Experiences of an AgScape Teacher Ambassador
By Amy Dunslow, OCT, AgScape Teacher Ambassador
Growing up in Chatham-Kent (Ontario), I had the privilege of learning about agriculture first hand – by visiting farms, eating fruits and vegetables bought at the local farm stand, and running through the fields across the street from our home. Even though I didn’t live on a farm, I recognized and understood the hard work and effort it took to bring food to our table. This recognition and understanding is often missing for many of the students I meet when I visit urban high school classrooms as an AgScape® Teacher Ambassador.
This is understandable, though, because most people have little opportunity to experience what I grew up with.
At the beginning of each lesson I always start with one question: “What is agriculture?” The answers I receive often surprise me – from “I don’t know” and “A culture about something,” to the more promising “Culture of food” and the occasional “Farming”. These kinds of answers remind me that we live in a time where most of us are drastically disconnected from the people, places, and processes that bring food to our table.
When I introduce AgScape® to a class I always comment, “The more you know more about the food you eat, the better choices you will make for your health and the more respect you will have for your food.” Usually I have to go on to explain that what I mean by ‘respect for your food’ is an appreciation for the abundance and choice of foods we have, a true understanding of where it comes from, and recognition of the energy, thought and care that went into producing it. This understanding is the primary reason AgScape’s Teacher Ambassador Program® is so important – it brings students the knowledge they need so that they can understand how their food is grown and processed, and it prepares them to make informed choices about that food.
In every classroom I visit, I see opportunity for learning, growing and making good decisions. Today’s students are great at asking questions and trying to find what matters most to them. On several occasions my ‘lessons’ have transitioned to more of an open ‘question and answer’ period, with students picking my brain about agriculture. I don’t get lessons shift focus – I’m happy that these students are curious and asking questions about what interests them. This often happens in my Local Food lesson when students are surprised and excited to learn about how much food we actually grow in Ontario. It’s often a revelation to them, and their surprise is understandable when we consider that they are urban students and the nearest farm is a 45 minute drive away.
In an age where almost any kind of information is readily available to them, talking about food in school – and doing so with balanced, fact-based programs and resources – is very important. It’s right that we focus our attention on something that’s so important. The Teacher Ambassador Program® has a wide variety of topics for teachers to choose from – this variety allows us to connect to many parts of the curriculum in most of the subject areas. It’s a great program and I look forward to working to promote it in as many schools as possible.
A partner organization of Farm & Food Care, Agscape works to promote food and farming literacy in Ontario’s school curriculum.
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