I sensed urgency in her lecture, and remarks she made Wednesday evening. We need to start pursuading, influencing and charming our Charlotte area leaders into becoming more "green" and not in just the banking sense of green.
I thought the most thought provoking aspect of her lecture was the idea of "lunch as a class". When my son was in kindergarten, a classmate of mine and I (we were getting our BS nursing degrees at the time) went into his classroom and taught a short nutrition class and followed by making nutritious snacks with the kids. Those 5 year olds were so enthusiastic and loved making spreads such as yogurt cheese and bean puree and embellishing them with different fruits and vegetables. They ate it all, and were coming back for more. We got a lot of feedback from parents for the "recipes" since the kids were going home and asking for these things.
This occured at the lab school at Winthrop University, and when I think of doing this in a public school I think the biggest obstacle would be teachers thinking they wouldn't have time for the subject since it is not one on the end of grade or assessment tests.
Some schools have parent volunteers proctor a class for lunch to give the teacher a break. Maybe slow food volunteers could do that once a week in lower grades to start, and lead some discussions with kids about healthy eating. We could possibly do tastings of some "good" foods and maybe even give homework such as "bring a new fruit as part of your lunch next week".
Any thoughts? Lets keep this discussion going until we come up with a plan that can be put into action in our area.
Overall, I thought the lecture was very inspiring. Although she repeatedly said that an edible school yard was hard work, the large spirit of determination coming from such a small person was quite impressive.
Being a preschool teacher I have a different view of education. Preschool is given the understanding that all situations are learning opportunities. Meal times are when we work on social, communication, and self-help skills. Learning occurs naturally in the daily routine environment.
Unfortunately school-age curriculum do not support such an idea. Students are given half an hour if they are lucky to get to the cafeteria, through the line, eat, clean up, and return to class. Many of the younger aged students are made to sit in silence while they eat. These are ingrained ideas that many educators may not be open to changing. Alice Waters made a point that the children were actually doing academic work during meal times. That would be a key to convincing those involved in the system to change things. I think once teachers understood the integration of the curriculum in the daily routine, many would go for it. But to actually implement such changes, you have to change the minds of the ones running the show. It goes back to the curriculum and showing that the edible schoolyard is aligned with the Standard Course of Study. The ones to convince are the PTA, the principal, the curriculum coordinator. Let's face it, its whoever has the power and money!
I was at the lecture and other events the week of the Alice Waters visit, and I would like to take advantage of the momentum to get some people together to brainstorm how we can start introducing changes at our own schools. Some CMS schools, like Park Road Montessori and Providence Springs, already have gardens and some form of curriculum, and I would like to see what they are doing. But I see three things that a group could do:
1) Share ideas and resources. Some of us are foodies, some farmers, and some educators. Some of us have access to resources that could be shared among schools, or gleaned from existing programs. We could bring our strengths and experiences to the table to see what we have to offer each other.
2) Make "assignments" to research and bring back to the group at a later date. (e.g. Who is in charge of purchasing for public school cafeterias? What might the Health department have to say about consuming food from a vegetable garden?) We might determine that this is something to try to do with the consent and financial support of CMS, or we might throw up our hands and decide that we just have to enact change on a school-by-school basis. We will obviously find various levels of support at our individual schools. Sometimes our programs will have to fly under the radar in many respects (something AW mentioned about the Edible Schoolyard) . We can still share some resources when it makes sense. (e.g.: Know anyone with a tiller? I do.)
3) Come up with a convincing cohesive "argument" that we can share with the CMS educators when we need their buy-in. The argument that, as Robin says, will "change the minds of the ones running the show."
There is money to be had through grant-writing. I've never done that but I probably could with a little advice. I'm willing to step up to the plate and do it for Elizabeth Traditional. And I'm willing to organize the meeting I propose. Who is with me?