Germinating Young Minds

By Maria Cerretani, Slow Food NYC Board Member

Eww!" "That's kind of cool!" "Disturbing!"

If I told you that I overheard these comments while sitting in a high school classroom, you probably wouldn't guess that the students were reacting to a time-lapse video of a seed germinating.

And, no, this was not in a science class.

At Essex Street Academy on the Lower East Side, math teacher Sara Katz teaches the sole elective offered to the tenth grade -- a class called Food for Thought. She has been teaching the class during the spring semester for the past three years with funding assistance from Slow Food NYC's Urban Harvest program. The objective of the class is to encourage the students to think critically about the food they consume and their own interactions with the food system. Katz does not set out to criticize the students' food choices or drill them on micronutrients. Instead, the course is intended to give the high school sophomores a lens through which to make decisions and interpret information.

In a recent class, the students were starting seeds for their roof garden. Katz posed a number of questions and they broke off into groups to brainstorm. A question about which foods can grow in New York City sparked intense debate as the students grappled with the distinction between what could grow in the climate and their presumptions about what people actually grow in the city. So, when one student suggested grapes, another student disagreed because she felt it was impractical to grow grapes in an urban environment. Katz used the opportunity to encourage the class to consider all the options available for growing food in the city outside of a traditional farm setting. When she here for the rest of the story...

Related Programs:  Urban Harvest