[Editor’s Note: To see the report with photos, video links, and other resources, open the attachment.]
Four of us were involved in developing the curriculum, three of whom directly taught the two youth programs (SPY, Summer Program for youth, for K-8 students, and YLP, the Youth Leadership Program for High School students). All of us have worked in various capacities with youth and been involved in sustainable agriculture. Kris Kaul, the edible Avalon program coordinator, has worked with youth in gardening since 2008 and is certified in organic gardening and permaculture. Emily Canosa, the Youth Education Coordinator and head teacher in the project, developed the first edible Avalon youth garden program in 2009 in which Avalon youth learned about organic gardening, cooking from the garden, visited a local farm, and built a sunflower fort.
Paul Burger, an AmeriCorps VISTA intern, had just completed the 8-course series in the organic certification program offered by Washtenaw Community College and Project Grow, and was eager to share his knowledge with the teens. Lizzy Brosius, a Smith College student who joined us as a nutrition intern with experience working with youth, co-taught the teen program with Paul. Lizzy was new to sustainable agriculture but had extensive experience working with youth in the YMCA. In addition, we had the expertise and support of the Avalon Housing social work staff who worked directly with the youth and their families.
The Edible Avalon-Summer Youth Program is a unique opportunity to immerse the next generation in sustainable, organic food growing. Our hope is that students will realize the importance of living soil and of using sustainable methods–working with nature, rather than against it. We also hope they get a glimpse into the burgeoning world of sustainable urban agriculture and the ways in which even disenfranchised communities have used community and urban gardening to empower themselves and build community.
In addition, we hope students will:
• Gain self-confidence and self-respect by producing an important commodity for themselves and others
• Learn about the link between healthy soils, healthy plants, and healthy bodies
• Understand the scope of the environmental problems caused by conventional agriculture
• Understand the value of buying locally made food, and the costs of long-distance transport • Gain respect for nature’s complexity and the harm we cause by ignoring how nature works • Increase their appreciation of the outdoors and gardening
• And be introduced to unfamiliar crops and learn how to grow and prepare (and love) them.
Our grant proposal was fairly detailed, so much of the curriculum outline had already been developed prior to receiving the grant. This drew on resources for youth educators provided by NCR-SARE, the wealth of local resources and organizations, and the perceived needs of our youth, and derived topical sequence based on the season and a progression from the small immediate environment to the garden ecosystem and our larger foodshed. This outline was then refined into a curriculum and lesson plans by Youth Education Coordinator Emily Canosa, with extensive additional linkages to local organizations, media, and people.
This was the fourth year of the overall edible Avalon program, and so there was a history and infrastructure on which to build. Had we started from scratch, the entire process would have been much more difficult: we would not have had at least two people who had been involved in the program and worked with the youth, nor the underlying garden program already developed and understood; and we might not have had the community linkages that we did.
The eventual shape of the program was also influenced by the decision to seek High School credit for the Teens through Ann Arbor Community High School’s “Community Resource” program, in which students may study under an outside expert for elective credit. In order to fulfill requirements, teens needed to complete a total of 90 hours of work. Thus we knew the summer Teen program would involve many hours of in-depth, hands-on learning, which we planned to divide between
1) mentoring opportunities with the younger students in the SPY program,
2) onsite community service work,
3) volunteer hours at local farms and other bodies involved in sustainable agriculture, and,
4) fieldtrips designed to show students the depth and breadth of the area’s local food economy.
In practice, we also learned that, like the younger students, the teens responded much better to short, hands-on experiential learning activities than to the level of more traditional learning (films, discussions) initially planned, and we adjusted accordingly to try to maximize the proportion of time spent in modalities to which students were most receptive and in which the most active exploration occurred.
See attached time line of both youth programs (SPY and YLP) showing their interrelationship. Lesson plans are marked in bold, while fieldtrips are italicized.
Edible Avalon staff: Emily Canosa, Paul Burger, Lizzy Brosius, Kris Kaul Avalon Family and Community Services staff: Scott Phillips, Daicia Smith, Celeste Hawkins, Manisha O’Leary Members of the Family and Community Services (FCS) team organized pre- and post-program summits for the Teens that helped introduce the program, increased its perception as being real and meaningful in the eyes of the youth, and served as a ending celebration at which awards were given to teens and instructors alike. In addition, Avalon FCS staff worked with Michigan Works so that students were able to receive a stipend at the end of the summer for their community work.
