In 2014, Stone Barns Center launched its semester-long high school education program in New York City public high schools. Designed to inspire high school students to become food citizens—individuals who understand that their food choices have a meaningful impact on personal, environmental and community health—the program opens students’ minds to the possibilities for transforming the food system, and empowers them to advocate for change as they move into their adult lives.
Over the past two years, our high school program has expanded from one school to thirteen, and reaches hundreds of additional students through two-day intensives on the farm at Stone Barns Center. Now, we are poised to expand the program to reach thousands of students nationwide. In 2017, teachers from across the country will gather at Stone Barns Center for a summer institute focusing on how to implement the program in their classroom, while an online platform will deliver lesson plans and dynamic videos exploring the program’s themes to every teacher and student with internet access.
There are approximately 14 million students enrolled in high school in the United States—young adults on the cusp of independence, about to start voting, shopping and cooking for themselves and planning their future careers. We have a unique opportunity to empower them to become food citizens by equipping them with tools and information that will move us toward a brighter food future.
Our curriculum uses food as a portal to explore critical issues in science, ecology, health, culture and justice. Classes delve into the history and science of food, the principles of resilient agriculture, diverse food cultures, how to prepare fresh, farm-driven meals and the politics and economics of food. In the classroom, students engage in discussion-based lessons on these topics. During “Food Lab” sessions—which might take place in the school cafeteria, in a kitchen or in a science lab—students learn about the production and preparation of healthy, seasonal food through hands-on cooking and online video chats with farmers and chefs. During farm field trips, groups get their hands dirty planting and harvesting vegetables, composting organic materials and helping with animal care.
The vast majority of participating students come from economically disadvantaged communities, with 72% qualifying for free or reduced-price school lunch. Students, teachers and parents report that the course is transformational, helping students connect ingredients to ideas and empowering them with the skills they need to prepare fresh, healthy food. “Taking this course I can definitely say is the best academic decision I’ve made during high school,” one student says. “No class has intrigued me as much with its readings, nor offered such great hands-on experience, nor had such a large impact on my life.”
Learn more about our education programs here.
Originally published on November 4, 2016