Welcome to the Farm

featured on the Learning First Alliance website, April 24, 2014

I hear a lot these days about how standardized, high-stakes testing has killed creativity and innovation in the classrooms of America. I can understand why so many people think this is true, because when tests are omnipresent, there is a huge amount of time spent in preparation, and this leaves less time for other ways of teaching. The right place for testing and the right amount of testing are relevant topics for parents today, and their voices should be heard in this debate.

But I continue to believe that there are wonderful teachers all over the country who still find ways to help their students learn in creative and innovative ways. I found one such teacher this week at Moss Haven Elementary School in Dallas, Texas, part of the Richardson Independent School District. Her name is Kim Aman, and she’s a special education teacher who created a farm and a chicken coop at the school. Moss Haven Elementary School promotes good nutrition and exercise and has partnered with the United Way and the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. Their efforts are really coming together now.

Kim wanted to teach children how to love the outdoors and incorporate healthy ways of living, and so three years ago, she brought the American Heart Association’s Teaching Garden program to the school. The program is in schools across the country, and its focus is to teach children about healthy living with a hands-on working laboratory – a farm!  Students do the actual work of planting seeds, growing the plants, and harvesting the produce. The process teaches them how to eat and live in a healthy way. Kim says the program has shown that children don’t need sweets and candy as a reward – she gives clementines instead!

The program is innovative in other ways, too. Farmer and teacher Kim has helped the students share their work on social media through Twitter and Facebook (like it at “Moss Haven Farm”) and through an on-line journal that the students keep about their urban farming. Moss Haven Farm brings an interdisciplinary focus to the children’s learning, building skills in science, math, writing, technology and oh, yes – collaboration!

Last week, someone else noticed Moss Haven Farm, too, when Kim received an invitation for herself and several others to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll the day after Easter. Kim, a parent, a third grader and a preschooler joined First Lady Michele Obama this week and had a ball. The First Lady’s focus on childhood obesity and healthy eating habits connected perfectly with Moss Haven Farm.

Parents want their children to have creative teachers like Kim Aman who make learning engaging, exciting and real. Next time someone says there is no creativity left in American classrooms, tell them about Farmer Kim and then go find another teacher doing something amazing! Let’s salute, encourage and support creative teaching and innovative teachers!

- See more at: http://www.learningfirst.org/welcome-farm#sthash.ZYMcgW7H.dpuf