Interested in sustainable agriculture and environmental education? This past weekend I went to the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association (SAEA) Conference in Santa Cruz, CA. At the conference, there were several environmental educators and students running farm programs at their schools. My favorite part was touring the LifeLab Classroom, an organic farm. John, an on-site educator, led use around the sustainable farm switching between our teacher to a partner-in-the-field. First, a few of us went on stage to perform the cow poop to strawberry milkshake skit, and then we meandered around the farm following scavenger hunt cards from the pizza garden to the cement (recycled from an old sidewalk) garden beds.
We changed roles into collaborating comrades when we shared information between one another about crops and teaching practices. Here are a couple of my favorite things I learned….
- 1. Weeds: Weeds are basically just plants that don’t need your help growing and grow in unwanted spaces. There are edible weeds like blackberries (and you can take kids on an edible weed tour).
- 2. Organics & weeds: When talking about organics, it is important to stress why they are more expensive— the time and labor spent weeding. You can give kids the two scenarios—a. spray pesticides (animals like goffers are poisoned and don’t eat crops, but then beneficial animals like owls or your pet cat could eat that goffer and get sick) vs. hand pick weeds (time and cost) and setting out goffer traps. There are other organic options like flame weeding or tracker weeding too. As an educator, your job is to TEACH the different options and their job to CHOOSE what they think works best.
- 3. Organic Pest Management: .It’s good to plant trap crops (like Yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace or Allysum-- think about plant structure with lots of flowers) to attract predator insects and birds like bees and ladybugs to eat bad bugs that eat up the crops. Also hedge rows (bushes of flowers that are planted to break up the farm) help reduce and break up populations of bad bugs on the farm.
- 4. Specific Plant Lesson that we created together: 6 Parts of the Plant (see more on ESLI's page)
a. Diagram of 6 parts of a plant
b. Plant song (different parts of a plant to head, shoulders, knees and toes)
c. Plant Burrito Cooking Demo:
i. Lettuce- leaf
iii. Tomato: Fruit
iv. Carrots: root
v. Green onion: stem
vi. Brocelli: flower
d. Quiz Back- Ask kids examples of the foods that are different parts of the plant.