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ONE CALL FOR ALL | EduCulture brings school to the farm

  - Joel Sackett photo
— image credit: Joel Sackett photo

While the farm-to-table movement has been a staple in sustainable agriculture in recent years, one island nonprofit is adding a link: school-to-farm.

“We’re an educational organization … and our work is about bridge-building between the classroom and the community,” said Jonathan Garfunkel, founder and director of EduCulture, which was started in 2007 by a group of local teachers and farmers.

“We were starting to realize what an incredible, rich community treasure these farms could be as outdoor classrooms, and saw an opportunity to build bridges,” Garfunkel said.

As part of this, EduCulture’s Farm-School partnerships match four primary schools on the islands with farms to educate young islanders about their food community.

Children from Island Cooperative Preschool and Captain Charles Wilkes Elementary and Ordway Elementary can plant potatoes and harvest raspberries at Suyematsu and Bentryn Family Farms and Butler Green Farms at Morales. Kids at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary can learn about chicken anatomy and collect eggs at Heyday Farm.

“The goal here is to make farms … lived classrooms for students to have lived experience that otherwise they would be having inside a classroom,” Garfunkel said. “Learning that takes place in the most authentic setting creates the most authentic outcomes and achievements.”

The farms serve to “teach larger issues about where our food comes from, how it’s grown, how farms work,” he said.

And that’s not all.

Kids learn math, history, and social skills as they work together to count and weigh harvested food, and learn about the property they’re working on in the process.

“We like to think were helping to create mini-ambassadors to our island’s community and heritage and what we call co-producers in our food community,” Garfunkel said.

That hard work eventually comes to fruition.

In 2010 EduCulture helped form a school-to-farm-to-table chain with the Bainbridge Island School District, which became the “Bite of Bainbridge.” Through two farm-school programs, more than 1,700 pounds of potatoes were served in school cafeterias across the island, in addition to local corn and raspberries harvested by veteran farmers.

Garfunkel said by working with farmers and teachers, EduCulture is, “basically helping our students in our community get to know farmers like they would their doctors and their dentists and teachers and coaches.”

But students aren’t the only ones EduCulture helps teach.

The organization also runs the “Only What We Can Carry” project, which offers educators a chance to learn more about the island’s unique role in Japanese exclusion during World War II, the island being the first community to take part in the evacuation. One program allows teachers to travel to Manzanar as a delegation and learn more about that incarceration site as it relates to Bainbridge history.

“So we don’t have to go and study World War II in Europe to understand World War II. We can study it right here in our backyard,” Garfunkel said.

And that local connection is something EduCulture is moving more toward.

“Our work has really become Bainbridge-centric with the idea that we’re trying to really help our local community bring education to life,” he said. In fact, this is the first year EduCulture will appear in the One Call For All’s annual mailing list in that name.

“For the last couple years we’ve been listed as Global Source Education, and I’m not sure that people have really recognized the local work we’re doing because of our name,” Garfunkel said, adding that One Call For All has offered tremendous community support.

“There’s culture capital that One Call For All has and what I call educational capital that goes far beyond and equal to the financial capital.”

As EduCulture embraces its local roots, Garfunkel envisions a nonprofit that can encompass both local and global teaching.

“We can’t just look at something locally or globally in this day and age,” he said. “We need to equip young people with the skill sets to go and meet a global world, but realize they live in a real local community and to be able to celebrate both.”

 

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