FOOD education as a component of STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) is a national priority to insure American competitiveness and producivity in the 21st Century. At Jones Valley, we believe students’ need more opportunities to investigate and explore questions about local and global food systems.
In early 2012 Jones Valley began researching the Alabama Math Science & Technology Initiative—we studied AMSTI’s positive results—and we looked even further into the concept of kit-based learning for students and teachers. Kits are one of the primary educational tools used by teachers when delivering inquiry-based, hands-on learning in the classroom. With this in mind, Jones Valley went to the drawing board to dream up a new program— the Food Institute. Through the support of Blue Cross Blue Shield and Wells Fargo, Jones Valley invited 5 third grade teachers to the farm for a week-long institute. We adopted the Design Thinking for Educators process to collaborate with the teachers as we designed a food systems kit and curriculum that aligns with Alabama course of study standards. These kits are being implemented in five schools across Birmingham during the fall 2012 semester.
Jones Valley asked Chasity Curtis, a third grade teacher at Midfield Elementary, about her experience designing the new kit and it’s potential impact on her 21 students:
What impact did the Food Institute have on you as a teacher? And what was it like to collaborate with other teachers to design something from scratch?
Participating in the Food Institute and having the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers/professionals was powerful. Working through the design process and developing a curriculum where we each brought our unique life experiences, professional knowledge, pedagogy, etc. to the table was much different than any other professional workshop I’ve ever attended. I now feel empowered and well-equipped to instruct my students on a subject that will affect the quality of their lives now and in the future.
What impact do you hope the module/kit will have on your students?
Ultimately, I hope that students will be equipped with the knowledge they need to become critical consumers, and know that the choices they make in food have an impact on the sustainability of their health, environment, and economy.