UM School of Public Health Dietetic Interns: Mita Dutta, Yu-Han Huang, and Janine Cannel Each summer, dietetic interns from the University of Michigan do fulltime rotations with edible Avalon. Last summer, part of their work involved teaching nutrition classes in the SPY program with the help of the teens as mentors.
Hoophouse build: Jeff McCabe & Lisa Gottlieb; Capella Farm owner Jennifer Kangas SELMA Cafe, a local Friday breakfast hosted by McCabe and Gottlieb, raises money for microloans to area farmers and organizes bam-raising-type hoop-house builds each Spring in which the entire structure is built in a day. Last year, teens in the YLP program participated in the hoophouse build at Capella farm, and also helped with mulching and pest management.
Tantre Farm: Richard Andre & Deb Lentz
Avalon youth and adults were given a complete tour of this diverse organic CSA farm, from tasting herbs and learning about their medicinal qualities, to learning about hoop-house growing, animal husbandry, and exploring an entire forest floor covered with mushroom logs.
Non-tenant and tenant volunteers on Build Day at Carrot Way Apartments: Kristen & Adam Muehlhauser, Christine Davis, Brandon Reeve, members of Zeta Phi Beta, and most of the youth at Carrot Way helped build, site, and fill the seventeen raised beds edible Avalon put in at Carrot Way. Eight of these beds were used for the youth programs, as well as beds at other Avalon properties.
Ann Arbor Farmers Market Manager: Molly Notariani
Farmers/vendors at the Farmers Market: David Kingenberger (The Brinery), Stefanic Stauffer (Nightshade Army Salsa), Shannon Brines (Brines Farm), Jason Frenzel (Huron River Watershed Council; formerly with Natural Area Preservation), Dave Steinhauser Steinhauser Farms. Jonathan and Marlene Goetz (Goetz Farm). Cohoctah Honeyworks Teens completed market surveys in planning their marketing strategy by interviewing market vendors after receiving a tour of the market and introductions to vendors by the market manager.
Rap For Food: Lucas DiGia- see YouTube video here: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kooVYOdlMml) Lucas engaged the youth in creating and performing garden-based rap.
Avalon staff & tenants at Nutrition Fair: Kevin Bell, Lizzy Brosius Teens made watermelon salsa and served it, along with information on lycopene, to fair-goers.
Growing Hope’s ‘Tour de Fresh’: Amanda Edmonds, Arika Lycan, Mary Wessel Walker (Harvest Kitchen), other youth. Paul Burger led teens on a bicycle-tour of urban agriculture and local foodshed-related sites in Ypsilanti organized by Growing Hope.
EA Garden Tour: tenant/chef Ed Bostic, tenants from E Davis, Avalon staff and board members (Russ Monahan, Celeste Hawkins, Daicia Smith, Carole McCabe) Ed and edible A val on staff worked with the teens in preparing a grill-out buffet using food from the gardens to greet Tour participants at the end of the tour.
Georgia Street Community Garden: Meg Marotte, Mark Covington, Rich Wieske, other youth SPY and YLP youth visited this urban farm and learned about its diverse products, including a lesson beekeeping.
The Family Farm: Stephanie Phillips As one of the few but growing group of female farm owners of color in our area, Stephanie gave the teens a new perspective on what it means to earn a living as a farmer while showing them the different work she engages in on the farm.
DAN Tour: Detroit Agricultural Network, Catherine Ferguson Academy
Teens and adult tenants participated in the 141th annual Tour of urban agriculture sites in Detroit, which has grown to encompass three separate tour routes (plus one by bicycle) which showcase not only successful urban farming ventures in distressed, low-income areas, but reclamation and reimagining of entire neighborhoods through community organizing and food-growing.
Silvio Medoro, Silvio’s Organic Pizza
Silvio not only taught the youth how to make pizza, he also brought pre-made pizzas and had students locate the farms from which their organic ingredients came on a map of Washtenaw County mounted on the wall!
Tilian Farm Development Center: Jeff McCabe and Tilian volunteers Teens were taught about the purpose of Tilian, an incubator farm where aspiring small farmers are given space to practice their trade for two years with the support of a board of successful area farmers to guide them. Teens spent the afternoon repairing implements and other farm chores.
