Building a Team with Laughter and Trust

By: Sara Marquez
Location: Middleton, WI

Hello, and happy summer! What a perfect combination of sunshine and rain we’ve been having; all the better to gear Growing Food and Sustainability and all of our summer campers to get into the garden this season! I’m Sara, a participant with GFS and a summer intern for our youth garden programs. This summer will mark my first with GFS, as well as my first working with younger kids, as most of the work I’ve done so far has been with the high schoolers at Clark Street Community School. I must say, I can’t wait to meet all the new campers; being a part of this program is as important and educational for me as I hope it will be for all of the gardeners-to-be. I am even more excited because our Growing Food and Sustainability family just keeps growing!

Last week, our new summer interns and volunteers, along with our program leaders, participated in a training week to gear us up for the summer garden camps we will lead together. Instead of doing push ups and garden obstacle courses, we focused on reflective activities as well as team/community building activities and brainstorms–though we did fit a bit of running around and laughing our heads off into a session or two. Continue reading

Insights from the Next Generation

Hello friends, and happy (almost) spring!

I’m Sara, a first-year intern at Growing Food and Sustainability. I wanted to tell you all a little bit about one of the great things I have been able to do with our team so far this year. Beginning last fall, I began working with our GFS team at Clark Street Community School; over the past few months, I have been fortunate enough to co-lead their weekly Ecology Club meetings. In our 90 minutes together on Friday mornings we have had some amazing discussions already, and I imagine they will get even better as times goes on and we move from inside the classroom to outside in the garden.

A lot of what we have been talking about over the winter season has related to general questions of sustainable living. Currently, they are working away at a bottle-recycling program with other organizations in their school, and we have started some plants under light tables–just to get our hands a little dirty this winter! We have also done some great asset-mapping exercises to help them realize how effective they can really be as agents for change, and how their talents and networks really matter when it comes to making a difference.

We have about about 10-14 youth at each meeting, which is so exciting to see–it’s a great combination of returning students and new faces! These kids are from a wide variety of households and labor backgrounds, and in the first days of each quarter one of the most interesting things for me is learning what makes them tick and where their realm of experience is rooted. We have had some wonderful “get-to-know-you” sessions, where we talk about everything from where we like to go in our free time to what our ideal superpower would be (who knew there were so many people who would swim to the bottom of the ocean?).  After these sessions, I feel like we are all on the same level, all ready to tackle some really important and difficult issues.

The various backgrounds in our group have made for some diverse discussions; we have a dairy farmer who wants to make it a career, a boy who loves all things motors, a girl who loves drawing, horses, and “being outside away from the city,” a boy with a wry sense of humor and a starkly realistic view on political and global military relations, and of course, plenty of budding environmentalists–who also love their iPhones and video games. The things that these students know surpass a lot of what I was thinking about (or at least actively discussing) in high school–it’s incredible. One boy talked about methane digesters during our first discussion about current alternative technologies that are being explored; another explained that in order for ideas like composting, consuming less, or consuming differently to become popular, people simply need to start “walking the walk,” and per societal norms, the rest will follow. They have amazing insight, which is so refreshing for me, especially since I haven’t been in a high school environment for nearly a decade–and let me tell you, as much as I wish I could say so, I was not concerned about the future success of methane digesters ten years ago.

1Clark Street students helping us clean up the youth farm last fall Continue reading