Honoring farmers and local food systems in grade 3

Original article written by Lee Anne, edited by Annie Olson-Reiners and Michael Pérez,Third Grade Spanish Language and Social Studies Teacher, Colegio Jorge Washington, Cartagena, Colombia

The grade 3 team at Colegio Jorge Washington School (COJOWA) in Cartagena, Colombia, has made sustainable, local food the focus of a social studies Service Learning unit. And it’s having a deep impact on learners and the Cartagena, Colombia community. 

“I came from a family where my father’s parents were farmers, and I understand how hard it is to farm,” reflects grade 3 teacher Michael Pérez. “Especially when the pandemic came, it was hard for farmers here to survive.” 

The grade 3 team planned a unit about climate change working with the Inspire Citizens organization. The unit that came out of this ideation and dialogue is rich and has resulted in deep engagement and learning. 

“Climate change affects everyone in Cartagena,” explains Michael. “We have wintertime moments that affect everyone, and floods can be severe. It can be difficult to get out of your house. So we wanted to find out how this was affecting low income neighborhoods and people who live outside the city, particularly farmers.” 

The team also wanted to explore the relationship between:

  • Humans and the local landscape
  • Our economic decisions and effects on landscapes
  • Awareness/perception and the beauty of Colombia

The teachers organized a field trip with the third graders to Fundación Granitos de Paz (a local farmers’ coop) located in Olaya Herrera, one of the largest and least economically advantaged neighborhoods in Cartagena.  Fundación Granitos de Paz is working hard to support local families and women living in poverty,” explains Mr. Michael. “We looked at the community gardens and how things are grown in the area. This was the best part of the unit and the students really enjoyed being there.” Jessica Benitez, our Family Involvement Coordinator shared, “Our students went to learn from the community, and then advocate for the farmers and their products. This was the star of the experience, giving the students a real experience (with local Cartagena producers). (Our students) otherwise wouldn’t go to this community, or this part of the city. After the visit, students kept asking what they would be doing next, and asking if they could do more (for the children and people that they met in Olaya Herrera).” 

After visiting that  community in ¨the other Cartagena¨, students made videos about the plants in the local garden and the experience they had during their visit. They shared these videos with Fundación Granitos de Paz and also created brochures advocating for buying local produce to support Granitos de Paz farmers. 

As COJOWA continues to embed its service learning and global citizenship objectives, this grade 3 experience is a great example of a new curriculum that is inquiry-based and involves community partners. 

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