Rena Basch, Locavorious
Rena taught teens how to freeze blueberries, com, and collards harvested from their gardens for winter use.
People’s Food Co-op Tour: Organized by Caitlin Joseph Teens led a tour of their gardens at Carrot Way Apartments and described their involvement in the local food community to members of Ann Arbor’s People’s Food Co-op, who in tum shared their support for the local foodshed and the reasons for creating the co-op.
Dunning Toyota: Beth Bashert, Sales Associate Dunning Toyota lent edible Avalon a Toyota van for its trip to Georgia Street Gardens, allowing us to transport all youth from both programs.
Avalon Housing provides supportive, affordable housing in twenty-two rental properties to county residents with extremely low incomes. Many families have experienced homelessness and/or frequent relocation. Many of the children are behind academically, and have not had positive messages about themselves from school or society. These children are at risk of dropping out, both physically and mentally, from school and from lifelong learning, and of completely giving up on hope for a fulfilling future for themselves. For both young and older youth, our program aims to take them out of this limiting mental environment and expose them to new ways of thinking about themselves and the world around them; to people who are self-directed and self-reliant, and who feel a deep sense of responsibility for the Earth; and to the joy and satisfaction that can be found in the natural world and in simple, natural tasks like growing one’s own food and caring for one’s local environment.
Our program for K-8 students achieved the following results:
• Got students outdoors and in the fresh air, active, and accomplishing visible, tangible results they could be proud of
• Introduced them to growing their own food and the importance of organic gardening methods (and the greater knowledge of the natural world it entails)
• Made them aware of their local foodshed and the people who inhabit and work in it
• Took them to see farms where food is grown sustainably and listen to the farmers talk about the importance of their production choices
• Allowed them to see animals being raised humanely
• Broadened their knowledge of and appreciation for diverse vegetables and fruits
• Made them aware of the diversity of animals and insects inhabiting even the urban environment around them, and the complexity of garden ecosystems
• Fostered a wonder at the marvel of the natural world through kinesthetically acting out ecological relationships and forms and expressing this appreciation and new-found understanding through drawings, stories, games, and food
• Fostered a broader respect for the natural world which included respect for each other
These outcomes were measured by the students’ own work – their drawings, stories, enthusiastic game playing, affection for the class and for the gardens; the growing respect with which they treated the gardens (including asking other youth not involved in the program to please not step in them or throw fruit). There are dozens of pictures showcasing their activities on the Facebook page as well as two videos about the youth program.
The health of the gardens was also a testament to their care and appreciation for the gardening program; also their enthusiasm in trying new vegetables- even “weeds”- and learning about garden insects. Attendance was taken at each class; students were happy coming to the program and are enthusiastic about returning this coming summer (witness the pictures from this week’s seed sowing). Middle School students are looking ahead to when they are able to be in the Teen program and sell at the Farmers Market.
The Youth Leadership Program for teens was more intense than the SPY (K-8) program, involving many more contact hours (due to the High School credits requirement) and having more advanced goals. This was a smaller, yet quite diverse group; in some ways more challenging than the younger students. The outcomes achieved in this program include:
• Real bonding and respect among the teens toward each other and their teachers
• Increased poise and ability to interact with diverse people of all ages through their experiences at the Farmers Market and as Tour leaders
• Respect for farming as a career and for farmers- particularly the small-scale, organic farmers they visited – for the hard work they do and their love of the land and nature
• Fun! Teens had opportunities for fun, especially at the farms, that they would not otherwise have had
• Increased self-respect for their abilities, both physical and mental, and increased willingness to take personal risks, for instance during in-class debating
• Pride in their ability to grow and sell vegetables that were of as good quality as other vendors at the farmers market
• Greater openness toward adults, and greater patience with younger children (in their roles as mentors in the SPY program) Specific learning outcomes related to sustainable agriculture include:
• A growing awareness that not all food is produced the same way, and that not everyone has the same values in mind when making decisions about how to produce food
• Awareness of the local food movement taking place throughout SE Michigan (and the country) and the issues it is championing:
o a return to growing one’s own food
o growing food organically, without chemicals that harm the environment and our health and make farming dependent on large, distant corporations
o the harm that conventional agricultural practices do to the environment through pollution, killing soil life and destroying soil tilth, dependence on fossil fuels for transportation and fertilizer
o the greater skill and knowledge involved in understanding and working with as opposed to against nature, and the benefits this brings in terms of building soil fertility, confusing or deterring pests without using harsh chemicals
o increased self-reliance for oneself, one’s family, and one’s community that comes from growing food oneself and/or buying locally-grown food- in terms of food security, economics, and better health
o appreciation of a less consumption-oriented lifestyle
o raising awareness that there are life and work choices available beyond what mainstream culture presents
• Awareness of the connections between their individual choices and their health and the health of the planet
• Knowledge of the vibrant urban agriculture movement taking place all around them in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Detroit
Because of the need to track hours for High School credit and for Michigan Works stipends, and the extensive time spent together by students and instructors, it was very clear in this smaller program whether goals were being achieved and whether participants were enthusiastic and hardworking. Three of the participants attended volunteer work events even after they had fulfilled their ninety hours, and all have signed on to rejoin this summer as participants and program leaders for new teen members. The Youth Leadership Program’s outcomes are excellently showcased in this video made by Youth Education Coordinator Emily Canosa.
