It’s National Farm to School Month! As part of our ongoing celebration, we are sharing some of our favorite activities to do outside of the cafeteria. This exercise is a go-to for us as it is easily adaptable to a variety of age ranges and settings. It’s great at laying the groundwork for more in-depth discussions about how food ends up on our plates and how food systems are connected.
Exploring Connections in the Food System
For this activity, you will need a variety of cards with roles in the food system on them, and a ball of string. For the cards, have the role written on one side and a brief description on the other, which is helpful when students aren’t familiar with all the cards or get stuck in finding connections. The roles can be as simple or complex as is appropriate for the participants. We adapt what cards are passed out to what best fits a given age group. Sample roles include: consumer, truck driver, farmer, seed, fish, water, climate, chicken, grocery store, pollinator, fertilizer, etc.
Have students sit or stand in a large circle and pass out cards. At this point, take a moment to ask if everyone is familiar with the cards in the circle. Alternatively, explain and have a brief discussion of cards that you think might be an issue. Make sure all students are holding their cards facing the circle, so that everyone can see their roles. You could also, going around the circle, have everyone say their role and read the description on the back of the card. Once everyone has their card and understands their role, use the yarn to draw connections between them until everyone is included in our food system. There are multiple ways to connect cards, so students can be creative in finding links. Have one student start with the ball of yarn and explain their connection to someone else’s role in the circle. Once the connection is established, have them hold onto the string and toss the ball to the other student. Make sure that each student holds onto the string before passing on the yarn, so that all links are visible. Let the ball keep going and connections keep forming until everyone has been matched at least once. Some cards may be tricker to connect than others, requiring some indirect thinking and creativity.
With everyone connected, you can proceed to a bigger picture discussion about the interconnectedness of the food system or delve more deeply into certain connections. To expand on the activity, have students continue to hold onto their pieces of yarn and introduce a threat or opportunity that might affect the food system. Introduce a drought, for example, and have students whose role would be affected by such event pull on the yarn and raise their hands. Then, have students who didn’t pull on the yarn but can feel the new tension in the web raise their hands and explore the indirect effects a drought has on other players.
Are you a Farm to School Champion looking for more inspiration and ideas about all things Farm to School? Sign up for our seasonal Harvest of the Month newsletter! Throughout the year, you will receive tasting ideas, storybooks, activities, lesson plans, and grant opportunities straight to your inbox.