Know any “Moms of the Revolution”? Well, you do now: Liz Snyder, who was awarded that title by Kiwi Magazine because of her Full Circle Farm project, which is organic, sustainable, and educational. Also very educational is Collective Roots, a nonprofit organization that teaches kids in East Palo Alto, California, to grow food, and, more importantly, to know food. Up until recently, Snyder was its development manager.
The purpose of these projects is to get not only kids, but whole communities fascinated with the idea of a hands-on relationship with their own food supply. It’s about public health, it’s about healing the environment, it’s about families, and most of all it’s about making a state of personal health more interesting and enjoyable than a life of eating disorders and physical debility. The proponents of organic gardening are quite convincing about its rewards.
Having studied nutritional anthropology and equipped with certification as a bio-intensive gardener, Snyder is also a holistic family food coach. She helps women deal with their eating issues, so they can break the inter-generational chain of transmission, and avoid bringing up their children with harmful or weird food relationships. It all stems from a simple, long-established philosophy of experiential education, in which the garden is a living laboratory:
Garden Based Learning (GBL) can be defined simply as an instructional strategy that utilizes a garden as a teaching tool… Active Plant-Based Learning refers to activities, programming, and curricula that use plants as a foundation for integrating learning in and across disciplines through active, real-world experiences that also have personal meaning for children and youth.
GBL includes formal courses in botany and biology, after-school gardening and horticulture programs, education in nutrition and the environment, science fairs, field trips to botanical gardens, the policing of invasive plant species, and whatever else these extremely inventive people can think of. Next, Collective Roots wants to set up a summer camp. Its website goes into detail about activities in specific locations. For little kids, the collective set up garden-based scavenger hunts and relay races, and teach them to make fruit smoothies.
At the East Palo Alto Charter School, 264 participants are in kindergarten through 5th grade:
Each day, students are engaged in a science lesson and then move to the outdoor classroom to participate in hands-on organic gardening and other activities connected to the lesson, such as bird watching, insect exploration, planting, and mulching.
At the local middle school, 6th- through 8th-graders learn more advanced organic farming lessons and go on field trips that literally are field trips, because they’re out harvesting strawberries or raspberries. Sometimes they collect eggs from underneath actual chickens, or get up close and personal with a baby goat. The older kids also explore such abstractions as food justice.
Liz Snyder wrote a lovely memoir of how her 3rd-grade self first had experienced awareness of where food came from. A favorite teacher lived on a farm, and brought her students there for a day to visit the seedlings and bees, and eat fresh-picked corn with home-churned butter. Snyder says,
The entire day is burned in my memory. It, this one day, changed me irrevocably… And it wasn’t just an amazing sensory experience. It was a mind-shift, a new way for me to look at the world.
Garden-based learning results in smarted and better-nourished kids, less anxious parents, and beautified school grounds. It’s also a shield against childhood obesity. Kids can get hooked on healthful foods just like they can become hooked on junk food. It’s up to the supporters of healthful food to get there first.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “What is Garden Based Learning?,” Collective Roots
Source: “Garden Based Learning,” Collective Roots
Source: “On Mrs. Bizarri’s Farm,” I Eat Real
Image by kcmckell, used under its Creative Commons license.