Edible Avalon’s original program proposal involved one program for all youth (with mentorship roles built in for older youth) and covering 5-7 hours per week. Due to an additional grant that Avalon Housing wrote for a Teen Leadership Program, our program expanded to include separate programming and additional goals for the Teens, especially once we received approval for it to qualify as a High School elective, and the educational team expanded from the Youth Education Coordinator with additional help, to an additional full-time AmeriCorps VISTA intern and a half-time youth/nutrition intern.
From a planning standpoint, an important but unavoidable lesson we learned is how important it is to have full information about what an overall program consists of well in advance for planning purposes. Until June, we did not know how many weeks the overall summer program (of which the edible Avalon program was a part) would be offered, nor how many days per week. This made lesson planning difficult, and meant that we were still completing lesson planning especially for the Teen portion- even after the start of the program.
Looking back, it was extremely important that we had experienced teachers to lead and serve as mentors to those with less experience. Envisioning what a lesson seeks to have the learner experience, and the different ways this can be achieved, and all the steps involved from assessing what is known to revisiting each concept as you go forward- all in an age-appropriate way- is complex, and the fact that this was a voluntary program (as opposed to being in school) meant even more skilled is needed to make it meaningful (and thus motivate it) and fun. For the teens, it is also crucial to involve them to the maximum possible extent in decision making and planning the structure and goals of the program, something we plan to implement this year.
Some things turned out differently than we had anticipated. Here is verbatim feedback from one of the Teen program educators, with specific suggestions for how we may want to run things differently in the teen program this year:
• Clear expectations: I think it might be a really good idea to let the teens know exactly what we will be doing for the whole summer and how much time it will take up. Present this as a doable challenge- it will be hard but rewarding (you will learn a lot, and also get class credit, and paid for the time you put in).
• Get the teens involved with gardening as soon as possible: If it is possible in the future years, I think it would be helpful to have the teens start gardening as early as possible in the year. Having the teens plant all their own plants would be a good start, but it would also be good if they grew plants from seed inside, built beds, thought about what seeds to grow, etc. I think this would make the teens feel more connected to their garden and be more invested in the process.
• Come up with clear lessons plans from the beginning: If possible, it would be good to create the lesson plans or a good portion of the lesson plans before the program even starts. This could help ensure that key concepts (such as sustainability) are brought up throughout the summer.
• Promote teen initiated volunteer activities: This might be more difficult, but, depending on the group of teens, I think it could be a good idea to have the teens decide what field trips they go on and where they volunteer.
• Possible application?/Learning contract: This is an idea that could be used if it seemed helpful. I think it might be valuable to have the teens “apply” to YLP. By this, I mean having the teens answer a few questions about why they want to do the program, what they expect to gain from it, and what they think they can bring to the table. Even if all applicants are selected, it might make the teens feel more motivated and responsible for their behavior.
In addition, it might be worthwhile to have the teens write their own “learning contracts” for the summer. This could be done on the first day, or shortly thereafter, and would ask the teens to write down what they will be doing this summer and what they hope to gain from the summer. I think if the teens wrote these out themselves, it may also make them feel more motivated and invested in the program.
