8/28/12

“I learned that it's important to grow food” and other lessons from farm field trips

As we develop our farm education programs at Arcadia, we keep asking ourselves: What's the impact we're having? What are students actually learning at the farm? How are the lessons we teach relevant to their lives?

Luckily, we've had some awesome help in figuring all this out. We teamed up with Amy Best, a sociology professor at George Mason University, and Allison Helmuth, a graduate student from George Washington University, to evaluate our spring program. Allison helped us analyze the results of our pre-test, which students take before they arrive at the farm, and the post-test, which they take when they return to school. Amy observed seven of our trips and took extensive field notes on the lessons we teach and kids' reactions.

Here's what we found out:
  • Students showed improvement on almost every question from the pre-test to the post-test. They're learning something!
  • In particular, there was a 15% jump in the number of students who reported they'd tried all six of the veggies we named: lettuce, broccoli, radish, spinach, carrot, kale. Also, 8% more students said they had not only tried, but LIKED all six veggies after attending the field trip to Arcadia Farm.
  • After the field trip, 15% more students identified which vegetables were local and seasonal compared to before the trip.
  • We found strong evidence of peer-to-peer learning. In other words, students were actually reinforcing the lessons with their classmates by discussing what they'd learned.
  • While few students understood growing cycles or the difference between conventional and sustainable agriculture when they arrived, many students demonstrated knowledge & appreciation of food origins, seasonality, locally-grown food, and environmentally sustainable growing practices during the trip. Hurray!
On the post-test, we asked the students what they'd learned on their field trip to Arcadia Farm. The word cloud at right summarizes what they said. Plus, here are some of our favorite answers:
  • “What I learned on my field trip is that compost makes plants grow better.”
  • “I learned that healthy soil is a living thing.”
  • “I learned that it's important to grow food”
  • “That you have to eat healthy and eat veggies so you can be strong. Also you have to eat a lot of fruits.”
  • “Spinach, that I really liked it, I tried it for my first time at the farm”
  • “That radishes are spicy.”
  • “That the farmer doesn't spray chemicals to kill insects because they might harm the vegetable or kill the good harmful bugs”
  • “That using natural things are better for the environment and the plant”
  • “That carrots grow under the ground.”
  • “I learned that fruits come in different seasons.”
Lots and lots of thanks go out to Amy and Allison, as well as our spring field trip team for making it all happen. Want to register for a fall field trip? You can get more information here.

1 comment:

  1. I always like to grow foods in my garden because it gives an advantage to don't buy them from market and get fresh from own garden. This is very good thing to you have understood the importance to grow food. I am sure these lessons will help you in different kinds of farming, agriculture and gardening projects.

    Soil Testing Sunshine Coast

    ReplyDelete