’ work toward these ends will be in exchange for that semester’s tuition, making this a debt-free semester or pretty close. Think of it as a study abroad experience that doesn’t require leaving the country or taking out loans: students will get to live in a culture that is likely dramatically different from their own, earn affordable college credit, and learn useful life skills. To answer a common question, a day-in-the-life will go something like this:
9am – 12pm: Work Teams (Fields, Kitchen, or Maintenance)
12pm – 2pm: Break/Lunch
2pm – 5pm: Formal class time to relate experiential activities to academic areas of study
5pm – 7pm: Break/Dinner
7pm – : Recreation/Personal time
We’ll begin formalizing partnerships with colleges and universities upon returning from the Appalachian Trail. If you represent an institution that may be interested in providing this experience to your students, please contact us. It’s never too early to start a conversation.