Continuing in my series on curricula for a day camp class for grade school kids (entering 2nd-6th grade), I’ll share what I did for day 2 of “Spaceship Earth” at Peace Village Newberg. (Here’s Day 1 if you missed it.)
Day 2 of Spaceship Earth focused on the theme of food and waste. We did a little review/reminder of what “spaceship Earth” was and started thinking about how we’d get food on our spaceship, once we ran out of food we brought with us. We also wondered about what we’d do with the waste we produced. Here’s the lesson plan for Day 2: Food & Waste.
We read the book How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? The Story of Food. They really got into this book! I had them talk about what jobs they saw people doing on a couple of the pages, and explained that those are jobs that help the spaceship keep running smoothly so that we all have enough to eat. We were going to also read Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow: A Compost Story, but they asked good questions in the Lunchbox book, so we just skimmed through the compost book and looked at pictures and talked about what compost is. I had them write down or draw things in their field journals about how we would get food on a spaceship, and what we would do with our waste.
Everyone tromped outside to the community garden that’s on the property. I put a shovel out there beforehand so I could turn the compost, and they could see our food scraps from yesterday in the pile. I had them write/draw in their field journals what they saw, heard, smelled, and felt (felt with their skin, and some kids also wrote down how they felt emotionally, which was great!). We talked about how our food scraps turn into dirt that the people who run the community garden put back on the garden to grow more food, so by composting, they were contributing to growing food for people, and maybe even for next year’s campers.
Then we went in to look at the garden itself. I asked them to be respectful of the people who are gardening the space, and to stay in a line and only walk where I walked so they wouldn’t accidentally step on any plants. They were very respectful! I was impressed. Again, they wrote or drew what they saw, heard, smelled, and felt. I picked lavender and passed it down the row so everyone could smell it, and the kids noticed the bees hard at work and could hear their buzzing. They asked about all the plants that were growing, and I showed them different types of vegetables and roots, so they wrote those down. Since it’s June and this garden doesn’t have berries, there wasn’t anything they could taste, but I assured them they could do that later in the week when we’d have a special guest come on Thursday.
We went back inside and everyone shared some of the things they had written down or drawn in their field journals while we were outside.
Then I handed out magazines and scissors and had the students look for one thing each that one could compost, recycle, and throw away. I had them cut out one of each, and then paste it on a poster. These were the posters we used throughout the week to show people where to put their leftover food, etc., and the pictures gave a bit of a guide of what to put in each bin.
One funny thing that came up was that some kids wanted to put pictures of cats on the posters. I said, “Well, I guess those go in the compost category,” so we had pictures of cats on our compost poster. That brought up the conversation about how all animals’ bodies eventually decompose and turn back into dirt, and so do the bodies of human beings. Other difficult to categorize images included ice cream and meat. Technically compostable, most people don’t compost dairy or meat because it attracts scavengers and rodents, but it is compostable, so we put them on that poster.
I also had coloring sheets and markers available in case some students got done earlier than others (such as Please Compost, Recycle, and Remember the 3 Rs) and books set out for them to read about food and waste. They could also keep working on decorating the covers of their field journals, using the same magazines, scissors, and glue sticks we were using for the poster activity.
Overall, I think it went well. The only question I had as I was doing this day was that some students have more background than others regarding where food comes from, and have more access to land on which to grow food. I worried a little bit that kids who come from a less privileged background have less knowledge of this stuff already, and some of what we did reinforced these differences. I wanted to let all the kids know that these are options for everyone, since there are community gardens around town that most people could access if they wanted, and many of the grade schools have composting programs, but those who have parents who already do this stuff are perhaps more privileged, or at least more educated, than those who have parents with jobs that don’t allow them time to garden, or who can’t afford to live in a place with a bit of land. Therefore, although I think this stuff is important to teach, I need to think more about how to teach it in a way that doesn’t just reward the kids who know the information already, but that puts kids on a more equal footing. I tried to emphasize that we’re all participating in this process this week, and hopefully that helped.