Lower School Farm and Garden
The CDS farm and garden program began at 333 Dolores with a few fruit trees from an existing orchard, which now enhances our one-acre four season organic garden as well as our sheep and chicken farm. Since then our school and program, has expanded to include a rooftop garden and agricultural science program at our new 601 middle school location.
By engaging children in the process of growing food and raising animals, we are hoping to enhance children’s development, strengthen their connection to the natural world, and model environmental stewardship.
Students first begin attending farm and garden classes in Preschool. They are welcomed to the “Strawbale Circle” where they begin to develop a relationship with our Farm and Garden Manager, Robin, who introduces the children to different ways they can help take care of the garden and animals. Some activities include: feeding the chickens, harvesting vegetables, finding snails, and cultivating the garden beds. We aim to be developmentally responsive to the needs of each child by offering choices that range from exploratory and self-directed to more teacher-driven.
Starting in Kindergarten through Fourth Grade, all lower school students have classes in the garden as part of their specials rotation. Additionally, students participate in the morning farm chores, which gives small groups of students the opportunity to feed the animals at the beginning of the school day.
The CDS farm and garden program in the lower school has four broad educational objectives. To learn more about our farm & garden curricular goals, please refer to http://www.cds-sf.org/curriculum.
- To cultivate a deep understanding of the science behind our farm and garden. Teachers led inquiry-based discussions and design units that illuminate children’s observations and build upon their understandings of the hidden natural systems that govern our planet.
- To provide hands-on experiences in the practice of farming and gardening that foster a sense of ownership and responsibility. Students are the primary caretakers of the farm and garden and do tasks that range from mucking the sheep barn to aerating the compost heap. When appropriate, students are presented with different problem-based learning challenges based on the needs of the garden but also can integrate with the science curriculum. Topics include composting, pest control, and water conservation.
- To integrate and enhance curricular topics presented by the social studies, art, math, science, and community-based learning curricula. Farm and garden teachers collaborate with head teachers to illuminate topics using natural phenomena.
- To develop empathy and gratitude for the resources provided by animals and plants. Students are encouraged to express curiosities and wonders about the well being of our both our domestic and wild animal community. They gain a deeper sense of time as they witness the life cycle of our plants and a rich appreciation for flavor as they learn different methods of cooking our garden’s bounty.
Family Farmer Program
Our farm and garden program also provides fun opportunities for family participation. Through the Family Farmer Program, each CDS family has the chance to care for the farm animals during weekends and vacations; training is provided. Please contact Anna at email@example.com for more information.
Middle School Food and Agricultural Sciences (FAS) Program
This fall, CDS teachers Analise Heid and Katina Papson-Rigby are leading the new middle school Food and Agricultural Sciences (FAS) Program, an organic progression of the Lower School Farm and Garden curriculum that takes full advantage of the technology and space offered by the 601 Dolores Middle School building. Their vision is to teach students how their choices about food affect their health, the environment and their communities. Along with students participating in all aspects of growing, harvesting and cooking nutritious seasonal food, students will engage with experts in the fields of plant biology, soil chemistry and food science to understand the science and future of food. The course includes integrated curriculum: agricultural science, food systems, domestication of crops, food and culinary sciences, social issues and environmental impacts. Students’ hands-on experience in the lab, kitchen and garden fosters a deeper appreciation of the way the natural world sustains us and promotes the environmental and social well being of our school and the greater community.
For the FAS program, CDS students and teachers work in collaboration with plant and microbiologists, scientists, universities, and food experts. In September, Heather Wright, Plant Biologist at Stanford worked with the sixth and eighth graders on extracting DNA from strawberries. Dr. Rajnish Khanna, a plant molecular biologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford, led a lesson on the domestication of maize from the ancient teosinte plant from Mexico. Upcoming visiting experts include a culinary scientist, an agricultural biochemist and a biomedical scientist. Field trips include visits to labs at Stanford University, UC Berkeley and UC Davis, as well as farms in the bay area and local aquaponics operations in Half Moon Bay and in the Mission District.
And what will our students learn? The sixth grade Food Science course engages students in understanding the difference between food systems:
4. industrialized organic farming
Throughout the course, students gain knowledge and experience in the global implications of different food systems by understanding the journey, process and impacts our food has on our health and the environment. Through hands-on experiential learning, students are introduced to topics that include: domestication of crops, global ecological impacts of agriculture, plant genetics, and soil and gut microbiome.
Students demonstrate their learning using art, technology and creative storytelling. They choose a vegetable or fruit and research its life from farm to table to illustrate the complexity of the global food system. They interview farmers, plant biologists, food scientists and industry professionals to understand the food system of which their vegetable or fruit is a part. Students research seed source, planting strategy, fertilizer and pesticide applications, harvest, transport, seasonality and availability in market, processing or lack of, and finished product.
The seventh and eighth grade Food Science course engages students in the science of nutrition and agriculture. They explore healthy eating through culinary science, focusing on understanding the story of our food and how it relates to culture, nutrition and sustainability. Through hands-on experiential learning, students are engaged in topics that include: the science of taste, flavor and aroma, plant genetics, human’s digestive biome and social issues surrounding policy and industry in reforming the food system.
Family Farmer Program
Our farm and garden program also provides fun opportunities for family participation. Through the Family Farmer Program, each CDS family has the chance to care for the farm animals during weekends and vacations; training is provided. For more information on this program (or to volunteer!), please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be put in touch with the Family Farmer Program coordinator.