The Grow It Know It program is an opportunity to interact with college students and kind adults in a non-academic setting. These relationships are increasingly important for teens as they are differentiating themselves from their families. The gardening and backpacking allows for the kids to naturally build relationships during the activities.
Most group activities either involve competition, like academic and athletic teams, or explicit instruction. This limits what sort of student the group appeals to and emphasizes the power differences between the adults and students. So kids spend their time in rather homogeneous groups. The Grow It Know It programs are different because they are collaborative and inclusive. Students mix at different academic levels, resulting in a more heterogeneous group than many other school based or community based activities.
My two children enjoyed the hands-on learning aspect of gardening, cooking and serving. I saw my own kids and others have a real sense of accomplishment in taking on a new task, working together and then reaping the benefits of a delicious meal AND the appreciation of those they served. It was remarkable how kids, most of whom did not know each other at all at the start of the week, were working closely together as a team to bring this meal together – and were having a great time too!
I also had the unique perspective to photograph this program in action for coverage of the program by UGA Public Service & Outreach. I saw kids change throughout the weeks as their confidence grew and they were given more and more responsibility. The program is a great example of how kids will rise to the challenges before them when they see direct outcomes. Many don’t see the connections of UGA in our community and this is such a great program that truly fulfills the university’s mission to take the resources and knowledge to the state. I’d love to see a way for the partnership between UGA and the school system to be celebrated and recognized, and the work of this innovative program to spread to many more kids in our district.
Shannah Cahoe Montgomery
The Grow It Know It staff were friendly, professional, interactive and accommodating with both the participants in the program and also the parents. Every morning throughout the summer my son was motivated to get ready for camp. He actually was signed up for several camps throughout the summer and was only supposed to attend the Kitchen Garden Corps camp for three weeks, however he loved it so much he went throughout the whole summer instead.
We were so impressed with what our daughter learned with Grow It Know It and with the “restaurant” experience. The food was delicious, and the excitement of the Grow It Know It participants was palpable on those Thursdays. You could tell that the kids were really proud of themselves. We found the whole experience to be a positive one for our daughter, and we know she is eager to participate again next year if the opportunity arises!
Grow It Know It has provided a rich experience for my child over the last few years. My daughter has learned so many skills from collaboration, cooking, working with unfamiliar children and adults and all about sustainability and community. The program encourages students to grow as individuals as well as community activists. It has been a deeply rewarding experience.
Your collaboration with the schools has enhanced their Ag Science and Family -Consumer Science programs greatly. It’s allowed more children to have wonderful hands-on learning opportunities such as tending the gardens themselves, caring for goats and other animals, and learning important life skills like those involved in building a shed for the goats, building a garden bench, or hosting school produce sales. Furthermore, having an opportunity to assist in the continued care and management of the school gardens during the summer months, through participation in the Kitchen Garden Corp, my boys further expanded their learning through cross-cultural menu planning, meal preparation, and working collaboratively with peers to host community lunches.
I loved that my oldest son gained some real-world work experience washing dishes in an industrial sink while my other son filled with pride as he served as a “waiter” taking people’s orders and telling them about the menu items the kids had prepared themselves. My boys really enjoyed working with students from several schools that they might not have otherwise met and especially enjoyed interacting with and learning from the Vista volunteers.
As a mom, I appreciated the skills they were building but also just the quality time they spent outdoors building relationships, having fun with the goats, and learning about the food we eat!
Our son participated in the Grow It Know It Program shortly after we moved to Athens, and it was an important part of his introduction to the school community. He learned how to make ice cream, what a cover crop is and why it’s important, and how to make dulce de leche. And, perhaps more importantly, he felt part of a community.
For our son, the program’s team-building approach helped build confidence and relationships that are serving him well in his transition to a new school. And we are happy to reap the benefits of his new cooking skills in our home!
The program is amazingly economical and the instructors are wonderful with the students. It connects the community and the schools and makes a very positive impact in the perception of our school district. It is amazing to see the students in action.
There are no other programs like it, to my knowledge, that provide students with such a wide array of experiences, from working in the garden and working with animals, to bringing food to the table in a literal and figurative sense. I was very impressed with the weekly restaurant, too. The menu was varied, which encouraged my sometimes-picky child outside of her food comfort zone, and the interaction with the public gave her a chance to develop her interpersonal skills. And on top of that, the food was delicious!
The Grow It Know It program is a remarkable and exciting program that makes a huge impact on the lives of middle school children in Clarke County. From working in gardens to preparing meals to hiking in North Georgia to learning about trees, animals and other wild things and wild skills in the woods, these children develop skills and habits that they really don’t learn in any other context in the public school system. I really, really hope that this program will continue and grow, into the high schools and into the elementary schools. The individuals running the program are remarkable, dedicated and passionate, and the program concept in and of itself is bound to continue to attract such dedicated individuals.
A noteworthy aspect of the program is how the menu and themes vary each week. The program’s emphasis on foods of different cultures, including foods that students may not have previously tried, allows students to experience and learn the value in diversity. It also creates the possibility for students to enjoy or even love a food that may be new to them! Wonderful.
Sarah & Jack Frierson