The Randall’s Island Park Alliance’s Edible Education program offers free educational activities at RIPA’s Urban Farm to students of all ages, in partnership with local schools and groups, as well as through RIPA’s free summer camps. The Urban Farm and outdoor kitchen give students a deeper understanding of how their food is grown, plant and soil health, and the need for nutritious food in our community. The variety of classes offered achieve these learning goals through fostering meaningful student interaction with the farm’s plentiful assortment of fresh grown vegetables and fruits, compost, rice paddies, and even chickens. This positive space for hands-on learning allows students to explore aspects of their ecosystem and to harvest, cook, and eat a communal meal together, all while adhering to academic standards in the life sciences.
RIPA offers local schools three core lessons, in an effort to present the myriad of ways that farms impact our health: Introduction to a Farm, Getting Our Hands Dirty and Rice Celebrations. All three involve students in an exploration of how we grow healthy foods in order to encourage healthy people. In each, students use observational skills to discover the relationships between different crops, the importance of soil biodiversity, and how a diverse diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables can improve our health.
Lessons adapt to seasonal changes, as well as to what is available in the Farm at the time of the field trip; however, classes can be tailored to the needs of teachers and developed to align with what students are learning in the classroom. All three options also adhere to New York State Scope and Sequence along with Common Core Standards.
Introduction to a Farm
The Introduction to a Farm lesson is strongly encouraged for a child’s first visit to the Farm. Students get a broad introduction to the diversity available within the Farm and in their food system. Class topics are seasonal in nature, taking advantage of what is available or active in the Farm at the time of the visit. Topics include the relationships of vegetables within different families of crops, plant anatomy, pollination, and the relationships of animals to plants within the ecology of the Farm. Students also meet RIPA’s flock of chickens and learn about their living habits as well as their importance to the Farm and to people. All students who participate in the Introduction will get a chance to harvest, cook and eat a simple communal meal together.
Getting Our Hands Dirty!
Getting Our Hands Dirty! focuses on the importance of healthy soil to the plants, the animals, and the food web that originates on the Farm. RIPA cultivates the Urban Farm using all organic practices; by prioritizing the living components of the soil, we ensure that soil will help produce the best quality food possible. Students learn about the diversity of life in healthy soil, from insects to invertebrates to fungi to bacteria to plants and animals. Students also participate in our solar-powered forced-air compost system, and learn how ‘recycling’ food scraps and organic matter back into the soils reduces waste, improves our quality of life and helps us to grow healthy food.
Rice is an important staple food grown around the world, and a daily portion of most people’s diets – and RIPA’s Urban Farm is home to New York City’s largest rice paddies! During the Rice Celebration lesson, students learn about the unique environment needed to grow rice, and how rice supports its own wetland ecology. Through exploring the ten varieties of rice grown at the Farm, students are introduced to the concept of plant breeding toward different goals, and can see how selection and seed saving can produce radically different crops. Finally, students participate in hulling rice using a bicycle-powered machine, and explore lessons in engineering and mechanics.
“I was really impressed with the variety of produce that you have at your farm. Getting to taste some it with my students was my favorite activity! Some of them have never tasted kale or beets, so it was nice to be able to expose them to different types of vegetables that they might enjoy.”
“[I enjoyed] Seeing the children learn about nature/gardening/nutrition with people who obviously love what they do in the such a relaxed and beautiful environment. There was clearly a lot of thought and planning involved.”
“It was such an amazing experience and it will be a good memory for me and the kids. I cannot thank you enough and the soba was yummy…!”