Shiitake Love Caffeine is a beautifully illustrated, bilingual Spanish/English children's book that uses Gunter Pauli's ZERI* Education model to teach children science. In this story, a group of earthworms are stressed out from the coffee grounds in their compost heap, until a Shiitake mushroom suggests a solution that will benefit everyone. The book includes a teachers and parents guide and hands on activities that help children apply what they have learned.
Gunter Pauli's ZERI* Education model proposes that children, adolescents, and young adults learn science in a way that gives them a more profound academic understanding at the same time that it helps develop their emotional intelligence, eco-literacy, and artistic/creative capacities.
If children are to learn how to think, design, create, and dream in systems, then they must be exposed to systems thinking at an early age. Critical concepts become part of the child's long-term memory and the student gains an intuitive grasp of the big picture. Then the learning of the specific tools, concepts, and principles involved become far more appealing. When students start with a story that integrates ethics, economics, biology, and mathematics, they will be drawn to studying those disciplines later on.
Pauli's work in sustainable manufacturing and agricultural became the catalyst for a major educational reform in Colombia. The strife and violence that exists in this country spawned an urgent desire on the part of college students to rebuild their society. The professors and engineering students at University EAFIT in Medellin, Colombia, eagerly embraced an integrated educational approach, including a compulsory course in biology for engineering majors. As the concept spread to other universities, the need to mold the earlier educational tracks in this new direction became apparent; first in a High School in Manizales where ZERI's coffee and bamboo projects have taken off, and then in elementary schools which asked for a version of this program adapted to their level, comparable to the Garden School projects of the Center for Ecoliteracy.