I’ve written about Iowa BIG before. What I love about the school is that you can’t tell the 4.0 student from the student who was struggling academically back at his ‘mothership’ high school because at Iowa BIG they’re both doing amazing work. Joziah Grimm shares his story below. Happy viewing!
Shovels busy at work, three young children dig and cut through the earth, turning over the rich black soil underneath. They have a long planting row to create, but the sun is out and the weather is perfect.
Their female classmate, in her blue-striped jumper and pink flip flops, carefully pats dirt around a seedling. It’s one of many in her grade’s row. Another student will be by shortly to make sure that it’s watered.
Walking tenderly to avoid the young shoots, a boy carries a few small boxes with new plants to be added to the garden. Apparently he’s a bit chillier than his t-shirt-clad peers since he’s wearing long sleeves and a down vest.
Inspired by their teachers’ visit to the Muse School in Los Angeles, elementary students in the Gilmore City-Bradgate School District in Northwest Iowa are diving deep into the seed-to-table movement. The early childhood and daycare kids are in charge of the onions, radishes, spinach, lettuce, peas, and potatoes. Kindergarten has pole beans, bush beans, tomatoes, and peppers. First and second grade has zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, and beets. Third and fourth grade has kohlrabi, eggplant, and some more beans. The fifth and sixth graders do the heavy lifting with corn, cantaloupes, and watermelons.
There’s a small shed for tools and equipment. Over on the side is the herb garden, where the students are growing chives, oregano, dill, basil, and cilantro. Old pallets are being re-used to make compost bins. The tree stumps constitute an ‘outdoor classroom’ where students and teachers can sit, talk, and learn together.
The produce will be used both in the school district’s food service program and to help the food insecure in the local community. Families and staff will receive vegetables and herbs as well. And there are plans to get involved in the local farmer’s market…
Achieving science, numeracy, literacy, and other instructional outcomes while being connected to both nature and the community? Awesome.
What could your school do to reconnect students to the natural rhythms of the earth and the people around them?
Will Richardson said:
Sure, the CCSS wants to promote and measure critical thinking skills. But the CCSS wants that to happen in the context of contrived situations within an increasingly irrelevant curriculum that most kids don’t care about and will forget as soon as the test is over. Applying those “skills” to the complexities of real life situations doesn’t much transfer if you don’t care about what you’re thinking critically about in the first place.
Give kids the freedom to make “informed decisions” about things they care about, real things in the real world, things that probably aren’t in the standards or on the test, and we’ll get a lot farther down the road to preserving what’s left of this experiment in democracy.
A school board member said to me a while back:
Scott, I hear what you’re saying about active, hands-on, project-based learning. But I got to tell you, when I’m driving over a bridge, I want to have confidence that the people who designed and built it knew what they were doing. So if that takes a lot of practice on worksheets until students know their math and science, so be it.
I agree that I don’t want the bridge collapsing under me either! If we want graduates who know how to build solid, long-lasting bridges, we absolutely can have them do a bunch of practice problems on worksheets until we think they know the math and science and we’ll hope that they will remember it later.
… (pause) …
Or we could have them build bridges.
… (pause) …
Who do you think will be better bridge builders?
How do we help our communities understand that authentic learning is possible?