To me, honoring students’ potential to fulfill roles in the greater society means serving as a conduit between your student’s learning and interests, and the world. I had the opportunity to visit Oxbow Organic Farm and Learning Center with my students and mentor teaching team twice this year, http://www.oxbow.org/.
We visited Oxbow in the fall of last year and returned this spring to observe the changes on the farm. Berlin et al. (2009) at the University of Vermont conducted a study on the social cognitive benefits of educating students on the connection between farms and healthy food. The results of educating students about, and providing access to healthy local foods showed sustained positive behavior change. This is one of many organizations acting to empower and benefit students through food education.
Oxbow Farm’s mission is to educate people on the importance of environmental stewardship and healthy food, to reconnect us to the land and our local sustainable food supply, and to inspire us to take action in our daily lives and in our communities. The evidence I am providing is a photograph of our farm teacher introducing the students to a gardener snake that we saw as we were exploring.
This authentic learning experience of observing and learning about a gardener snake in its natural environment was one of many opportunities I had to witness how the skilled farm educators at Oxbow honor children’s’ potential to play a role in taking care of the natural environment. We played hide-and-seek in the rhubarb patch, planted beans seeds that the kids will have an opportunity to come back and see how they have covered a stick dome, picked and tasted delicious herbs, and went on a treasure hunt through the marshy woods. The farmers at Oxbow are experienced with honoring child development, and responding to their emerging interests. They have fun songs and games to teach children about how to take care of plants and animals. For example, there is a song about how to properly pick a flower, sung to the tune of Frère Jacques, “Hold it, pick it, use both hands. Hold the stem with one hand, pick it with the other. Eat it up, eat it up.”
The two days, spanning from fall to spring, that I had an opportunity to spend atOxbow Farms with my students reinforced and nurtured my commitment to facilitating authentic learning experiences that reconnect children with the earth and all of its rich resources. I gained knowledge of how to make farm education fun and engaging for primary students. I also realized that there are many people in our greater community that are committed to educating and empowering youth to take actions to better their world.
When students learn authentically about how their actions make a difference for the health of plants and animals they benefit in many ways. Some children may be inspired to play a direct role as a sustainable food producer, and/or consumer in the future. Regardless, all children’s’ minds and bodies benefit from spending a day of learning on a beautiful organic farm with some of the happiest and informed child educators I have met.
Having the mentorship experience of observing and learning from talented farm educators with my students has reinforced my commitment to supporting authentic learning experiences that connect children to the world. Moving forward, I want to continue to provide students with opportunities to visit the source of where their food comes from, and help them understand their power to care for themselves and the earth through their stewardship.
Berlin, Linda Ph.D. (2009). Farm-to-school: implications for child nutrition. Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont. V. 1, N.1. Burlington, Vermont.
Oxbow Farm and Education Center. Retrieved from:http://www.oxbow.org/