Food for Thought – Episode 2: Teaching Long-Term Planning to Kids with Gardening

Learn & Grow Educational Series’ creator, Anne M. Zachry, M.A. Ed. Psych., discusses the life lessons that are naturally embedded in learning to grow food and how this is deliberately accounted for in Learn & Grow’s curriculum.

Transcript of Audio from Video:

Note:  The paragraphs of the transcript are numbered for reference in your comments/questions.  For example, “In paragraph 7, you state … My question about that is, …?” 

Anne Zachry

  1. Are you ladies doing all right down there? Okay. Well, there’s nobody here but us chickens, right? [directed at nearby chickens] Let me get this thing off right now; untie it from my gullet. [referring to removing mask]
  2. Hi. My name is Anne Zachry. I’m the creator of Learn & Grow Educational Series, and we’re here in the Learn & Grow Test Garden. And, I’m going to be creating more of these vlogs – video logs – just to bring more information to our audience.
  3. We’re now at the point where we have approximately 45,000 learners following us around the world across three social media platforms. So we’ve got 30-something-thousand on Facebook right now, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 on Instagram. And then we’ve got anywhere between 4000 is 7500 people following us on Pinterest, at any given moment, just depending on how responsive people are what we pin, and so we know that there’s an interest in what we’re doing.
  4. We know that there’s an interest in learning and relearning as a species about how to have control over our own food and what goes into our own bodies. And there’s a lot of reasons why you want to grow your own food. One, again, is control over what you’re eating. If you know what you’re putting into the soil – you know, the nutrients your food is absorbing, as far as fruits and vegetables go … And the same thing with our laying hens here. I feed them nothing but organic scratch and scraps from the garden and scraps from the kitchen, and they’re healthy, well fed girls who lay the most beautiful, healthy eggs. And so, having that kind of control over the quality of your food is obviously one really compelling reason to grow it yourself.
  5. But, one of the problems is that not everybody has open ground for growing; not everybody has a yard. And right now I’m actually having to, through Learn & Grow, rent the space where we’re located right now. But there’s more to it than that, because we also can give tours of the garden and teach classes here, which I wouldn’t want to be able to I wouldn’t want to do from like, the backyard someplace where I live. So on the one hand, it’s a little bit of a bummer that I can’t just walk out of my door and see my food, and my chickens and sit out here and drink coffee first thing in the morning in my pajamas. But on the other hand, you know the ability to give people access to this and to invite them into the garden to view it without disrupting a residential situation is also preferred.
  6. So this is a unique situation. The garden did actually start out as a backyard garden. So, and then we added the chickens. But, it’s amazing what you could do even with limited space. And one of the reasons why we do our gardening method the way we do with the self-watering containers is because it is portable. You know, I’ve moved this garden now six times in seven years, and I still have things that I started from seed in the very, very beginning … my goji berry in particular … that is continuing to produce and give me food every year. And I don’t have to invest more into it than water and fertilizer now and again, and it takes care of me, so long as I take care of it. And my end of it is a pretty light deal. So I’m … so I’m pretty happy about that.
  7. The other thing that you want to look at too, especially if you’re a family with children … and I’m coming at this from the perspective of an educational psychologist and a behavior analyst: I do curriculum development, I help create customized tailored educational programs for students with learning differences, including some pretty significant disabilities … so, I’m accustomed to looking at someone as an individual and saying, “Okay, this is what you already know. This is what you need to learn. This is where you’re at developmentally right now. And, this is what we’re in a position to teach you at this moment, with these longer-term objectives in mind.”
  8. And so, in educational planning, you’re looking at long term. You know, “What is it going to take to get this child to the point where they can function independently as an adult, or as independently as possible?” But then you’re also looking at in the moment, “What can I teach you right now? What’s the first step towards that long term goal? And what order should I put things in?”
