Archived—What's For Lunch? Exploring Sustainability Outdoors and in the Kitchen

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Communion with nature is an extremely important part of the vision of the Yukon Best Practice Mentorship Program.

Children explore the natural world through activities that centre on food—from the roots up. Linda Bonnefoy and Susan Herbrick teach the children about agriculture and horticulture, being responsible for a garden, cooking and baking, self-sufficiency, sustainability, and sharing with family and friends.

The children plant both an organic herb and a vegetable garden to, as Linda explains, nourish "our bodies and the child's sense of well-being."

"The kids do everything," she continues: tilling, sowing, hoeing, weeding, watering. The daily tending of the garden exercises their patience and perseverance. It's also a great way to discover bugs, birds and butterflies, with fun and mud thrown in."

At the end of the growing season—the children's favourite time of year—they harvest what they have grown. Susan has noticed that the little ones tend to favour carrots and potatoes, and teaches them how to pull without breaking and dig without damaging. First Nations teachers and elders come in and share stories that reinforce the harvest theme.

Some of the harvest will be kept for culinary experiences. The rest is divided up amongst the children, who get to take fresh vegetables home to their families. "It's exciting for children to grow their own food, and they grow with it," says Susan. "By the time kids leave the centre with their baskets, they have more respect for themselves, their abilities and their environment."

As Fall settles in, so do the children. It's time to open the pantry and the cupboards, turn on the oven, and prepare meals and snacks with the food they've grown and other items, mostly organic, bought by their educators.

The children love cooking and baking. So do Linda and Susan because it's a fun, relaxed way of helping children learn mathematics, language, gastronomy, chemistry and a variety of other subjects.

Volunteers from different cultures are regular visitors. They show children how to make traditional dishes While children get hands-on experience, they also become aware of the importance of good nutrition, organic foods, table manners and sharing.

The skills and ideas children learn through growing and preparing food will help them understand the importance of responsible environmental stewardship, of sharing world resources, and of becoming socially conscious, proactive world citizens.