Author - Kaci Rae Christopher
Publisher - New Society Publishing
Summary New Society Publishing says "The world needs young people to grow into strong, scientifically literate environmental stewards. Learning gardens are great places to build this knowledge, yet until now there has been a lack of a multi-grade curriculum for school-wide teaching aimed at fostering a connection with the Earth.
The School Garden Curriculum offers a unique and comprehensive framework, enabling students to grow their knowledge throughout the school year and build on it from kindergarten to eighth grade. From seasonal garden activities to inquiry projects and science-skill building, children will develop organic gardening solutions, a positive land ethic, systems thinking, and instincts for ecological stewardship."
About the Author New Society Publishing says "Kaci Rae Christopher is the volunteer Farm and Garden Educator for Oregon's Redband Ranch. She was previously the School Garden Coordinator for the Springwater Environmental Sciences School, the Outdoor Educator for ERA, and worked on education farms, community supported agriculture initiatives, and farm schools. Her passion is fostering a healthy land ethic, personal empowerment, and environmental literacy in children of all ages through outdoor immersion and skill building in order to inspire generations of changemakers. Currently pursuing her MFA at OSU-Cascades, on most days Kaci Rae can be up to her elbows in soil or hiking new trails with her husband and two dogs. She lives in Bend, Oregon."
I think this book does a good job of accomplishing the mission it has set out to do- "cultivate new generations of changemakers and environmentally conscious global citizens... by encouraging children to engage in ecosystems and create spaces for cooperative stewardship and and interaction." The School Garden Curriculum sets out to accomplish a mighty feat, because it is the book is not intended to be used by just one teacher by themselves, but rather, the book is meant to be used by multiple teachers across multiple grade levels, by many additional faculty members, and to engage community members from the general public, as well. In particular, the book intends to foster community, independent thought, personal ownership and responsibility of one's own knowledge set, spaces, and relationships, and it also sets out to foster inter-generational communities and skill-sharing between grade levels. And The School Garden Curriculum makes it clear that the teachers role in all of this as a facilitator and guide to knowledge, not an absolute authority. Parents and adults are advised to just let go and let things be- for the children to learn and experience things for themselves and create their own solutions.
One of the first things that impresses me with this book is the organization of the book and its intended evolution of the children over time. The book is organized into chapters by grade level, in order from Kindergarten to Eighth Grade. This covers, in the United States, about what is generally considered to be preschool, elementary, middle school, and junior high school. This will likely vary depending on which state you are in. For each chapter (grade level), it begins with an introduction of what is intended to be learned at this grade level, provides an overview of what activities will be done in each season of school, describes the Next Generation Science Standards of that grade level, and what Permaculture Principles are being learned here. Each chapter is divided into seasons- Fall, Winter, and Spring. I also like how, with each season, they have their own themes: Fall is about Patterns and Change; Winter is Discovery and Observation; Spring is Community and Interdependence. Then, each season is divided into a set of ten activities. Some of the activities are larger and/or more complex, so, there are activities which are counted as being two-four activities. For every activity, there is a Time Frame, Overview, and Objective, which are then followed by Vocabulary, an Introduction to that activity, the Activity itself, and then an Assessment. Some activities also have Preparations and additional Resources for further information after the Assessment. How well-organized and well formatted The School Garden Curriculum is shows the amount of effort, thought, and care that went into, as well as, making the book easier to use, share, and get people hooked. For teachers and faculty, I think it is important have a well laid out curriculum, like this, that has already been thought out, because it makes adoption of the curriculum easier. If the book was less-detailed than it is, it might be harder to get an entire school, let alone, an entire school district to adopt the curriculum. So, I think the organization and thoroughness of the book will make the advancement and adoption of a school garden based curriculum easier. Now, onto the intended evolution. I appreciate how the curriculum evolves over time, because my personal experience with the public education system was mostly me being bored out of my wits, because I didn't get to learn at my own pace or on my own interests, which were quicker and broader in scope than what I was being slowly force-fed at school. The School Garden Curriculum evolves over time, because it starts with Gardening, then Seeds, then Pollinators, and Soil Science. Then, it progresses all the way to Leadership and Stewardship in Eighth Grade. I think the intended level of understanding and personal development is appropriate at each level, too.
Another thing that I like about this book is all of the insets included in each chapter. These are either personal notes from the author about her own experiences doing these things, quotes from different resources that the author wants to share or emphasize, and important bits of information. These little insets add character to the book and re-emphasize that there really is someone knowledgeable and experienced behind this book. And that's another thing, too, which I like! The School Garden Curriculum is a compilation of lessons and activities that have all been tested first-hand by the author over her many years of experience as a School Garden Coordinator and Outdoor Educator.