  9. So that’s where I come from. From the standpoint of educational program design. And when you’re talking about children, there’s more to this than just the science of, “This is where food comes from.” It’s not just, “Oh, that’s interesting.” When you’re talking about empowering people in adulthood to be able to be independent and take care of themselves, you don’t want to do anything that’s going to create any kind of dependency on an outside system like the commercialized food supply. You want people to be able to feed themselves, even if for whatever reasons, there’s no food in the stores.
  10. And for our folks in Venezuela, I’m preaching to the choir. I already know that. We’ve been supporting you guys for a long time. But … with our education …
  11. But, with folks who are in other countries where the prospect of the grocery store suddenly being empty just seems impossible, well, this pandemic has proven a lot of folks wrong about that. And, granted, it was a lot of human behavior that was responsible for that … people freaking out and hoarding things when they really didn’t need to. But that just goes to show, people panic. And then how do you get your food if people panic and take all the food out of the stores, and there’s nothing left for you and your family?
  12. And so there’s a certain amount of peace of mind that comes with knowing that if I’m growing my own food, come what may, I can get by. And so you know, that’s another piece of it. There’s another piece … a valuable piece to all of this, especially for children, and that’s something that’s has been lost, because we have gotten away from growing our own food. And that is teaching children how to work towards a long term goal, and a long term payoff.
  13. We have become such an instant gratification-based society! There’s a quote from The Simpsons. Homer Simpson going, “Forty-five seconds? But, I want it now!” And that’s kind of how people have become. And, you know, the less amount of time it takes to make something happen, it’s like the more impatient they get.
  14. And because of that, we have people who just really have no concept, even in adulthood, of how to work towards a long-term goal, and they don’t even think that way. And that is not an advancement of our species. That is regression. That is a loss of mental ability. And, if we’re going to continue to evolve as a species, we cannot have these systems that reinforce dependency, and deprive people of the knowledge that they need in order to remain independent.
  15. And so that includes learning how to work towards a long-term goal. So you set a long-term goal, and then you should set short-term objectives to get to it. And that isn’t really taught in our education system anymore.
  16. I think we’re starting to realize that that was a huge problem, and we’re coming back around to it. But, you know, we still have a lot of rebuilding of that kind of mentality to go. And, you know, it isn’t, “Better Living Through Chemistry.” Chemistry is not better living. It might be better living for the chemical company owners, but it’s not better living for mankind.
  17. And so to get back to the point where we’re doing what we were designed by nature to do, and living closer to our natural design, and not to shy away from technology, or progressive development, or progressive politics or anything like that, because the more we do to expand our minds, the better we become at taking care of each other as a species.
  18. And … but we’ve got to get away from this competitiveness. We’ve got to get away from, you know, this “Us versus Them” mentality. And we’ve got to become more independent. And we’ve just unfortunately, as a species, just gotten to this place where we have become so dependent upon these systems that were created, originally for convenience. And now they’re not convenience anymore, they’re necessary for survival, because people don’t know how to take care of themselves without those things. And that’s not a sign of progress at all. It’s just another form of slavery.
  19. And so, you know, there are always forces at play of individuals who can’t think collectively of the common good, who are very selfish and egocentric, who are always going to look at how they can exploit the masses for the benefit of their themselves exclusively. And that doesn’t benefit society as a whole, it doesn’t benefit the species as a whole.
  20. And so there has to be less disparity between the people who are in power because they know things and have access to things to the rest of us don’t, and those of us who can’t avail ourselves of those resources. We have to be able to function autonomously without all of that, and so food independence is a huge part of that. And just the idea that you can work towards a long-term goal.
  21. So when you’re, you know, you’re teaching your children how to garden, we’re planting seeds today; we’re not going to have food tomorrow; we’re gonna have to wait a few months before it can turn into something we can eat. But then when that time finally comes around, and that reward finally comes, and they get to enjoy the fruits of their labor, literally, they get it.
