Fun With Food Summer Camp for 9-12 year olds at Central College in Pella, Iowa

Project Overview

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2017: $2,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Central College
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Manager:
Thomas Johnson
Central College

Information Products

Fun with Food in the Garden (Course or Curriculum)
Fun with Food Recipe Book (Course or Curriculum)


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: youth education

    Proposal abstract:

    Project Abstract

    In 2016, Central College hosted our first ever “Fun with Food” summer camp, welcoming 24 campers, ages 9-12 to learn about healthy foods. The camp featured field trips and hands-on experiences, with cooking as the centerpiece. For 2017, we plan to enhance the camp by also developing a structured curriculum to introduce key concepts in sustainable agriculture, utilizing the college’s own organic garden, field trips to an organic farm and a conventional farm pioneering sustainable practices, and a visit to our local farmer’s market. Campers will harvest and purchase food throughout the week to prepare healthy, kid-friendly snacks and meals.

    Detailed Project Plan and Timeline

    With the support of this grant, we will enhance our camp curriculum, adding hands on experiences for young people to learn about the economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainable agriculture. During the spring of 2017, Central College students in an independent study with Dr. Shuger Fox to begin work on this new curriculum. In addition, they will develop pre & post tests to measure impact. Spring 2017 students will also manage camp planning and recruiting. With funding from the grand, we will hire one of these students to work an additional 40 hours in July 2017 to finalize curriculum planning and gather supplies in preparation for the camp. This student will also distribute pre-tests (assessing fruit & vegetable intake and sustainable agriculture literacy). The camp will run the week of July 31 - August 4, 2017 (9am-3pm). In fall of 2017, we will lead an outreach workshop at the UMACS conference (hosted on our campus in September), and with grant support we will travel to the AASHE conference (September, in San Antonio) to continue outreach, sharing this curriculum and camp model with other colleges and universities.

    Campers will learn about the economics of sustainable agriculture and farmers’ quality of life through role play games, field trips to farms, and interviews with farmer’s market vendors. We will visit the Pella Farmer’s Market to interview a diverse array of local farmers, including male and female farmers, families who have farmed here for generations and recent immigrants from around the world, farmers using organic and conventional methods, vegetable and livestock producers, etc. Students would compile short video clips of these interviews to produce a farmer’s market video. With funding from this grant, campers will purchase foods from the market to prepare fresh, seasonal food for their snacks and meals during the week.

    As part of our curriculum development, we plan to create a role play game simulating the economics of sustainable agriculture, giving campers a sense of the challenges and opportunities for farmers in our area. Campers would then have the opportunity to visit two different farms, Prairie Roots Organic Farm and Van Dyke Farms, to hear about how they navigate these economic challenges. To accompany these field trips, we will work with farmers to develop additional curriculum focused on ecologically sustainable agriculture that promotes stewardship of land, air, and water. At Prairie Roots Organic Farm, campers will participate in hands-on activities to learn about techniques and rationales for soil building, including composting, cover cropping, and diverse intercropping. At Van Dyke Farms, campers will see how this family is growing vegetables and pioneering sustainability practices for corn and soybean production, utilizing technology to reduce expenses while improving soil and water quality. Both farmers have recently constructed high tunnels, and we will work with them to develop hands-on activities to learn how such structures can enhance economic and ecological sustainability.

    We also plan to expand curriculum to introduce campers ecological principles and practices utilizing Central College’s half acre organic garden. Campers will learn about holistic approaches to agriculture, utilizing the permaculture section of the garden, which includes a mix of fruit trees, edible perennials, and pollinator-friendly plants. Pollinators will be the key focus for another lesson, giving campers an opportunity to study native bees under microscopes, harvest honey from campus honey bees, and observe butterflies in the campus Monarch Way station. We will also develop a seed saving activity to demonstrate the life cycle of plants, cultural heritage of heirloom seed varieties and importance of genetic diversity. To supplement lessons at Prairie Roots Organic Farm, we will explore the benefits of low tunnels for extending the growing season and we will practice composting to promote soil health at the college garden, incorporating food scraps from all camp meals.

    Through this range of experiences, campers will learn about the critical role people play in our agricultural system and the critical role of sustainable agriculture in supporting healthy communities. By engaging with this variety of producers, campers will grow their sense of connection to their local food system. While we focus locally, we also plan to integrate an Oxfam Hunger Banquet during the camp, to provide a global perspective on sustainable food systems and issues of food security. Through this holistic curriculum, packed with hands-on experiences, we aim to nurture young people who can be supporters of sustainable agriculture as both consumers and producers, helping grow healthy communities now and for the future.

