Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Growing a food curriculum

Tomatoes Before Frost by me
The local food movement is well established, and with it comes a growing interest in bringing food sustainability into the K-16 curriculum. Over the past couple of years on Teachers Teaching Teachers we've had conversations with locavore educators from New Orleans at Our School at Blair Grocery and New York City's The Green Bronx Machine, with the director of Fresh the movie, and also with the people from Wooly School Garden.

Maybe because it was the end of autumn and I'd just harvested the last of the veggies from my own yard, maybe I was just hungry, but whatever the case when I was at the NCTE annual convention this November I attended two workshops that focused on food. One workshop, maybe the best I've ever attended at NCTE, showcased a partnership between BreadLoaf with students from the Navajo Nation and at Fern Creek High School in Louisville, Kentucky – the Navajo Kentuckians. The Navajo students and the teachers from Kentucky provide a powerful example of what can happen when educators mix food and learning. Students in the Louisville school have even shown gains on recent state tests that, according to the teachers, are due in part to their program. Another presentation at NCTE shared what Dr. Alan Webb and colleagues have been collecting at a website that has lots of good info and resources for teachers interested in starting some edible education.

In addition to dedicated and passionate educators, something that stands out about the efforts mentioned above is their cross-curricular nature. Students are connecting literacy, chemistry, biology, business, botany, health, and politics, to name a few – and the they're highly engaged in the learning. And maybe most significantly, a common denominator in all these stories is how they're transforming their communities for the better.