Community members and young people are increasingly separated from their food systems and the farmers that grow their food. This grant proposal, “Student-based, farmer-advised sustainable food systems curriculum: A collaborative approach for developing and assessing agricultural education in elementary schools” provides a model for participatory curriculum creation with the potential to unite farmers and community members to build a more cohesive, sustainable food system. Short term learning outcomes include increasing community and student knowledge of the local food system through place-based experiential curriculum. Curriculum, shaped by a committee of farmers and community members, will include field trips to local farms and experiential learning opportunities in the classroom. A “best practices” document will be created so other elementary schools can adopt the Gompers Grows collaborative curriculum creation model and use the cooperatively created evaluation tool to assess impact. This collaborative process will create a network of farmers, students, and community members to build social and cultural capital.
Long term outcomes of this project include increased food security in the neighborhood surrounding the elementary school. Integrating the knowledge and experience of underrepresented farmers will provide the diverse students of Gompers Elementary school both the knowledge and confidence to pursue sustainable agriculture as a career. Evaluation will be involved from the start of the project, as Laura Livingston will work with farmers, community members, teaching staff, and students to ensure that the Gompers Grows curriculum and this grant project are serving the needs of the community. This cycle of education will likely improve social viability of sustainable agriculture, enhancing the quality of life for farmers, rural and urban communities, and society as a whole. By incorporating the knowledge and experiences of grant stakeholders throughout the process, the impacts of the program will better serve community and farmer interests, creating a model of authentic participation that can be used across the North Central Region.
Project objectives from proposal:
Learning outcomes: The ‘Gompers Grows’ project will address issues of food security and self-determination by giving students a background knowledge of their food system as well as providing skills for food production. Students will gain experiential understanding of the concept of sustainable agriculture. Students will know how their food is grown, harvested and transported, fostering an appreciation of farmers. Students and community members will have increased awareness and improved attitudes towards sustainable agriculture. Students will see farming as a viable career represented by diverse farmers. Students, teachers, and the community will increase their understanding of the importance of sustainable agriculture to their personal and their communities’ health.
Action outcomes: This process will create a network of farmers, students, and community members to build social and cultural capital. Other elementary schools will adopt the Gompers Grows curriculum and use the cooperatively created evaluation tool to assess impact. Community members and students will grow their own food and/or support community garden initiatives. Farmers will see an increase in economic viability with increased engagement with community members and the publicity from the project. Students will engage more with sustainable agriculture as they continue their education process and seek out careers in sustainable agriculture. Students and community members will be able to communicate more effectively and change behavior reflecting sustainability principles learning through this process.