Monday, June 16, 2008

First week of "Mommy Camp" with a Betty twist

So a couple of months ago, seeing that my sons weren't engaged in a deeper awareness of our connection to the earth, wind and air around us in their school curriculum, I decided I needed to embrace this on my own this summer by instituting my own Betty-inspired curriculum for the kids.

This "Mommy Camp" (I'm fortunate enough to be home with my kids this summer) would include books, activities, crafts, field trips surrounding environmental topics. The former teacher in me rubbed my hands together and smiled in anticipation of the endless opportunities for fun and learning this would offer and make me feel better about the "off" months, when plastic is still being served with disposable plates (sigh).

Today was the first day - our intention and attention is FOOD. (Other topics will include water, energy, air, consumption and reuse). Of course I'm always trying to raise awareness of food issues, nutrition, wise purchasing, etc, but this can too often get lost in life's daily chores. So for a week or so we will have a FOOD focus. We'll talk about where our food comes from, how we get it, what the challenges are, and more.

We began this morning with library books about where food comes from and how plants grow.

After we read some of those we headed to the Berry Patch near Free Union (see yesterday's blog about the great site It was a gorgeous day for it - a lot less muggy than days past. After about 30 minutes of concentration and picking, the kids were done. I could have stayed there most of the day. Peaceful, beautiful mountain views. I thought I could hear a butterfly land and then my son screamed - "I found a good one, mom!" We vowed to make something yummy with them tomorrow for mommy camp.

Then we visited our friends who live on a farm. We communed with the piglets and cows and chickens and we even got to take a few eggs home!

So after dinner we sat down and charted the where and how of our food.

Where does it come from (plant, tree, underground)?
What does it need?
Where did WE get the food
How far did it travel to reach us?

The lesson really hit home when I explained to my son the reason that I don't buy raspberries at the store.

Do you know where they come from? California. How far away is that? Yes, 3,000 miles. How far away were the raspberries we picked today? 15 miles each way.

That enabled a discussion about the greater costs of food. And how, if we want to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, we can't buy so many things from so far away all the time. I didn't use the words imbedded energy because I didn't need to. Our meal tonight using mostly local ingredients traveled less than 900 miles (less than the average 1500 miles, but we can do better) to get to us. We were even counting the organic ketchup which said Austin, Texas and the no-name brand salt and pepper too. But I told him if we purchased those raspberries we would have already reached 3,000 miles to get to us. I thought I saw a lightbulb go off above his head.

Later this week we will visit the library in search of a chapter book about the adventures of farm life, we decide, and watch the bread being made at the local bakery. We all agreed Mommy camp is going to be a great way to spend the summer!


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