Using Nourish in the College English Classroom

On June 23-25 I attended the Center for Ecoliteracy workshop in Berkeley at the David Brower Center. The I was able to meet  the author of Smart by Nature, Michael K. Stone, the , producer of Nourish: Food + Community, Kirk Bergstrom, Fritjof Capra, Zenobia Barlow, Carolie Sly, and others connected with the CEL.  The focus of the workshop, titled “Schooling for Sustainability Leadership Academy” was mostly about food, school gardens, and the importance of connections between schooling and sustainability.  I strongly recommend the CEL workshops to educators, community leaders, and parents.  Though primarily geared for the K-12 community, three of us who teach at the college level, and we benefited from working as a team.

The objectives of the workshop included

  • deepening our understanding of ecological principles and systems thinking
  • exploring ways to inspire our faculty and school community
  • learning how to forge links between teaching and learning, greening the campus, improving school food, and expanding community relationships
  • designing projects to cultivate the knowledge, skills, and values that underlie sustainable living

The first day began at 8:30 a.m. with introductions and a screening of the film, Nourish. After lunch we were introduced to the Nourish curriculum; though the curriculum was not complete, copies of the introduction to the film and Activity 2 (Seasonal, Local Food) were provided.  During the workshop we “tested” this Activity, which asks students to research what produce grows in their area in what season and learn about the advantages and disadvantages of eating locally grown food.  We created a seasonal circle.  Students in our classes could also create a resource booklet for obtaining local produce to share with their families.    The key question for this activity is “How does eating locally grown and seasonal food benefit the health of people and the environment?”

The following material is from the Nourish PBS Film Viewing Guide.  For more information you should contact the Center for Ecoliteracy or PBS.


  • Bring in two different food items, one that is in season, and one that is not in season and has traveled a long distance to your local market.
  • Prepare samples of local food, such as fresh strawberries or carrots;  for each sample, find out from the Internet or a farmer how it is grow, whether it is grow locally or elsewhere, and when it is in season.
  • Get a state map that encompasses and area at least 150 miles in all directions from our school.  Make copies of the map for the students, including the legend or mileage scale.
  • Make a copy of the two Seasonal Circles pages for students, and several copies of the Local Food resources Student page for each team.


  • Ask student to define what it means when we say a food is “in season.”  Discuss the foods brought in, where and how they grow and the time of year that they are in season,  when is it at its peak.  What is the difference between in-season and out-of-season produce.
  • Taste the food, and compile a lengthy list of adjectives to describe the taste and texture.
  • Referring to the film, discuss Café 150.  As what might grown within 150 miles of our campus.  Give students the map and have them draw a circle around Santa Monica College.  Use the map to discuss what we mean by “Local.”
    • Explain the concept of a foodshed.  Is 150 miles a good definition?  Why or why not?
    • What towns, agricultural areas, waterways, or other landmarks are included within the 150 mile circle?
    • What factors might influence what and when things grow there?
    • What would be the benefits and challenges of eating locally grown food?
    • Students will prepare two different resources to help them and their families find local, season food in their community.  One is a seasonal circle and the other is a resource book that describes the importance of eating locally grown, seasonal foods and lists community resources for local food.
    • For the seasonal circle, have students find out what crops and other farm products, like honey, milk, eggs, grow locally and when they are in season.  They might start with Field to Plate ( or Eat Local ( websites.  Both link to seasonal calendars by state.  For each crop or product they find, have students draw and label it on the circle in the months or seasons it is available.  They may also cut out the 150-mile map and glue it onto the back of the bottom circle.  Assemble the circles.
    • For the local food resources booklet, ask students to think of general categories of places where people could get local, seasonal food (like farmer’s markets, community gardens, CSAs, stores, restaurants).  Divide the class into teams, with each team researching places in one of the categories.  Teams may want to check out the Local Harvest ( or Eat Well Guide ( websites which include tools for finding locally grown  food.
      • Give teams copies of the Local Food Resources page to list the best resources they find.  This page has 4 templates with room to write in the NAME, CATEGORY, DESCRIPTION, ADDRESS, PHONE NUMBER, WEBSITE, and NOTES
      • Students write 2-3 paragraphs on the important of eating local and seasonal foods  Assemble the completed pages into one booklet.  Either compile a class webpage or create stapled booklets for each student to keep.


Assessment depends on the course.  In my writing courses, I’m looking for engagement with the subject, the ability to covey that engagement through writing and speaking.  English, Depending on the course, this research project can have various purposes.  This project could be used in geography, nutrition, English, social science, political science, botany, etc.


  • Students can find a recipe that appeals to them using a local, seasonal food.  They can prepare the food at home or at school and then share their experiences and a tasting with classmates.
  • Students can prepare a 150-mile meal like Café 150 in the film.  Or they can create a lunch menu using one or more locally available foods.
  • Challenge students to draw a garden plan using plants suitable for the current season.  They would research the growing requirements of different vegetables and fruits, and then use this information to sketch a map of the garden area, showing the location of each plant.
  • Use Google Earth or Google Maps to see how much land in your area is developed, underdeveloped, and farmed.
  • Visit a local farm or farmer’s market to talk to growers about how local foods travel from farm to customer.

Using Nourish: Food and Community in my college preparatory English Classes.

This year SMC has selected FOOD as a theme.  The book chosen for the community to read is Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, and I plan to show Nourish in my classes.  The students may also read the “Prologue: Vanzetti’s Garden” in Patricia Klindienst’s book, The Earth Knows my Name. She explains how she became interested in writing about ethnic gardeners and undertaking numerous interviews throughout the country.  This class is primarily focused on teaching students to write summaries and responses to texts (essays).  However, it is also valuable for students to experience field research, web research, and interviewing as a way to gather information.   Writing about their experiences with food, especially cultural foods has been very successful in the past.  One possible project involves writing a class cookbook that uses local, season food.  The Local Cookbook could include an introduction: why local and season is important, neighborhood guides to local food resources, and essays by students about food important to their cultures.

The film, Nourish: Food + Community and the Film Viewing Guides provided by PBS have inspired me to try something new with my students.   Information about the film is available at http:/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: