Teacher Ambassador Experience - By Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson, Teacher Ambassador - Okanagan
Holly is an elementary teacher in the Kelowna School District who believes that everyone has at least one tie to agriculture! She is passionate about farming and food and would like to help teachers in the Okanagan connect with the diverse local agriculture in the region. Holly endeavours to spark interest in agriculture with her students, and has participated in the Spuds in Tubs program to help bring the subject to life. She has presented at several professional development days and enjoys sharing her agriculture knowledge with students and teachers. Holly enjoys spin classes, good coffee, and playing with her kids.
What's your Food Story?
This photo is of a rice ball wrapped in bamboo or banana leaves. Fatty pork and egg yolks are put in the middle and surrounded by beans and then glutinous rice. Then the whole package is wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed. Called joong in Cantonese, these rice balls were a staple in my home growing up. My siblings and I loved dousing them with soy sauce and were occasionally mortified when we discovered red beans (yuck) mixed in with the rice. I remember the salty taste of the pork and the sticky rice vividly, and I am sure there is a food which invokes similar memories for you.
Since becoming a BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation (BCAITC) Teacher Ambassador, I have taught three workshops and have used questions about memories surrounding food, each time as a springboard for discussion. Taken from unit What's Your Food Story? by Christy Shea and Andrea Courage, these questions have sparked amazing conversations. This unit can be found on the educational resources page here.
When I asked, “Where did your family get their food from?”, I had teachers tell me about their gardens growing up and about how almost everything they ate when they were young was grown in the soil metres from their house. How they never ate strawberries in January but looked forward to the hot and sunny day in June when they would pluck the warm berries from the vines. To contrast this, one teacher told a story about how everything her family ate was from a package, and now that she has her own daughter she wants to help her to discover fresh new foods. They are growing a garden in their backyard now and seeing her pop open a peapod to find the tiny delicious surprise inside is forever etched in her memory.
What are your favourite memories surrounding food? A teacher from Brazil told his story about his big, extended family eating together every Friday night. He told of his grandmother’s tomato sauce made with fresh vine ripened tomatoes. You could see him almost salivating and the joy in his face as he remembered. I could see in your mind children running around everywhere and a table sagging with tantalizing dishes. Another teacher, who had lived in India growing up, shared how every festival was tied to food and that all celebrations were linked to memories of eating special and sometimes ceremonial foods.
There are such amazing memories tied to food, and everyone has at least one.
Another teacher mentioned how these questions would excite his students: “Did your family grow their own food?”. He talked about how he had many students who were new to Canada and how some of them came from farms and how much they liked sharing about their former homes. He said these questions would give them a voice and include them when they were studying about the community they now lived in and were part of.
Hearing stories about a teacher’s tower gardens where students come and pluck lettuce leaves to stuff in their sandwiches excited everyone. Helping to facilitate these conversations and provide knowledge of where to find accurate resources to start bringing agriculture into your classroom has been a fruitful journey. If you are interested in learning more about BCAITC, I hope you will have the opportunity to attend a workshop in your area or explore this website or be in touch! There are lots of conversations you can start today!