Sunday, July 4, 2010


Now that the whole experience is over, I feel like I finally have the distance (and the time) to write a little bit about what I've been doing for the past three weeks. I had the great fortune to be able to design and teach a class on food and agricultural systems, called "You Are What You Eat," for an innovative program on campus known as PEOPLE (Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence), which is a pre-college pipeline program for students of color.  If the students stay in the program for the full six years, beginning in seventh grade (which includes summer classes and after-school programs and standardized test prep), and get into any University of Wisconsin system university, they get to go for free! So, it has the great potential to really make a difference in expanding college opportunities for kids from under-represented groups. This year was actually the first year that students graduated from college who had begun PEOPLE in the seventh grade, and there were 60 PEOPLE scholars in this year's graduating class at UW-Madison. So, in almost all ways, a real success.

In any case, I (along with a friend of mine who was my co-teacher) got to teach a middle school summer class, with thirteen students, who were rising seventh, eighth, and ninth graders from around the city of Madison. I'd spent the last several months planning the curriculum for this class, and still ended up staying late almost every night trying to get everything together before class the next day. Although many of the administrators did a good job of mis-characterizing our class as one about "nutrition," it was actually much more broadly conceived, with a week on Production, one on Distribution, and one on Consumption, or, as we translated it for the kids "where your food comes from, how it gets to you, and how you eat it."

Here's an outline of the syllabus, including all our awesome field trips and the snacks we had each day:

Week 1: Introduction/Production 
  • Day 1: INTRODUCTION TO FOOD SYSTEMS; creating food system collages (Snack: Peanut Butter, Strawberry Jam, Crackers, Oranges, Raisins)
  • Day 2: WHAT'S ON YOUR PLATE? AND DOCUMENTARIES; Media scavenger hunt around campus (Snack: Popcorn)
  • Day 3: ANIMALS; Field trip to Babcock Dairy Store and UW cow barn   (Snack: Babcock ice cream)
  • Day 4: PLANTS AND GARDENING; Field trip to F.H. King student farm (Snack: hand-picked salad)
  • Day 5: LABOR AND FAIR TRADE; Lesson on Coalition of Immokalee Workers (Snack: salsa with locally-grown tomatoes)
Week 2: Distribution 
  • Day 6: LOCAL FOOD AND FOOD MILES; How far does your food travel activity (Snack: Juneberries foraged on campus)
  • Day 7: SCHOOL LUNCH; Debating Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (Snack: Fresh-made fruit cups)
  • Day 8: SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION; Field trip to the Badger Rock Middle School (Snack: PEAT program lunch)
  • Day 9: RESTAURANTS; Field trip and cooking lesson with L'Etoile's Chef Tory Miller (Snack: broccoli quiche, fresh greens with house-made raspberry vinaigrette, and parmesan crips)
  • Day 10: HOMELESSNESS AND FOOD PRODUCTION; Field trip and kitchen work at Porchlight
  • (Snack: Home-made chocolate chip scones and strawberry jam)
Week 3: Consumption
  • Day 11: FOOD ADVERTISING; Design your own food commercial activity (Snack: oranges, apples, carrot, cucumber, and celery sticks with hummus and peanut butter)
  • Day 12: FOOD CULTURE; What the World Eats activity (Snack: home-made spring rolls!)
  • Day 13: FARMERS MARKETS; Field trip to Dane County Wednesday Market (Snack: baguette, cheese curds, raspberries, strawberries, sugar-snap peas)
  • Day 14: FOOD WASTE AND RECYCLING; Sorting trash activity, making thank you cards, and salsa recipe creations (Snack: home-made salsas)
  • Day 15: LAST DAY AND CELEBRATION!; wrap-up and closure (Snack: home-baked chocolate chip cookies!)
Photos and more thoughts to come in the next post...


    1. Looks like an enlightening and entertaining class. Also, the snacks sound delicious!

    2. Yeah, those kids didn't know how good they had it, now did they?!

    3. You are awesome!

      What a great experience for both you and the students.

    4. Thanks, Gregory! I'm not sure that I'm the awesome one, but teaching these students sure was awesome. More photos and stories to come shortly...

    5. You are for sure (one of) the awesome one(s). I don't know how to characterize my state of mind...proud? jealous? impressed?