It’s difficult to know what the long-term effects of the program will be for the youth. Long-term relationships have certainly been forged, especially with the teens. In fact, some of the teens recently represented the program at a major grocery store when it held a fundraiser for edible Avalon. It is clear that this has been a positive and meaningful experience for them, and this has carried over into the school year (one of us continued as tutor with some of the teens). The Avalon staff who work with the teens and know their situations intimately feel that the program was extremely positive. Yet, these teens continue to face immense challenges, especially academically.
None of the teens has suddenly decided s/he wants to be a farmer, or evidenced a change in direction in the goals they had for themselves. This wasn’t expected, but there was hope there’d be increased enthusiasm among participants in growing food for themselves, or in the local food movement (however, there is one teen whose feedback for this year was “More farm visits!”). On the other hand, the real purpose was to present these experiences as alternative possibilities, so a mind-broadening effect may still have succeeded. It’s also a reminder to us that teens are already who they are and that the ways in which they internalize these experiences may not be something we can foresee and may not occur immediately. The fact that the experience was very positive and continuation is desired is plenty.
Overall, the feeling after running the teen program is both one of satisfaction and hope, but also of realism and renewed determination.
For the younger children, the changes seem to be easier but perhaps less deep. Youth in the SPY program were surprisingly open and eager to learn about plants, gardening, insects, soil, and nature. They embraced the gardens and put real effort into signs requesting that people not step on the beds and “Keep the gardens healthy”. They were also the most likely to forget these pleas as they returned to their usual outdoor play.
They were extremely open to all sorts of outdoor activities, but less likely than the older youth to overcome built-in prejudices about bugs and “dirt”- at least initially- through learning new perspectives. There was also a real need for instructors to learn firm management, especially in public places, beyond what might be expected in a typical school fieldtrip. This was due almost entirely to this being a summer, and therefore voluntary, program, and in small part to different expectations and perceptions of behavior between the youth and the instructors/volunteers. It was a good learning experience for all.
The advantage of the K-8 program over the teen program is that, while engagement may not be as deep, there are many years for it to take root and flourish in.
Our Outreach goals were to reach potential volunteers, interns, community members with relevant expertise to share, students just getting into organic farming or local food, potential sponsors, Avalon Housing and edible Avalon supporters, and other similar programs or organizations working in related areas (urban farming, hunger, sustainability, at-risk youth, homelessness, community-building and revitalization, etc.). We also wanted to extensively document our programs through photos, Facebook entries, and video.
Information about our program went out on the edible Avalon and youth program webpages and Facebook page, over the edible Avalon email list, the Avalon Housing email list and newsletters, Chris Bedford’s Local Food list, the Homegrown/Local Food Summit list, SELMA Cafe’s list, Growing Hope’s list, and the Michigan Young Farmer Coalition’s list. We flyered extensively at University of Michigan departments, especially the Schools of Natural Resources, Education, Public Health, and Social Work, and listed on volunteerMatch. The Dietetic Intern program was advised of our new offering so that interested candidates could request a rotation with us. Avalon tenants were told about the program and invited to participate as mentors or to teach a class (which several did).
Our weekly activities were shared on an ongoing basis through our Facebook page, with numerous captioned pictures and entries. We also made three videos last summer showcasing the youth programs (www.youtube.com/user/AvalonHousingInc).
The program also forged bonds with community members and organizations involved in sustainable food production and made them aware of the funding for our programming.
There were two public events: the annual edible Avalon Garden Tour, in which teens prepared and presented a grill-out buffet for Tour guests and were on hand to talk about the youth programs, and the People Food Co-op’s Urban Agriculture Tour, of which edible Avalon’s Youth program was a stop, and at which Teens conducted a guided tour of their garden beds and explained what they had accomplished over the summer, after which they presented their final projects. Dates and information for these tours:
• Edible Avalon Garden Tour: Wednesday, July 27th, 2011; participants: 22
• People’s Food Co-op Tour: Sunday, August 27th, 2011; participants: 15
Note: all photos uploaded to edible Avalon’s or Avalon Housing’s webpages have been cleared using Avalon’s Photo Permission form, which must be signed by individuals (if adults) or parents (if under 18).
Attached is an article from AnnArbor.com by Slow Food Huron Valley director Kim Bayer, “20 Reasons To Feel Hopeful About Michigan and Our Food System in 20 12”, in which edible Avalon’s Youth program is listed as one of the reasons. Or see: