by FoodCorps Service Member Susie Burton
Last week, we had to prepare some garden beds at Cornelia Elementary for fall planting. Tomato and pepper plants had to be ripped out and hauled away; bags of manure, compost, and peat moss had to be dragged over and poured out; and the soil had to be turned over to incorporate those amendments.
I had students fighting for an opportunity to help me. To be clear, I had students fighting for the chance to do manual labor… by working with cow poop… during their recess.
There’s an idea that sometimes gets passed around that kids are “lazy” or that they “don’t want to work hard.” I can’t speak for every kid, but I can say that my experiences with students never support that idea.
My students are hungry for these experiences–hungry to use their bodies and learn with their hands and work with me and with each other in the glorious October sunshine. The sweat, the dirt, the poop, the stretching and carrying and heaving and hauling are all a part of the experience they embrace with joy and energy.
My students are also hungry for healthy food. It’s evidenced by the excitement that ripples through school on taste test days, and the dozens of hands that shoot up when I’m passing out taste test leftovers. Our students want fresh, nutritious Georgia-grown produce. When they get it, they eat it two, three, four servings at a time.
So my role in service is not to teach kids how to work hard, or that they should want to eat vegetables. They already know these things. My responsibility–and our responsibility as a farm to school program, as educators, as parents and community members and advocates–is to give students the opportunities they’re already craving: opportunities to work, learn, and eat in ways that excite them and nourish their minds and bodies.