Recap: Grow Education Teacher Professional Development Day August 18, 2020
Grow Education’s mission revolves around catalyzing a healthier region in the Southcoast. We know that the quality of food we eat has far reaching affects into our physical, mental and emotional health. The highest quality food we can find comes from our local farmers, who are paying attention to soil health, using chemical free and organic practices, and have local economic and environmental ‘skin in the game.’
Our Farm to School (FTS) Project leverages a relationship with New Bedford Public Schools to bring this knowledge to our youth and their teachers. Many of these youth live in high needs, coming from areas of economic poverty and low access to these fresh and healthy foods. Working with the Food Service Department, our goal to improve the quality of school meals is setting the bar high over the next couple of years. We know that adding higher quality foods in the cafeteria is only part of the battle – building interest and openness for students, so they actually consume and enjoy this food, is just as important! This is why we are incorporating Farm to School programming into the classroom and curriculum through professional development and educational workshops.
On August 18th the GROW Education team and 17 teachers from New Bedford Public Schools came together for our first Professional Development (PD) Workshop, in a safe physically distant format! These teachers are part of the first cohort of an FTS project rollout to all 19 of New Bedford’s Elementary Schools. Teachers were brought to Round the Bend Farm in Dartmouth – knowing that there is no substitute for an experience of touring a working farm, while being fed delicious farm to table meals!
The day kicked off with a tour from RTB staff, Desa and Nate, who led teachers around the farm, describing both the farms sustainable and equity-based values, and the associated farming practices that support this. After the tour, over coffee, tea and homemade snacks the teachers shared what they learned about the farm by connecting the dots back to their curriculum. Presentations about the local food system were given by Marion Institute teammates, Adam and Liz, and by NBPS Food Service Staff. The question, “how did this experience inform your understanding and excitement of how food is grown?” led to rich conversation about how school gardens can engage and excite their students.
In the background, Chef Shaun, prepared a delicious farm to table lunch that was enjoyed all around. Providing the participants an opportunity to experience a locally sourced lunch, much like we hope their students will come to experience in their school cafeterias. This fueled rich afternoon workshops, in which teachers put their heads down and worked on related lesson planning, while sharing and critiquing each other’s work. For us, the most exciting part was seeing teachers connecting from across the district and thinking outside the box while incorporating concepts they learned from the farm tour.
This PD workshop is the initial programming for a yearlong connection with teachers from these six elementary schools. Grow and our new Food Corps staff, will spend the next year supporting these teachers with Farm to School programming and technical assistance to use in the gardens and classrooms at their schools. Not knowing what Covid-19 may bring to education and the health impacts to our city, this project has never been more important! Stay tuned as we continue updates on the rollout of the Farm to School project in partnership with the New Bedford Food Service Department!