Food Systems Education Internship

Have you ever wanted to work with youth and teach about food systems, social justice, and garden nutrition? This fall the Sustainable Living Center at UCSC piloted its first environmental education program focusing on food systems awareness.  This unique internship combined the strengths of the two main programs based at the SLC- The Program in Community and Agroecology & the Community Agroecology Network. The internship gives students the opportunity to teach exciting and engaging lessons to middle and high school students about the local and global food system. Interns gain first-hand experience in K-12 schools and learn valuable skills as an environmental educator in the classroom and in the garden. The three schools we are pleased to work with this fall are Watsonville High School, Cypress Charter School in Live Oak, and Cesar Chavez Middle School.

Here is what our interns have to say:

“The Food Systems Education internship this quarter was a great experience that not only allowed me to transfer some of my environmental education to other students, but has taught me much about effective communication and ways to engage students into group learning. Even in the small amount of time that the other interns and I have spent teaching, I feel like we have done something truly meaningful.

I’m really enjoying the internship and it is inspiring me to further pursue teaching. Although teaching as a future career has been in the back of my mind for years, it wasn’t until this past week that I noticed it forcing itself into my heart.”

Derek Emmons

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“It has been beyond one of the most practical experiences I have had in college thus far. A lot of the students had never even considered where their food journeyed from and its impacts on the environment or their health. It was great to have them both in the classroom and outside in their school gardens doing hands-on activities. This is how I want it to be when I have my own classroom someday. The experience really felt like this was real education, not only for the students but for me. I’m really grateful to be given this internship opportunity. It allowed me to tie my passions of the environment and connecting with kids together.”

Heather Odegard

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“The food systems internship has taught me how fun, rewarding and important teaching kids about environmental issues is. Our elementary education involves lots of algebra and history, but very little of some of the most pressing topics of today such as environmentalism, food systems and social change. Through teaching students basic principles such as biodiversity and different food systems, we give kids a peek into a mostly new world of environmental problems and social issues. It’s always rewarding to see how surprised and engaged the kids are when they learn that the plantation workers get such a little portion of the money they spend on a banana or that the ingredients of a burrito can travel 22,000 miles. But what they really take away is not the startling facts, but an awareness of how they affect the whole and why they should care. It’s unfortunate that so few kids grow up knowing about the importance of the environment in this crucial time, but one step at a time, though reaching out to more and more classrooms, we can create a new generation of kids who care.”

Emma McDonell

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“I jumped into the internship understanding the dynamics within each food system, but with no understanding of how to communicate these complexities to 6th-12th grade students. Through the food systems internship I’ve learned to be more comfortable talking in front of a group, better presentation skills, communication with different age groups, group management techniques, and various food system topics. I’m very interested in food systems, and generally believe that bridging the ‘knowledge gap’ should be a priority in every environmental issue. Many environmental issues deal directly with what we have learned in food systems, and few people know about them!”

Ashley Stalzer

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