By: Taylor Barnhill, CitySprouts Summer College Fellow
By the time I turned 20 I had made fewer than a dozen meals for myself that required more than 5 ingredients. To make things worse, I had never seen most of the plants that produced these ingredients. Upon reflecting on these facts, I have begun to understand the depth and breadth of my education at CitySprouts as a college summer fellow. Initially, I did not realize how my ignorance about the garden impacted my connection to food and the people who grow it. This summer I found myself learning alongside our middle school interns as we explored the complex systems of how food gets to our plates and how we can exert urgency in this process.
While I was embarking on my role as a supporting teacher at the CitySprouts middle school program, I set out to learn and develop my skills as a leader and team member. I quickly found that CitySprouts employs curiosity as a driving force for their summer programs. CitySprouts creates a space for middle school age interns to explore their interests and discover new questions about the garden, cooking, and the natural world. Although I was supposed to be their teacher, I feel I’ve learned more from our interns than I could have ever anticipated.
I observed the fascination of our interns and couldn’t help but catch this contagious curiosity. As a college student, I am surrounded by people trying to make sense of their world, but I feel have forgotten how to inquire deeply. I have subconsciously begun to stop asking questions, feeling embarrassed about my lack of knowledge. Through my interactions with our interns, I could understand how my inability to ask questions truly hinders my ability to learn. The middle schoolers I’ve worked with assert their questions if they do not know the answer, they work hard to fill in the gaps and invent solutions.
During my summer at CitySprouts, I got to watch students empower themselves through cooking, taking care of plants, or researching food justice and creating posters. Noticing the independence, curiosity, and development of these students helped me realize how adults do not give young people enough credit. Through my experiences this summer, I got to see how the relationship between teacher and student needs to be reciprocal to yield the most fruitful products. By admitting to not knowing something, my interns have shown me I can become both a better student and a better teacher. Guiding someone does not mean I have to have all of the answers.