Teacher Champion - Aaron Veenstra
In this issue of our BCAITC Teacher Champion series, we profile BC teacher Aaron Veenstra. Discover his passion for educating students about BC agriculture, food, and the environment.
What school do you teach? A: I teach at AS Matheson Elementary in Kelowna.
What grade(s) do you teach? A: Currently, I am teaching Grades 5 and 6.
How and when did you first learn about BCAITC? A: I learned about BCAITC through a colleague.
How long have you been teaching students about BC agriculture and food? A: I've been passionate about agriculture and food for several years. In my classroom, I started by including Agriculture and food in local and global issues like multiculturalism, sustainability and social justice, because of their relevance and application to the topics, also it is an exciting way to celebrate the different cultural backgrounds of my students!
What are the most important things that you want your students to learn about BC agriculture and food? A: The most important things I want my students to understand are where our food comes from and what they buy and eat can have significant contributions to their own health and to the health of our planet.
BCAITC has over 500 free downloadable resources including lesson plans, activities, videos, recipes, and more! What is your favourite BCAITC resource and why? A: I love using the interactive Farm Explorer and Grow BC map online, as they show where food is grown all over BC. I can teach my students about where some of their favourite foods might come from and the fertility and food abundance of the Okanagan Valley! Through constant educational interventions from various BCAITC resources, students have been able to create "energy stories" of certain produce that travel to their grocery stores and homes, which outlines how much energy goes into bringing produce from farm to table, and how their diet has a measurable impact on the environment.
What is your favourite BCAITC program and why? A: I like the live virtual field trips and farm tours BCAITC offers, they have been super interesting and well worth it! Most of us can't understand anything unless we see it and experience it - so while students are not able to physically visit these farms all the time, virtual tours are the next best thing.
Describe an agriculture or food-based project/program you have implemented in your classroom/school recently. A: With the help of BCAITC resources, we started a school-wide composting program. Students learn about the impact of food ending up in the landfill vs the benefits of composting. I also created a script to share the importance of composting with other classes in our school and placed a bin in each classroom with a poster describing what can be put in the compost. Every day students collect the compost bins throughout the school and bring them to a central bin. We partner with "The Bug Farms" in Kelowna, and they come at the end of each week to pick up the compost we've collected and bring it to their farm. We look forward to experimenting with the Lomi "dirt", which turns compost into soil overnight, in the spring in our school garden beds.
Do you have any advice for other educators on how to integrate agriculture and food education into their curriculum? A: Small is all! Start somewhere! Food education is a relatable and easy topic to bring into the classroom. Connect food with the land and start thanking the land for what it gives us and go outside to do this. Going outside more often, even without intention allows students to start connecting with the land more often. As students become more familiar with what the land gives us, and we give them more chances to connect with the land, they will start to care for it more. This is so important, because why would they want to protect something they don't care about?
About the Teacher Champion Series: This monthly BCAITC series features BC teachers and school staff who are passionate about providing agriculture and food education to K-12 students. For more information, contact BCAITC Communications Coordinator, email@example.com.