Food Systems Education: Linking Big Ideas Across The School Community

HopeStartsHere

Farm to School (FTS) programs are cropping up around the country, connecting students to sustainability efforts in their own school communities.

The 3Cs framework of FTS puts the learner at the center of the school food system, connecting the Cafeteria, Classroom, and Community through education and action. FTS helps students access nutritious and fresh foods, provides meaningful and relevant curriculum, and connects student learning to the real world of farming and food systems. Most importantly, it highlights each student’s role within the food system, as a participant and potential agent of sustainable change.

Food systems education is where educators play a vital role in this whole-school–whole-community approach. You can bring math, literacy, social studies, and science alive when you connect students to the elegant simplicity and complexity of local to global food systems.

The Big Ideas of Sustainability (bit.ly/ SFBigIdeas) can inspire cross-disciplinary connections and school-wide engagement, as well as deepen community partnerships, campus practices, and culture. Try these suggestions.

Start with big ideas, themes and standards

The Big Idea of Change links with thematic strands (www.socialstudies.org/standards/strands) in the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies such as People, Places, and Environments; Culture; and Time, Continuity, and Change. These standards help us develop learning outcomes—knowledge and skills we want students to gain.

Add inquiry

Learners are naturally curious. Give them a question that they can engage with and develop an understanding of over time. An essential question such as, “In what ways does the land shape culture?” invites deep crosscurricular exploration and learning.

Next, layer on food systems and your local place

By integrating food production and engaging with local farmers, historians, and the students’ families, they begin to see the connections to their place and lives. You can create learning activities to explore why people settled near rivers in your community, how human migration patterns have changed over time, and how shifting demographics have shaped the food and culture of your city.

Wrap up with an assessment:

You may have purposefully linked big ideas, standards, the local place, and food systems, but did your students get it? Create an assessment that helps you see what your students understand. For example, a class could create a museum display for their community illustrating how human migration has impacted the natural and agricultural systems in their city.

Suggested Activities

  • Write haikus about your fresh fruit and vegetable snacks.
  • Plant seeds for a school garden exploring plant life cycles.
  • Learn about food access and healthy foods in your community.
  • Start a school-run farmers’ market.
  • Run a semester-long inquiry into food justice.

No matter where you begin, a wealth of resources is available to get you started.

Resources

Image result for jen cirillo shelburne farmsMs. Cirillo is the Director of Professional Learning at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. She supports educators and schools to use the lens of sustainability for curriculum, campus practices and culture, and community partnerships.

The Outdoor Classroom: Where Nature Nurtures Kids’ Ability to Learn

magnifying-glassModern life often moves at a frantic pace: families, friends, and others often maintain full schedules with little time allowed to pause and take in what is happening around them.

For students arriving at school for the day, their morning may have been a blur of activity – hopping out of bed, getting dressed, eating a quick breakfast, then grabbing their backpack to head off to school.

A student’s day—like those of most adults—is often just moving, from one car, classroom, or building to another. The outside world oven gets overlooked. But it’s this outside world that may help students inside.

stewardshipAs adults, we know that the ability to focus on the task at hand can ensure its success. We also know that sometimes it is easier to maintain our focus than at other times.

The process of becoming better able to focus is where nature can help. And often it’s just a matter of getting kids outside.

In one study[1], children who spent one class session in a natural outdoor setting were more engaged and less distracted during indoor class time afterward than if they had been indoors for two consecutive classes.

Some teachers may have concerns that an outdoor classroom would over-stimulate students, making them less able to focus afterwards. Yet this study found the opposite to be true: classroom engagement was better for those students exposed to nature than those students taught solely in an indoor classroom.

studentsBeing in nature not only helps students to be more focused, it also introduces students to the first step in the scientific method: to observe

From watching the clouds while looking up at the sky, to rolling back a fallen log to investigate which creatures live underneath, to watching a flower emerge from the ground and ultimately bloom in springtime, nature offers an infinite number of opportunities to witness how plants, animals and climate interact.

Observation can lead to asking questions, instilling a curiosity about our natural world that spills over into the classroom.

And as teachers know, curious children make better students.

A student who develops a question based on their personal observation is developing curiosity and critical thinking skills.

See what these educators have to say about the benefits of nature for young learners.

Nature provides engaging and relaxing ways for students to learn, so let’s make the most of our greenspace to expand and transform children’s learning experiences.

Learn more by visiting www.ILoveMyLand.org today.

Questions? Contact us at ChildrenofIndianaNaturePark@tnc.org

Mary McConnell

Author: Mary McConnell, Director, The Nature Conservancy Indiana Chapter

[1] Lessons in nature boost classroom engagement afterward. Yates, Diana. University of Illinois. January 17, 2018.