I am strongly committed to community-based learning in science education. Service-learning is an approach I use to link my classroom to local community partners working to increase student knowledge about food access in our Twin Cities community. By connecting my students with community partners, they learn to address food system issues in an inclusive way, while developing disciplinary and cultural competency skills. I also recognize that reflection is the key to successful “learning” in service learning projects. As a result, I create classroom opportunities for students to reflect on community experiences.
Students in our lab are given ample opportunities to engage with community, including many NGO's doing food advocacy work in our region and organic farming communities. Currently students are involved with the development and implementation of workshops to deliver soil health information to immigrant farmers in collaboration with The Good Acre food hub (funded by NC SARE), organizing community speaker events through their interdisciplinary graduate club FEASt, and delivery of science-based information with Julie through workshops we deliver at farmer conferences such as Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG), the MN Organics Conference and more.
We work hard to develop communication skills students can take with them beyond graduate school, via collaboration with organizations doing work that is meaningful in our community.
FEASt is an interdisciplinary initiative started by members of the Grossman Lab in 2014 to bring together graduate students from across the University of Minnesota to learn about and discuss the intersections of natural and social science understandings of agricultural research, politics, and social movements. The group seeks to facilitate dialogue to critically navigate the broad social, economic, and political concerns influencing the food and agricultural sciences. FEASt encourages participation from a wide array of people interested in these issues. Discussion topics are not predetermined but rather open for design by interested attendees.
In fall 2015, FEASt engaged in discussions regarding impacts of farm insurance policies on farm size and production, the political economy of the seed industry and open-source alternatives, and the legacy of racial discrimination in the USDA. FEASt pairs readings of peer-reviewed articles and popular press articles with speakers knowledgeable about the subject. In fall 2015, UMN Applied Economics professor Marc Bellemare spoke regarding farm insurance, UMN Horticulture professor Tom Michaels discussed seed production, and Farmers Legal Action Group Deputy Director and Senior Staff Attorney Stephen Carpenter led a discussion regarding USDA’s discriminatory agricultural lending policies.
FEASters like to eat – we stock discussions with ample food and drink. No prior knowledge of the subject is assumed or required. Most importantly, we are interested in curiosity, critical thinking, and challenging assumptions. The Grossman Lab group is excited by the initial success of FEASt to engage in these conversations with a wide range of students and faculty and is looking forward to more readings, speakers, and discussions in the future.
To get involved, contact FEASt at firstname.lastname@example.org.