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Sep 14, 2011 | posted in Blog by seedlingprojects

Movements Are Funny Things

What exactly makes something a movement? In my first few months as the Program Coordinator for Farm to Desk DC, it is a question that I’ve returned to frequently. Theoretically, I am now both a member of the food movement, and someone tasked with helping to build the edible schoolyard movement here in DC. So, seems like I better get it figured out quick.

Here in this federal town, August is a time for getting prepared. After all the debt-ceiling shenanigans, Congress finally took its recess, giving the city a chance to breathe. And as parents went shopping for backpacks and middle school students raced to finish long-neglected summer reading lists, teachers laid plans for the coming school year. Right before students come pouring through those doors, everything seems possible, both good and bad. In my experience, you’ll find that teachers are a peculiar combination of creatively ambitious and terrified this time of year. They can’t stop thinking about all the engaging lessons and inspiring units they’ll provide for their classroom. And yet, they also can’t stop imagining all that will go wrong, all the stress and long hours that will eat away at whatever summer-vacation-energy-surplus they were able to acquire.

At least, that is how I always felt.

So far at EW Stokes Public Charter School – Farm to Desk’s Pilot School – I’ve found dedicated and passionate teachers fighting the same fights that teachers fight everywhere: staff turnover, programmatic change, test score anxiety, and too much to do with too little time. And yet, despite all that, the teachers and administrators are committed to an innovative and powerful wellness program that includes: lots of physical activity; a from-scratch kitchen producing healthy, delicious meals; environmental education; and a school garden.

What a privilege to be working with such a forward-thinking school. In the next week, I will start teaching a Food & Ecology class to the Third and Sixth Grade classes, and soon after that, I will lead student activities in the garden and new outdoor classroom with Jonna McKone, our Garden Manager. The Sixth Graders will learn about the history, legend, science, and math of apples, all in preparation for selling school-made apple products at a trend-setting city festival that reached out to usbecause they thought what we were doing was cool.

At the same time, I have been receiving inquiries from teachers and administrators all across the city, asking how they can incorporate food literacy into their academic programs. Last week, I had the first meeting of many with teachers who are particularly dedicated to bringing healthy food and habits to their students. We dined potluck-style and shared frustrations, strategies, and dreams for changing the way food and nutrition is taught in our school system. In this age of high-stakes testing, such conversations help me believe that schools can be about more than just Math and English proficiency; that they can be about creating healthy, creative, engaged citizens. In these moments, I think, now this is a movement.

Some days, the possibilities really do seem endless.