Note from the Executive Director Happy Winter! I heard the most inspiring news today from a teacher-farmer here in Massachusetts – they have planted their fi rst seeds of the season on his farm! For those of us on the east coast, that kind of news can almost keep you warm on these 20 degree days. TheFarm-Based Education Association will be three years old in May and there is plenty to celebrate. So many things have evolved in the fi eld of farm-based education and the work we all do has never been more important. As we brace ourselves against the current economic winds, working, productive farms that sustain and nurture people with their food and public programming will continue to be a critical resource for individuals, families, and communities. Speaking of a critical resource, this year’s NOFA Winter Conference (Northeast Organic Farmers Association) had 300 more attendees than it did last year. Over lunch and some really delicious chocolate, a seasoned teacher-farmer from the Berkshires (and frequent Winter Conference attendee), noted that the crowd at this annual event has never been younger. The increase in attendance seemed to be made up of young people—many fresh out of college. These young adults were looking for a different way to live successfully, mindfully, and responsibly—a better path than the bumpy road of our country’s ailing corporate culture. And here they were exploring farming and farm-based programming! I hope we will see you at one of our events this year—see the back page for details. Also, keep your eyes open for some exciting new features on our website this spring –think farm-based education 2.0! Brooke Redmond Executive Director P.S. The November Conference announcements and brochures will all be online – we will not be mailing any conference materials. If you don’t occasionally receive e-mail announcements from us and would like to, please send your e-mail address to email@example.com. WINTER/SPRING 2009 Teaching about LivingSystems on the Farm: Remembering What We Already Know by LindaBoothSweeneyThese days, children tend to learn about nature far from nature. In classrooms and labs, they try to understand the nutrient cycle and other living systems that comprise our world. When children meet farmers and are immersed in the real work and cycles of life on a farm, farms can become classrooms where students can see and touch systems and come to understand the interconnected and interdependent nature of all living things. When farmers become educators, they can share their understanding gained from experience, that nothing stands in isolation, that connections in nature, people, problems and events bind us all. On a recent trip with a group of third graders to Gaining Ground, a non-profi t farm in Concord, Massachusetts, I found myself spellbound by the outhouse. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. The outhouse had been lovingly painted in a riot of colors, and carved in a gingerbread theme. It was at once whimsical and functional, and clearly a valued structure on the farm. The farmer, Verena Wieloch, talked about the structure to students, who had cautiously gathered around it, giggling, wincing, and pinching their noses in anticipation of foul odors. “Is this where we go to the bathroom?” said a boy, squeamishly. Verena smiled. She had a secret to share. This was no ordinary bathroom. This was a composting toilet. “After you use the outhouse, the waste is composted, or broken down into a fertile soil that is full of rich nutrients, like nitrogen, for the soil. The farmers here put that compost on the herb and vegetable gardens.” Verena stopped before detailing what that meant: We then eat the herbs and veggies that grow in the compost from the outhouse. After digesting our food, we can return to the outhouse and the cycling of nutrients continues. Verena’s point that day was that in nature, there is no such thing as waste. One species’ waste is another’s food. This is the “waste = food” living system. At this farm, the outhouse-to-garden practice of turning our waste into food for herbs and vegetables reveals how if we understand living systems, we can work with them, rather than disrupt them. Our farms can thrive when they mimic the ways of nature and in doing so, foster respect for land and nature, an essential element to understanding and meeting today’s environmental challenges. Developing Systems Intelligence on the FarmThe idea that waste = food, or closed loops of nutrient recycling, is not new. What is new is the increasing interest among educators and school administrators to teach students to think about systems, to see and understand the interconnections and dynamics of the natural and social systems around them. Students who understand the principle of waste = food, may then be challenged to look for examples in their everyday lives where waste from one system can become food for another. What about cafeteria waste? Can that become “food” for the school garden? The mission of the Farm-Based Education Association is to inspire, nurture and promote farm-based education. continued on p. 4
The Systems Thinking Playbook: Exercises to Stretch and Build Learning and Systems Thinking Capabilities by Linda Booth Sweeney
This book has become a favorite of K-12 teachers, university faculty, and corporate consultants. It provides short gaming exercises that illustrate the subtleties of systems thinking. The companion DVD shows the authors introducing and running each of the thirty games. The thirty games are classified by these areas of learning: Systems Thinking, Mental Models, Team Learning, Shared Vision, and Personal Mastery. Each description clearly explains when, how, and why the game is useful. There are explicit instructions for debriefing each exercise as well as a list of all required materials. A summary matrix has been added for a quick glance at all thirty games. When you are in a hurry to find just the right initiative for some part of your course, the matrix will help you find it. Linda Booth Sweeney and Dennis Meadows both have many years of experience in teaching complex concepts. This book reflects their insights. Every game works well and provokes a deep variety of new insights about paradigms, system boundaries, causal-loop diagrams, reference modes, and leverage points. Each of the thirty exercises here was tested and refined many times until it became a reliable source of learning. Some of the games are adapted from classics of the outdoor education field. Others are completely new. But all of them complement readings and lectures to help participants understand intuitively the principles of systems thinking.
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PDF FREE DOWNLOAD Project Animal Farm: An Accidental Journey Into the Secret World of Farming and the Truth about Our Food FOR IPAD
Born out of a global expedition fearlessly undertaken by a young woman and spilling over with colorful characters, "Project Animal Farm" provides a riveting and revealing look at what truly happens behind farm doors.Sonia Faruqi, a twenty-five-year-old Ivy League graduate and investment banker, had no idea that the night she arrived at the doorstep of an organic dairy farm would mark the beginning of a journey that would ultimately wind all the way around the world. Instead of turning away from the animal cruelty she would come to witness, Sonia made the most courageous decision of her life a commitment to change our current system of food production.Driven by impulsive will and a new passion, Sonia left everything she knew and loved behind to search the planet for solutions that would benefit not only farm animals, but also human health, the environment, farmers, and consumers. In doing so, she would live with farmers, hitchhike with strangers, and repeatedly risk her life.Heartfelt and brimming with rare insights, "Project Animal Farm" takes listeners through a top secret tour of egg warehouses in Canada, dairy feedlots in the United States, farm offices in Mexico, lush Mennonite pastures in Belize, flocks of chickens in Indonesia, and factory farms in Malaysia.Lively and filled with insight and suspense, "Project Animal Farm" illuminates a hidden world that plays a part in all of our lives."