  22. And then that idea of, “Okay, sometimes you got to work long-term to make something pay off,” doesn’t seem like such a foreign concept to them. That, they’re like, “Oh, well, this is just like growing beans. I’m going to plant my seeds today. But I’m not going to harvest my beans for another 90 days or so.” And so, this idea that you have to wait; that you have to delay gratification; that the things in life worth having do take a little bit of work, and they take time to play out and you’re not going to get what you want right away.
  23. And so you can be encouraged that it looks like things are moving in the right direction. And that will encourage you to keep working at it. But it’s not like you’re done, you know? And so you keep going. And the garden has really been a living metaphor of that. You plant your seeds, something grows, eventually food comes from it.
  24. Some of the plants are perennials, so they come back year after year after year. I don’t have to change anything; I just have to keep fertilizing and watering. Other things only live for a season, and then I’ve got to pull it all up and put something new in. And so there’s all of these life lessons embedded in all of that. So gardening is healthy for children for a number of reasons.
  25. One, you know, first of all, it’s preparing them for life in adulthood, come what may, that they’ll still be food secure, no matter how the commercialized food supply is operating. And secondly, it’s going to teach them very valuable lessons that you really don’t get from any other curriculum at school about working towards a long term goal.
  26. I mean, when you have to write a report or a paper, and you know, you have the whole semester to write it, that sort of the same thing. But to get a kid to appreciate the value of that is really hard. So growing food, it really isn’t that difficult to connect the value of working towards the outcome, because you get to eat the outcome. And it’s something tangible, and it’s something reinforcing in and of itself. Iit’s gratifying to know that you’re eating this meal right now, because you chose to grow the food, you picked it, you cooked it, it’s all you. And that’s very empowering.
  27. And so, you know, in a world where everything is in flux right now, and we don’t know what’s going to come next, we don’t know what’s going to happen with economies, what’s gonna fall, what’s gonna stay, we know that we’re going to go through continued upheaval until things kind of settle out. And so we can reasonably expect that over the next 20 to 30 years, things are not going to be you know, copacetic, that we’re going to be constantly going through dramatic changes. And we’re probably really not going to settle back down again, for a while and really realize the true time of peace for possibly, like 50 years from now that this is going to be constant. And so our kids today are going to be living a lifetime where the bulk of the first part of their lives is going to be full of these conflicts that have to be resolved. They’re cleaning up messes made by the generations that came before them that didn’t know any better.
  28. And so you know, there’s a lot of learning from the past mistakes that has to be done. And not everybody’s being exposed to the knowledge necessary to overcome that. And so, you know, I really want to be part of what contributes to making things better. And reintroducing food security and food education and gardening education back into the lives of our children and youth goes a long way in a lot of different ways towards that end.
  29. And so I just wanted to share that with you, I want you to be aware that that’s something that I have consciously thought about in designing the Learn & Grow Educational Series and how I wanted to function, because it’s more about … it’s not just about teaching people how to grow their own food. As much as that’s like at the core of it, it’s really a much bigger curriculum than just that. The other part of it is that all of our K-12 lesson plans, for example, and all of our Boy Scout badge content on our website, for example … all of these things are Project-Based Learning (PBL) activities. And project-based learning is proven by the educational research and science to be one of the most effective ways of teaching. It’s more effective than pencil-paper kinds of tasks, you know. You can go into a class and show a video on seeds sprouting and where plants come from, and where food comes from and everything. But it’s not the same thing as doing it yourself. And having that hands on experience makes it real, and it makes the teaching meaningful.
  30. And so that’s what we’re looking at with Learn & Grow as well is to provide teaching moments, meaningful teaching moments for children, and for young people and adults as well. I mean, it’s not all about children, but that’s the population that we’re reaching out to most aggressively, because they’re the ones who are going to be inheriting this Earth and we can’t have them inheriting it in ignorance.
  31. So I appreciate you joining us for this video and learning a little bit more about Learn & Grow, and I look forward to bringing more to you soon. Thanks so much.

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