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An Unexpected Experience

We are delighted to introduce Megan - our newest Proto-blogger.

Megan is a Canadian Teaching Assistant who has recently moved over to the UK. Today she shares the details of a rewarding project she was involved with in Florida - one which she has tried to emulate here in London

An Unexpected Experience: How a regular day of teaching turned into a life-changing experience
A few years ago when I was in college in St. Petersburg, Florida, I had one of the most rewarding and eye-opening experiences of my life.  I took an environmental education class.  
It started out like any other class with various readings from different texts, which I really enjoyed.  Part of this class also involved going to local schools in the area and teaching them about the environment through games and other activities.  The school that we went to was just a short drive down the road from our small campus.  
On the way to the school, there were broken down cars on people's lawns, houses that had clearly caught on fire, and garbage all over the streets.  When we got to the school, we saw that the desks were falling apart the entire room had mold growing in it.  Luckily, it was a nice day out and could do all of our activities outside.  We separated the children into separate groups that would rotate to each activity.
The activity that my group designed was about the food chain. Basically, the children pretended to be wolves, deer and plants and if there wasn't a balance, everything was thrown off.  The game itself was fairly similar to tag.  Anyway, we tried to explain this to the children and we were really surprised to find out that the students (who were in grade 5 and 6) knew nothing about the food chain. 
 Also, in one of our first groups we were talking about eating vegetables and what would happen if we never ate any (trying to relate it to needing a balance).  We learned that MOST of the children had NEVER consumed something green and most of them only ate only one item of fruit or vegetables a week. Their primary diet consisted of fast food (take away meals) that their parents would buy them for almost every meal.  In this area of the city, fast food was often cheaper than buying vegetables and some of the children's families couldn't afford them. 
This experience was a turning point in how I viewed teaching children about the environment and other topics, as well. Sometimes when you're teaching, you have to start with a small, basic concept and work your way up from there.  You can't always go into a situation assuming that everyone is the same boat.  After this experience, my class decided to try and help these kids.  You know how I said that people couldn't afford fruits and veggies?  Well, we changed that. With the help and support of Eckerd College, we were able to create a community garden in an abandoned field near the school.  The garden was named "The Edible Peace Patch" and has been harvesting fruits and vegetables since 2009.
Recently, while supplying at a school in Camden Town, one of the teachers told me that they wanted to start a school garden that the children could use and learn from.  She told me that the idea would be to have the children help in the planting, growing and harvesting process and then they could eat what they grew.  You better believe that I talked that woman's ear off about it.  
I am clearly a huge advocate for teaching children about the world around them, no matter what their socioeconomic circumstances may be.  Whether it is teaching children about the food chain or educating them about the greatest literary writers that ever lived (Jane Austen, obviously), you have the ability to change people's lives even if you never expected to.

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More Blogs:

Behind Every Good Alicia
Challenging SEN Situations: Keeping Safe
A Teaching Assistant Blog: Conversations with Kids

Tags: MeganS, TA, Teaching Assistant, Support Worker, Canadian, Protocol Education, Environmental Education

Category: Australian Teachers

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