Fresh! is a collaborative project created by Columbia Secondary School’s Food & Sustainability June Term class in June 2010. During this month-long exploration of sustainable growing and eating, thirty-two seventh grade students took a journalist’s eye to their learning. Inspired by a visit to the Rodale Institute and Organic Gardening magazine offices in Pennsylvania, students took a stab at creating their own “youth” version of an Organic Gardening-style magazine. Here, you’ll get a view of what Food & Sustainability J-Term is all about and hear what the freshest voices say about what it takes to live – and eat – sustainably!
Sustainability requires a balancing of relationships, a grasp of collaboration that functions as a most efficient system. In a natural ecosystem, an instinctive set of gives and takes creates an unspoken harmony, where strength is measured not in domination, but in collaboration. We humans, accustomed to control, thirst for answers to a planetary crisis we’ve created, yet we seldom look to existing models of sustainable living that surround us in all too often overlooked non-human spheres of life. If ecosystems function sustainably in the natural world, perhaps our human systems should take a cue from those tried and true balances and try out similar systems in our own living (Editorial continues below publication).
This Food and Sustainability Course, part of Columbia Secondary School’s June Term Program, became an experiment in teaching about sustainable systems. How, we teachers often ask, can we best facilitate our students’ learning? In Columbia Secondary School’s June Term program, that answer becomes quickly apparent. Designed on the theory that experience fuels deep learning, the CSS June Term answers this question as it brings students to camp in watersheds, kayak up the Hudson River, work on a farm, and experience flora and fauna from our urban city setting to the Puerto Rican rain forest. We cannot learn to live sustainably and know the benefits of a balanced system unless we live it and breathe it and know it for ourselves.
So, in June 2010, we embarked with thirty-two seventh graders with exactly this goal: to live and learn sustainability. A trip to the Rodale Institute and Organic Gardeningediting offices in Pennsylvania proved the theory that a natural, organic model of living reaps endless spirals of mutual benefits. Students got a first-hand introduction to sustainable growing and living, and saw how the publishing of Organic Gardeningmagazine conveys these approaches to readers across the country.
Then, during a week-long stay at Hawthorne Valley Farm, an organic, biodynamic farm in upstate New York, our students became part of the synergy that helps the many facets of an organic farm run as a single organism. As our students worked alongside farmers in early morning animal feedings, cow herding expeditions, egg collecting, stall mucking, and food preparation, they learned first-hand about the food we eat and the delicate balance necessary to protect the land used to raise that food. Back in the city, students eagerly shopped at New York City’s Farmer Markets and tallied up the miles traveled by grocery store food as they prepared healthy class lunches and found ways to bring their farm learning to play in city life. They explored urban community gardens and began to think of ways to employ these strategies in the school community. Anxious to engage in the roles of the Organic Gardening team, our students’ creation of Fresh! took on a structure far different than a traditional individual student project, and instead found a form akin to the sustainable systems they had experienced. Students assumed roles as art directors, advertising specialists, editors, photographers, and designers – and the project became a true team effort, with each student’s input building towards the team’s larger cohesive whole.
What unfolds on the pages to follow are aptly matched, I believe, to the title selected by our class. Indeed, these opinions, reviews, and articles are Fresh! in every sense of the word. They are a real answer to satisfying “green” trends. They are visions of successful sustainable relationships between humans and other living organisms. They are testament to the sense of wonder that comes with experiencing nature and truth through the eyes of youth. They are the future.
“Editor in Chief”