Oh the places a lesson can go…

During some of my lessons I am so impressed, and amazed, at where a lesson will end up. In February, I’ve taught 14 classes of second graders about where and how fruits grow through Garden City Harvest’s Farmer in the Classroom program. Surprisingly enough, the dead of winter is a good time to introduce the concept of seasonality to the students.

Fresh snow on the Lowell School Garden
Fresh snow on the Lowell Outdoor Learning Center

We begin the lesson with talking about what winter in Montana is like and how fruit trees like apples survive our harsh winters. We contrast Montana fruits that can survive our seasons, to others fruits that need to be warm all of the time. These fruits grow in tropical places near the equator. Then we talk about why we have seasons here in Montana, why the north and south pole are always cold, and why it’s always warm near the equator. It may not sound like it, but this is riveting stuff, especially when you’re using colorful maps, globes, and student volunteers to be the sun. This is the point in my lesson where a 5 minute explanation of the tilt of the earth causing seasons, can turn into a 15-20 minute discussion with eight year olds. Here are a few examples of the insightful, interesting, and impressive questions that have come up while teaching this lesson about fruits.

  • “Why does the earth, that is round, look like an oval on a map?”
  • “So the equator is warm because it gets the most direct sunlight?”
  • “If the Earth is spinning all the time, why don’t we fly off?”
  • “So Argentina has the OPPOSITE winter than us? That is crazy!”
  • “Do the continents move?”
  • “Why does the earth go around the sun?”
  • “Why is space black?”
  • “What is the big bang?”
  • “Where are seeds in a banana? I’ve never seen them before.”
  • “If this kiwi was grown in New Zealand, how did it get here?”
Kiwis are one fruit students learn about and taste test in December.
Kiwis are one fruit students learn about in the February lesson “Where Do Fruits Come From?

These questions provide a snapshot into the curiosity students have related to these subjects they rarely have the opportunity to learn about in school. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved everything related to geography, meteorology, and cartography. And now I get to teach it! I am very thankful that FoodCorps lessons allow for flexibility and creativity in their content and style. It sure makes every day of teaching unique and I don’t always know where a discussion about fruits will end up. Although FoodCorps service members are in classes, cafeterias, and gardens to be the “garden/food person,” in many ways our role is to simply encourage the love of learning about the world around us.