The Academies of Nashville business partners are an essential element to high school redesign. While many partnerships occur in the classroom through guest speakers and mentoring, there are some partnerships that occur with students outside of the school grounds. Jason at Trevecca Nazarene University’s Urban Farm shares his experiences with students outside the classroom.
Early this spring, Trevecca Urban Farm began developing a relationship with the Academies of Nashville after an enthusiastic visit from the director, Dr. Chaney Mosley and Overton High School’s Academy Coach, Mary York. A desire was expressed at that point to begin connecting students from Metro schools–particularly from the four schools with agricultural pathways—with our agricultural work. Overton in particular has an agricultural academy that focuses on urban agriculture.
This dream quickly began to be realized when three students from Overton spent a week of mornings with us at the farm, working and learning about the how’s and why’s of urban agricultural during their spring intercession. This was followed by the Trevecca Urban Farm Camp. Like the intercession week, this was a hands-on learning experience that submerged students into the global and local issues of food, farming, and justice as they learned to care for chickens, fish, worms, fruit, and vegetables. In addition, eighteen students learned how to build and plant a garden, build a compost pile, and plant trees. These eighteen students represented eleven different nationalities as first or second generation Americans.
Students completing the camp had an opportunity to apply for a paid internship for the remaining seven weeks of the summer. We welcomed six students who worked hard alongside our farm team to build up the farm and plant a huge vegetable garden, care for fruit trees and bushes, and care for fish, worms, and chickens. Once they were trained in the why and how of the farm, we were able to let them teach and lead groups of visitors at the farm over the summer. It was amazing to watch them passionately explain to other teens the issues around food access in our neighborhood. Two of the interns incubated chicks from our fertilized eggs. Another wants to be a missionary and employ these skills abroad for the good of those she serves.
Additionally, the Trevecca Urban Farm hosted five teachers from different disciplines for a teacher externship where they worked and learned for three full days about the issues of food justice, agriculture, nutrition and diet-related illness, and gardening. The teachers planned to develop an interdisciplinary project to be implemented at Overton this fall. It was a shock to the teachers that the Overton student interns taught them about the farm. They were blown away when we allowed these same students to train them in what we were doing with enthusiasm, ownership, and expertise. They couldn’t believe the difference in these students when they were given a chance to learn with their bodies, follow their curiosities, and embrace leadership roles.
Finally, we took the interns to a local farm where they picked blackberries, blueberries, and apples and got to see how a full scale production farm operates. They were involved in every aspect of our work and were educated in the social, biological, and spiritual aspects of caring for the soil and its fruits. In their last week, they caught tilapia out of the aquaponics system and took them to Chef John in the cafeteria where he taught them how to filet and prepare the fish for a meal. We then ate a meal together that was almost exclusively made up of farm produce that they had grown and harvested. The summer with these high school students was a rich, rich experience—incredibly inspiring to the adult interns and volunteers that worked alongside them through the summer.
Four students from the internship and the camp stated, without any prompting, that they were applying to Trevecca Nazarene University!