The Local Food Report: in the classroom

So, do you remember Tristan from last week? Today we're going to talk about his school again. This week, I want to tell you about all the things Island Grown Initiative (IGI) and its program Island Grown Schools are doing to get farming and local food into the curriculum.

Let's start with the garden:

That up there is a classmate of Tristan's, working on pulling weeds and mulch away from the beds. The day I visited, the kids were discovering the results of a winter-long experiment, which involved trying different kinds of mulches on their raised beds and doing soil tests and hunting for worms to see which one worked best.

A lot of schools have gardens, but what's amazing is that thanks to Island Grown Schools, every public school on the Vineyard has a garden. That makes seven gardens in all, plus three pre-school gardens and one inter-generational garden with teens and low-income seniors at Island Elderly Housing. I think that's pretty cool.

Not only that, but the people over at IGI have worked with over 100 teachers in every grade level and in every school on the island to develop food and farm based lessons that work in all sorts of curricula. For instance the third graders at Chilmark, when they study colonial life, also study colonial herb gardens. If you think about it, food and gardening and farming can really connect to anything—whether it's vocab during seventh grade Spanish or first graders learning about area and perimeters.

When I was there, the kids in Tristan's K-1 class were doing a whole unit on farming. They told me facts about pigs—like how six to twelve are born in a litter, and that they come out with shaggy black hair like their parents, and that it takes eight months before they grow up enough to have their own babies. And cows. Did you know that Holsteins produce the most milk?

Anyway. The thing about the Vineyard effort is that it's coherent. A lot of places are trying to get programs going—trying to get local food into cafeterias and gardens into schoolyards and farming into the curriculum—but very few are doing it in such a comprehensive way. IGI didn't just work with the schools to get a local baker offering warm, healthy snacks, or just put in a garden here and a garden there, or help coordinate a few lessons based on farming facts. Because it's working on an island—a place with limits, a specific, bordered place—it's been able to do much more than that. It's been able to make sure, in a careful, step-by-step way, that it's reaching everyone.

That's harder to do on the mainland, for sure. But I think with the Vineyard as a model, it's possible. School districts, after all, have their own borders and perimeters. If you're interested, there's more inspiration over here. Thoughts?

1 comment :

Jess said...

This is an amazing initiative! In Worcester, there is something similar going on called the Kindergarten Initiative which is a curriculum for kindergarteners that also brings in fresh local food to enhance the lessons. The schools are also working with us (UMass Extension) for nutrition ed and the Regional Environmental Council to build school gardens. It sounds like the Island Initiative is a great model!


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