Project Seeds of Wonder (S.O.W.): Food Gardening with Justice in Mind is a food gardening curriculum published in February 2022 by Cornell University. Created for educators who work with young people ages 13-19, Project S.O.W. consists of 4 units: Cultivating Community, Gardening with Gratitude, Sowing Seeds of Curiosity, and Rooting Resilience. The aim of the curriculum is to inspire youth to connect to where their food comes from, cultivate a greater awareness of their sense of place and the food system, as well as encourage them to feel ownership and belonging within their communities.
“The garden is a tool for how we connect to ourselves and the spaces that we’re in,” said Lori Koenick, an author and editor of Project S.O.W. “Growing your own food contributes to food sovereignty with the ultimate aim being able to define your own food system. It was important for us to first start thinking about a mindset to approach how we’re going to garden and be together – to intentionally define expectations on how we want to interact with each other and the land – building into that thinking about stewardship…[The goal is] moving from a more extractive or transactional relationship to one of mutuality and reciprocity.”
Seeds of Wonder has been three years in the making and was initially piloted in nine diverse counties in New York. By surveying and centering feedback of youth voices who engaged with Project S.O.W, the curriculum became an expression of the youths’ perspectives. With these considerations, the curriculum incorporates hands-on activities, project-based learning, reflection and discussion, field trips, and of course, eating and snacking. As it focuses on garden-based learning with teenage youth, Project S.O.W. encourages young folks to become leaders, have a positive impact within society, and even pursue careers related to sustainable agriculture.
“We wanted to center youth voice and focus on thinking about what's important to us on the inside,” said Lori. “How can we use our values and our beliefs to create small, yet meaningful actions for change?”
Through Project S.O.W., youth increase their self-awareness by practicing mindfulness, connection, and wellness in the garden and are able to apply these concepts to larger, external realities when they dive into topics such as ancestral wisdom, climate change, and food justice. For example, one of Lori’s favorite activities in Project S.O.W. is “Raisin Imagination.” This activity entails “exploring a new mindset with regard to how the simple act of honing our attention can make a difference in perception.” It guides young people to become conscious of the entire process of how the raisin came to be in their hands, embrace a more slowed-down pace in the present moment, and tune into all of the senses to practice mindful eating and, ultimately, gratitude for our food and all of the intricacies involved in its production.
“It made me think more in depth of where the food I am eating comes from. The foods that we eat every day have to go through multiple processes before they even reach distribution,” said Taylor, Project S.O.W. youth participant. “I learned a lot and these activities were a fun way to gain a better understanding of the food system.”
“We never really think about what we are eating or where the things we eat come from. It was great to really think about what I was eating,” said Roderick, Project S.O.W. youth participant. “It was fun being able to use my hands and everything around me. If you really think about the food you’re eating while you are eating it, It will taste way better.”
Seeds of Wonder allows educators to apply academic standards while teaching in the garden and also expand upon critical socio-cultural issues. Each unit has three types of group activities that create opportunities to explore every topic from multiple lenses, angles, and depths. In essence, Project S.O.W. helps “plant the seeds” with students and empower them with the knowledge and skills to tackle and understand systems.
“With the support of Seeds of Wonder, social bonding among the youth crew seemed to increase as we progressed through the curriculum. The open and honest conversations during the activities created an environment where the teens were able to let their guard down and engage in important conversations with their peers.” – 4-H Educator
To learn more about the Seeds of Wonder project, check out the links below:
Cornell Garden-Based Learning website
Project S.O.W. will also be hosting their last FREE Introduction Workshop for the curriculum on Tuesday, April 26, at 6pm ET. Details and registration can be found here.
For questions about Project S.O.W. or the workshops, please contact Lori at [email protected]