Taking Ownership

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I know where I’m going
And I know who’s going with me
Irish Folk Song

Sometimes we think that we know where we are going. We have plans. We have all the tools that we need to get there. We’re well – prepared for the journey.
And yet, something along the way moves us in another direction. It entices us.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a market study that was taking place in a first grade class in East New York, Brooklyn. The children visited many different markets and they were involved in recreating the markets in their classroom. This was their direction…learning about and recreating markets. All was well. Children were absorbed in the study. The teachers understood the roadmap. And then…

The class went on a trip to the Union Square Market, a large farmers market located in Manhattan. “Where’s the market?” the children asked, looking for the sliding doors, the big freezers, the conveyer belts. “Oh, so THIS is the market!” What a discovery!union market smaller

The children were given 2-dollar vouchers that they pooled together and they bought all sorts of new and unknown vegetables…. Brussels sprouts, parsley, kale, spinach, peppers, basil, celery…and brought them back to the classroom to observe and taste.tasting.smallerjpg

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Each child took home a “mystery bag” of vegetables to share with their families. The next day they brought in lists of all that they could name and identify and told each other what they did with the vegetables when they brought them home.

The farm and the produce became a hot topic of conversation. “I wonder if we could make a farm in our classroom?” mused the teacher. Yes!

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The children planted seeds and labeled their crops.


They constructed fences between the different vegetables that were in their gardens.

The road turned.

The Market Study has morphed into a study of good nutrition. This was amazingly timely, coinciding with Michelle Obama’s attempt to confront childhood obesity with her “Let’s Move” initiative. Katie Rust, one of the teachers, sent me this message in an email, “we decided, after much pressing …to write to Michelle Obama about our work with fresh produce. Our class is beginning a “Healthy Food Initiative” …. Mr. Mastin and I are taking a teacher pledge to offer only fresh produce as snacks, and parents will be doing the same. Students will be writing letters describing our market study and how it has inspired us to be better decision makers about our food. We hope to complete the package to send within the next two weeks and we’ll keep you up to date. … I’ve attached the parent letter/pledge…. We’ll be having a healthy Thanksgiving party this Wednesday at noon “


The children have been reading circulars to see how healthy and not-so-healthy products are advertised. They’re becoming wise consumers.
The teachers and the children have taken ownership of this study and followed a detour leading to a more personal destination. Sometimes we think that we know where we are going. And yet, something along the way moves us in another direction.

December 6, 2013:  New photos added – The Avocado

Just about to taste this avocado

Just about to taste this avocado

I like the avocado!

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5 thoughts on “Taking Ownership

  1. Joan Kramer

    What a wonderful evolution of this story!! I love this!! The children learn so many new things and get healthy in the process. Growing their own is just the best. Perhaps their families can be encouraged to do some at home. Even an indoor pot of lettuce would be great! This is such a positive and wonderful example of what children can do and can learn. And the teacher pledge to provide healthy food for snacks is also a great touch. I do hope Michelle Obama responds. That would really encourage them. Thank you Renee!

  2. Renee Post author

    Joan, it would be wonderful if Michelle Obama would respond!
    In addition to all that the children are learning and the fun that they’re having in the progress, I’m really proud of how far these two teachers have come. They took a giant leap into this inquiry work. It is so brave of them!

  3. Katherine Douglas

    This beautiful post brought me to tears. What wonderful work you are doing! These children are learning so much all at once. I am still recovering from watching what New York State is inflicting on primary age children http://www.engageny.org/resource/common-core-video-series-kindergarten-mathematics-double-10-frames so your work is more important than ever. Thank you–I am sharing your website with my online learning community. Katherine Douglas

    1. Renee Post author

      Thank you Katherine. I know exactly what you mean about the inappropriate demands on children and teachers. In this case, Michelle Bodden-White, the principal, realized that the children needed so much more than scripted programs. She also realized that teachers were not being pushed professionally by these programs. My work at the school with kindergarten and first grade is a step towards opening a new door for the children and teachers. I’m so very proud of Katie and Andy for approaching this instructional shift wisely and with enthusiasm.

  4. Katie

    Thanks so much for the feedback! We’ve been working so hard and the children are loving our market study!! Today we watered some cranberry beans to sprout so I’m excited to see how well they grow!


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