Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Day in the Field (with Kids)

Now I feel like I have enough energy to post about yesterday, and can do it justice!

First off, it was wonderful. I don't have much experience with kids, and due to the nature of my work and my life in general I'm not around them very much. So I will admit, I was a little nervous about yesterday. I didn't want to bore them to death! But as it turned out, it was a very casual affair.

10 kids from Anser Charter School in Garden City, accompanied by two helpful mothers, headed over to Boise's Downtown Community Garden yesterday, where Allison Demarest, Rev. Lucas Grubbs from St Michaels Cathedral, and I helped to teach them about hunger and gardening. Their school has a program that breaks the student body (comprised of elementary-aged students) up into different Community Service Modules all over the city. For example, I know one module is at the Humane Society, one at the Senior Center, etc. The point of these projects (as far as I understand it) is to send kids out into the community and have them reflect on their experience. It gives them a chance to get outside of the classroom and have some hands-on learning. I personally think it's great, and wish that I could have had something like it when I was in elementary school!

Allison has these kids for a few weeks (I think seven... but I'm not sure) and each week, as part of the Community Supported Agriculture service module, they learn something related to gardening and sustainable agriculture. Next week, they're going to Peaceful Belly Farm (an urban farm in Boise I have yet to visit!) to learn how to make cider. I am incredibly jealous...

We started the day out with an introduction (This is Beki! Here is the garden!) and a brief discussion about hunger. Allison's first question was along the lines of, What do you know about hunger? Immediately a few kids raised their hands, and the first answer was: Your stomach hurts. At another point in the conversation, Allison asked something akin to Do you think it's possible to end hunger in the world? And the response from one of the kids was, What do you mean by hunger? I feel like people often don't give kids enough credit. They really DO think about things, and they know what's going on. Never assume that children "don't understand".

The next activity was harvesting for St. Michael's Cathedral (more on that in a bit). We harvested tomatoes, cherry and regular, as well as eggplant. I loved watching the kids get so excited about the eggplant... and some of them loudly declared their love for chocolate cherry tomatoes (which if you've never had them, you should! they're delicious).

After about 20 minutes of the harvesting frenzy, during which each kid harvested a ton of produce, the Reverend Lucas Grubbs from St Michael's Cathedral came and spoke briefly. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of him, so you'll just have to imagine... He talked about the Banquet program at St Michael's. I had never heard of it before, but essentially, once a month the church cooks amazing food for homeless and low-income people in the Boise area. They even serve it banquet style, with fancy tablecloths and nice dishes. Because everyone deserves a nice meal. The produce those kids harvested was going to straight to their kitchen.

After this I talked very, very briefly about the Backpack Program (For those who don't know, this program sends a backpack full of food home with kids over the weekend who really need it! They can prepare it themselves) and mobile pantries (The Foodbank packs food into refrigerated trucks and gets it out to people who need it). I tried to make it interesting, and I think I did OK. I figured that something like the Backpack Program, which has to do with kids directly, would maybe interest them a little more.

The next activity (which I came up with, actually!) involved decorating lunch bags. We gave the kids markers, colored pencils, and three empty lunch bags to decorate. As you can imagine, there were many different designs that emerged, from bags that said "Happy Lunch" with flowers on them to drawings of people with two heads and four noses. I love little kid art...
During creative time Allison also showed them pictures from What the World Eats by Faith D'Aluisio. This is an absolutely fascinating book, and it has pictures of what families around the world eat in one week. As you can imagine, the average American family diet differs greatly from the average Sudanese family diet... In the picture to the left, the kids are coloring their lunch bags and Allison is showing them a picture from the book.

After everyone had decorated three lunch bags each (some very inspired kids decorated more. this was certainly allowed), a sort of assembly line was set up around a table. Then they put together sack lunches. It was quite the flurry of activity around the table. They worked so hard, and before long there was a tote full of sack lunches complete with beautiful artwork. This picture to the left shows some determined kids filling their lunch bags.
The food for the sack lunches was supplied by St Michael's Cathedral (the same group that does the Banquet), and they also received them.
All in all, it was a very worthwhile way to spend a Wednesday afternoon. The weather was beautiful (though a little hot) and it was nice to get away from my computer for a little while. I really enjoyed watching these kids interact with one another, and I LOVED when they got so excited about eggplant. I wish more people would get excited about eggplant! And of course, the community service aspect was fantastic. I can only imagine how excited people will be to get a decorated lunch bag :)
That's all for today! I hope to be able to report on more exciting gardening adventures like this one, because that's really what this work is all about. People!

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