4 Ways to Make Urban Farming Fun
by Guest blogger: Matthew Kozuch
of Engineers for a Sustainable World
Listen to his podcast HERE
On a warm and sunny Oakland afternoon, dozens of students, volunteers, and community members came together at Hoover Elementary School. It was Engineers for a Sustainable World’s first Build Day event. With about eighty total attendees, including almost thirty Hoover students, the day provided a variety of outdoor gardening activities from sheet mulching to building chicken coops.
To begin the event, I welcomed everyone and thanked the primary sponsor, Langan Engineering, and other supporting partners. Together with Hoover’s garden director, Wanda Stewart, I provided a tour of the school’s garden to all attendees. Afterwards, the group split into three different work stations with sheet mulching, chicken coop construction, and strawberry patch planting. Throughout the rest day, children learned gardening work or socialized with two chickens, Salt and Pepper.
At noon, the group gathered in a circle to celebrate the day and all the amazing community members that turned up to volunteer.
So, how do you make a day of urban farming fun? Here are a few activities done by the students that sparked excitement and curiosity.
- Teach a hands-on chicken coop course. Explain that a chicken coop is a “playhouse” for chickens. The students at Oakland Elementary understood the comparison. The moment we mentioned playhouse every student wanted to participate in installing the coop’s outer door and wiring. Let them help and be creative. At the Build Day event, the foundation for the chicken coop construction was a large, refurbished doghouse. Although some of the structure was already completed prior to the event, Build Day participants were able to get their hands dirty to complete the coop’s cob wall structure. After the all the mud was used, the coops outer door and wiring was installed. This gave the kids and volunteers a great way to participate and be excited about chickens and eggs.
- Host a scavenger hunt. To incite fun and dispel boredom, host a scavenger hunt. This could be an edible, scent, or visual hunt. On Build Day, the UC Berkeley students and volunteers created a scavenger hunt for items commonly found in a gardening area. It’s a great way introduce kids to gardening tools and other items used when gardening. Prizes offer additional incentive and spark the kids interest.
- Explain and demonstrate the proper way to water the garden. Almost every child loves to play with water, and kids know it is drinkable and used for a lot of activities in the kitchen. Explaining the usage of water in gardening can be exciting for kids, especially when done in a playful and educational manner. Most kids have seen a gardening hose and sprinkler, but they rarely see a watering can in a small garden. Showing kids how to use a watering can and measuring the right amount of water for a healthy soil is simple, fun, and educational.
- Making smoothies from fruits harvested from the garden. Planting fruits and vegetables is fun but making and drinking smoothies is even more fun. Harvesting strawberries from a strawberry patch and picking some vegetables is an easy activity kids can participate and enjoy. Create a kid friendly smoothie recipe that incorporates all-natural ingredients with no sugar or additives and let them help prepare it. They’ll love getting to sample the smoothie and will remember how great fresh fruit and vegetables taste.
As the kids enjoy the fun of gardening, it is important to teach them the importance of a healthy garden that is robust with edible plants and fruits. Educating and showing kids how to eat healthy and take care of plant life is not only an informative and fun activity, but it also introduces the knowledge of healthy food choices.
About this author:
Matthew Kozuch is a lifelong Bay Area native and has been a member of the non-profit Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), for over the last four years. Since graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, in May 2017 Matthew has managed the first year of the ESW Build Day program, helping oversee sustainable projects from the west coast in Oakland, CA, to the east coast in Buffalo, NY. For more information about ESW and Matthew’s Build Day program, feel free to check out www.eswbuildday.com