    Resources Used

    As part of existing local food initiatives, Central College works closely with a number of individuals and organizations that will be key resources for expanding this camp’s focus on sustainable agriculture. These include farmers Louise Zaffiro and Abby Zalcberg of Prairie Roots Organic Farm, and farmers Sandi and Ward Van Dyke, who are integrating sustainable practices and specialty crops into their conventional farm. In developing curriculum, we will also partner with the Pella Farmer’s Market, Red Rock Beekeepers, Eat Greater Des Moines, Des Moines Food Corps, Seed Savers Exchange, Practical Farmers of Iowa, WFAN (Women, Food and Agriculture Network), and RFSWG (Regional Food Systems Working Group). Central also has existing partnerships with several elementary and middle schools in both Pella and Des Moines, where we collaborate with K-12 colleagues to support school gardens and sustainable food education.

    In developing our college-based sustainable agriculture camp curriculum, we have identified several resources and books that will be critical. We will consult other existing food education programs and curricula, including Got Veggies? A Youth Garden-Based Nutrition Education Curriculum (WI) and the Cookshop Curriculum, Community Food Resource Center (NY). In addition, we will learn from books focused on K-12 food and garden education, such as Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation (Sharon Gamson Danks), How to Grow a School Garden (Arden Bucklin-Sporer & Rachel Kathleen Pringle), and Edible Schoolyard (Alice Waters). Seed saving lessons will be informed by The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving (Micaela Colley & Jared Zystro). Instruction on organic gardening and small farm management will utilize resources including The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener (Elliot Coleman) and The Market Gardener: A Successful Gr0wer’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming (Jean- Martin Fortier).


    Through national, regional, and local outreach, we will continue to strengthen networks of sustainable agriculture education and promote what we see as a promising model for other colleges and universities. We plan to lead a case study workshop at the 2017 conference of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The event includes tracks focused on sustainable food, community partnerships, and curriculum development, attracting around 2,000 attendees from colleges and universities across North America. This would be an ideal context to introduce our summer camp to other institutions who could implement sustainable agriculture youth education camps in their own contexts. Our workshop would be archived in AASHE’s online resource hub, and we also intend to submit our camp curriculum as a case study to an academic journal such as Sustainability: The Journal of Record.

    In 2017, Central College will host the regional conference for the Upper Midwest Association for Campus Sustainability (UMACS), another opportunity for us to lead a workshop promoting this summer camp model. We anticipate 200 attendees from dozens of schools across Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas.

    Locally, Central College will expand on existing outreach with senior living center Wesley Life. Drs. Shuger Fox and Campbell will present to residents (open to the public) on how the college garden and local farmers were utilized to teach younger generations about sustainable practices. Dr. Shuger Fox already works on a research project with the Wesley Life residents focusing on the Blue Zones initiatives and nutrition literacy. Dr. Campbell is engaged with residents in oral history research tracing the history of sustainable agriculture in Iowa. By connecting the summer camp to this existing partnership, we will continue to strengthen the curriculum with intergenerational data and continue to strengthen local support for the camp.

    Student and Community Impact

    Dr. Shuger Fox will distribute surveys to gauge community impact at the local elementary schools (appropriate grade levels targeted) and Wesley Life (assisted living) and other various community partners to help extend the outreach of our camp. Participation sheets will also be collected each semester (fall, spring and summer) to check the trends of participation in the garden. A survey will be created by Dr. Shuger Fox specifically for participant outcomes. This will illustrate how the camp integrates different academic areas such as socio-cultural, nutritional, and ecological education within the context of sustainability. Specifically, a pre and post survey will be distributed to participants looking a fruit and vegetable consumption and nutrition knowledge. This data will be compared to the recommended guidelines provided by Additionally, the participants will have a healthy meal challenge they prepare on the final day which is judged by specialist in the field of nutrition. This information will also be collected to keep a record of participant’s knowledge of healthy ingredients. Lastly, we will keep an archive of interviews from all the local farmers that we visit with either on a field trip or at the local farmer's market to keep track of any trends we can see in the world of sustainable agriculture.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Enhance student experiences at Central College's “Fun with Food” summer camp by developing a structured curriculum to introduce key concepts in sustainable agriculture.
    2. Introduce campers to sustainable agriculture through role play games, field trips to farms, and interviews with farmer’s market vendors.
    3. Develop and teach curriculum focused on ecologically sustainable agriculture that promotes stewardship of land, air, and water.
    4. Extend impact of summer camp program by leading a case study workshop at a national sustainable agriculture conference, publishing a journal article, presenting at a regional conference for campus sustainability, and expanding on existing outreach with a senior living center.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.