I am an educator because I want to help develop young people who are makers, doers, growers, and learners, rather than consumers, talkers, destroyers, and knowers. A few posts ago, I highlighted the Maker Movement and the importance of encouraging students to see themselves as problem finders, solution designers, and prototype creators (read that post here). While a culture shift in most schools is required to achieve the ideals of the Maker Movement, I feel confident that such a shift is gaining momentum. What is less evident is that schools are working to develop self-sufficient growers who are able to maintain healthy lifestyles.
It is rare in my experience to come across students who truly understand healthy nutrition and exactly where our food comes from. In a country where the most affordable food is often the worst for us, it is of paramount importance to educate children on the realities of food production and how knowledge of farming and cooking can improve quality of life. Generations ago this was the responsibility of parents or other family members, but as food production has moved away from family farms and into the hands of large corporate entities, it has become increasingly important for schools to lead the effort. To this end, curricula have been designed to provide students with learning opportunities that move outside classroom walls and into gardens and kitchens. (for one such example see here and the video below)
We are constantly searching for ways to make learning more relevant and real for students. Is there anything more relevant to them than food? The satisfaction students get from seeing a project through from inception to product is evident in schools all the time. Often, though, the product is meaningless to them, a way to get a grade. As soon as it is turned in, it is forgotten. When the product is something useful to them, or edible, student interest grows exponentially. Harnessing such interest into varied experiences that incorporate science, math, history, culture, and other subjects is the goal of any good program. Doing so in a way that also develops important life skills and greater knowledge and interest in health and nutrition should be a no-brainer. If we can help students understand the process of getting from seeds to salads, we can develop people who care and know about what they eat, which, in turn, will begin to inflict some positive change on a society that is at the mercy of entities who put healthy commerce ahead of healthy people.
Schools need to find a patch of earth somewhere on campus and get down into the dirt with students. We need to add words like plant, cultivate, harvest, and cook to our curriculum map action verb lists. If we do, we will be helping our future leaders take better care of themselves and the planet. As educators, is there anything more important than that?
We need to bring children up with a whole different way of thinking about food and their lives. – Alice Waters, Founder of Chez Panisse Foundation