Who are you as an Eater?

“Who are you as an Eater?” That’s what Oxbow asked 13 middle schoolers from Seattle’s Bush School in May of 2019. The students came out to the farm in Carnation for a four-day, Food Systems Experiential Excursion, a brand new education program thoughtfully designed by the Oxbow Education team. The program draws inspiration from Alice Waters’ edible schoolyard movement, the Lexicon of Food, local food systems initiatives, and National Geographic’s future of food series. The programmatic theme for the week was. “Students have critical thinking skills and an understanding of community-based food systems, equipping them to be thoughtful eaters and consumers.”

Sharing Food Memories
During introductions, students shared their own “food culture” or memory of food that is meaningful to them. We heard about their experiences baking in the kitchen, their takeaways from a Hunger Awareness course, and their love of sweets and macaroni & cheese. Common themes were dinner around the table with family and special holiday meals. To welcome the students, Oxbow educators told their food stories through a series of YouTube films on the Oxbow YouTube Channel.

A favorite activity of the week was building an herb garden! Much of the focus for the herb garden project was on planning, learning about a farmer’s process for creating a crop plan, yet deviating from it as the realities of the farming season become apparent. After the project, 9 out of 13 students reported that they are very likely to experiment with growing their own foods!

Enjoying a meal together, students shared:

Food is Hard Work

Food is Trial and Error

Food is community

Food is love

Food is errors

After a week of fun and learning together, students walked away equipped to be thoughtful eaters and consumers. The Oxbow team and the students made an action plan to make positive impacts in the food system. If we all (farmers, teachers, and students combined) talk to just two other people about food choices, and make thoughtful decisions ourselves, we’ll impact 8 million meals over our lifetimes. 

Student quotes about the program: “It changed the way I think about where my food comes from”

“[Food system] changes are slow, I mean we haven’t even had a woman president yet, we need to decide that we don’t want to just live with the old systems!”

Teacher testimonial:

“In the span of only four days at Oxbow, our group of middle school students learned about the full cycle of food production – from soil to planting to harvesting to sharing to cooking and eating. Our leaders and instructors from Oxbow connected with students through humor, stories, hands-on work (planting, harvesting, gleaning, cooking) and made food and farming relevant and engaging. Not only did we get our hands dirty and our minds activated, we learned about how justice and equity are also a key part of the food cycle.”

– Laurie Mathews (The Bush School)

Oxbow aims to host The Bush School and other groups for a Food Systems experience again in the future! If you’d like more information about scheduling an in-depth Food Systems excursion, let us know at education@oxbow.org.

Learn more about Oxbow’s educational philosophies and programs here.