I also appreciate the care that was taken in the formatting of the book. The appropriate use of bolding, fonts, colors, and sizes makes the book easy to pick up, read, and understand. It also just makes the book more aesthetically pleasing to read, which is something that I care about. I find it easier to read and accept what an author is trying to convey, when their message is presented in a nice and clean manner.
I also enjoyed the many pictures and illustrations contained throughout The School Garden Curriculum, because again, it helps a lot with the aesthetics, and they help to clarify and demonstrate what is happening in that chapter or activity.
This book looks like the perfect book for our group of home learners. We have a large community garden, some of the kids want to make it a fiber garden so we've put in the flax seeds, some want to make it a pollinator garden and all want to eat from it. Thanks for putting this book out, it looks like it covers a wide array of topics and has some great lessons in there for all ages...not just up to grade 8.
I consider learning food growing skills (along with soil building, water collecting, and energy generating) to be THE MOST IMPORTANT CURRICULUM today.
The vast majority of North Americans are still in denial about how urgently we have to act on the climate change emergency. Atmospheric CO2 levels are still increasing -- and at an accelerating (and frightening) rate, and therefore so is the global average temperature. Sure, we're using more and more renewable energy, but fossil fuel use and burning is rising at the same time.
We can't grow food overnight (okay, maybe a few sprouts ), nor can we learn to grow food overnight. We have to teach our young ones how to grow their own food, ideally within community. Kaci Rae's book, if we promote it and get it into schools and school systems, could be one of the most important books ever for our children's health, well-being ... and survival.
(Not sure if we’re doing that for this book, but if we could that’d be awesome!)
Alright, so here’s a longer review.
This book is put together for being integrated into a formal K-12 schooling system. It focuses mostly on September through May sort of activities, because that’s when school is in session. However, by using it as a guide I can easily come up with ideas for summer activities and lessons.
That is generally how I will probably use this book, actually. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere I’ve begun volunteering with churches, libraries, and other places to put in community food forests. A big part of that is supporting these places in getting educational systems set up for children, youth, and adults. I will probably start with the church I’m working with to the north of me. Ironically a state program for gardening in schools just got cut across the board, so this comes at the perfect time.
Anyways, this book is great because it provides a realistic structure and path that schools can use (or adapt as needed) to realistically teach permaculture and integrate it into science curriculums. I think that a lot of educators would like to be more proactive like this but just don’t know how.
Again, even if you don’t want or need a formal curriculum, I think it’s a great resource for ideas and activities that can be changed to meet your situation.
When you reach your lowest point, you are open to the greatest change.
I LOVE how it goes through all the grade levels, and how harmonious and in tune with the seasons the lessons are. And how those lessons build upon one another, and they meet national standards. The lessons are fun and the activities create learning through them. So often, curriculum has "busy work"--where the kid does a project like a coloring picture of a garden that doesn't teach them anything through the "busy work." Here, the crafts and activities are all learning experiences in and of themselves. I LOVE that! The lessons are also interdisciplinary, with the kids not just learning gardening, but animal and plant sciences, as well as reading and writing and even activism.
I do wish it had a bit more information for the teacher. In a few of the lessons, the teacher is guide the students to the answers about why plants or animals do certain things...but the answers aren't in the book for the teacher. They have to use the resources linked in the lesson plan to find the answers. I wish this curriculum educated the teacher, or linked to one resource that had the answers. Because, as we know, teachers are crazy busy! Lesson planning takes a long time, and it'd be lovely to have a faster way for a teacher who knows nothing about gardening or insects to learn enough to teach their students without having to hunt down a bunch of different books or visit multiple webpages.
I also wish this book had some maps of sample school gardens. When I was first learning about gardening, I found those kinds of maps very helpful for figuring out what might work, and for brainstorming my garden. I would hate to be a teacher and reach spring only to realize that we needed another garden bed and didn't have one made! I think having some information for the teacher/planner to guide them in how much space they need and how many garden beds, would be really helpful. Maybe a chapter at the back for teachers called, "Planning your school garden." But, I understand this not being in the book. This is a book for curriculum, not how to make a school garden. Still, maybe a second edition would have such a section? Or maybe there could be a second book called, "A teacher's guide to school gardens" and it would have the answers and information that a teacher would want for the curriculum, as well as how to set up a school garden?
This is a really great book, with fantastic lessons, lovely pictures, and great resources to link to. I love how it connects to permaculture and teaches the principles of permaculture through the lessons, and how previous years learning are built upon in following years. A great book, and a must-have resource for teachers and parents interested in school gardens.