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Farms and Food Model Learning Expedition


This year-long expedition engaged first graders in an entire year of studying farms and foods. It wove skills of reading, writing, math, drawing and research with content in science, nutrition, health and social studies. Hands-on experiences include: working at farms and organizations that provide food to the homeless and building a garden at the school. The expedition combined academic lessons and the production of high quality student products with real life experiences – apprentice work at farms, dairies and apiaries and work in the soil to produce a garden with produce that was eaten by the class. Almost all the content focus areas for the year were woven into this study: science lessons in experimental technique using seeds and plants preceded work on the garden; lessons on Martin Luther King and social justice were connected to a study of Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers movement; and readers and writers workshops were centered in non-fiction and fictional material connected to foods, farms and healthy nutrition.

The expedition began with a case study of a local apple orchard, where the whole class was involved in research and worked together on-site and in the classroom, and included a good deal of language arts work. This was followed by fieldwork at a local farm, after which students chose to join a study group with classmates for in-depth research in one aspect of food and farms. The four study groups were: bees; fruits, vegetables & grains; dairy; and poultry. Each study group spent months learning about their topic, including field research at farm sites, class visits by experts, and hands-on work with foods. Study groups were responsible for teaching classmates about their topic and contributing a chapter for the whole-class Farm Book. 

The expedition connected students to themes of service and social justice through a study of farmworkers and the farmworkers’ movement, and then through a case study of a homeless shelter that provided healthy food for its clients through an on-site garden, greenhouse, apiary and aqua-culture tank. After fieldwork at this innovative shelter, students again joined study groups, this time to become experts in a local charitable organization that supplied food to the needy and homeless. Study groups were involved in field research and service for the organization they adopted. A culminating product of this work was a full-color calendar, professionally printed, with student writing and illustrations depicting student ideas about important ways that we can help all people to get access to healthy food. The calendar was sold in the community and given to all the organizations who were part of the work. 

The expedition ended with a scientific study of seeds and plants, followed by the planting of a spring garden at the school. Students were able to create and eat a spring salad from the fruits of their work in this expedition. 

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