Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Cultivating Minds" from Edutopia and Sidebar Links Updates

Edutopia has a really nice article up titled "Cultivating Minds" on the advent of what Alice Waters calls the "Edible Schoolyard" and others call the "farm curriculum." Whatever we call it, it's gaining momentum and bringing teachers and children to consider our place in the biosphere as integral to schools. The article highlights a few of the star programs from around the country and bits and pieces about the programs they are implementing, from simple gardens where children find a purple heirloom carrot, to chickens that brought out the participation of Somali immigrant children, to some places that function on the order of farms. It is an invigorating read.

Problems lie ahead because legislators, policymakers, administrators, and teachers either don't know how or why food can be or should be so central to education because they might view at as some kind of narrow farmer-training program. As NCLB tells us and assumes, we are competitors in a "knowledge-based" global economy. What can this possible do to help us? That might be a difficult for some invested in narrow definitions of what schooling ought to serve.

But, the article makes a good point to show that this is about as broad-based a movement that exists and is growing. Josh Vertiel of Slow Food USA makes it clear, saying
We're giving away the right to teach our students to the most appealing bidder right now, and not the best teacher. And if we don't teach them what eating is, where food comes from, what health is about, and what it is to gather around the table, someone else is going to do it, and it's going to be someone who stands to make a profit. Instead, we should teach kids about what's good for them, what's good for the environment, and what's good for the people who are growing it.
This is just another way of saying what Wendell Berry has been saying for years, that every act of eating is an agricultural act. Food comes from somewhere and knowing where it has come from and how it has come to be is to know a great deal about one's self. To know one's food is to understand something about the very nature of the physical substance that makes up your body. Food has within it an ethical character that we can develop but are not when we invite Pizza Hut and Pepsi to run our school cafeterias. What these programs do is alter and recalibrate education such that the speed and scale of production shrinks and slows. It makes teacher and student, at least for a little while, into farmers and stewards of their own health and well being making them responsible for themselves and others. How Deweyan!

In other news, I have been loading the sidebar with some new links. I've updated some of the Pennsylvania links and the Education links with a bunch more to help us find curricular materials related to gardening, place-based education, our own region, and climate change issues. Check them out.

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