What does empathy really mean?
Empathy is a choice, a feeling with people; it fuels connection.
It allows us to gain more perspective, stay out of judgment, and recognize emotion in other people.
We feel more connected when we gather empathy.
Our 5th Annual School Garden Field Trip and Empathy Tour comprised of exactly this.
Nearly 30 attendees, including our Edible Education Experience team, enjoyed an empathy-filled day on December 3, 2018. gathering valuable insights from like-minded people throughout Central Florida.
The purpose of this tour? To connect with community partners and gather empathy on how to best empower students and their communities through seed-to-table experiences. With “food confidence” as the theme of the day, everyone came prepared to mull over this phrase as we stopped at several tour locations throughout Central Florida. Each stop provided a unique, insightful experience!
Our first stop was Orlando Junior Academy, just across the street from the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House and Culinary Garden in College Park. Presenters included Marcia Berry (a Pre-K teacher), Carianna Farfan (a 6th grade teacher), and their garden-buddy students. Attendees got an up-close look at what the students do in their garden. We saw how the little Pre-K learners absorbed their curriculum in the garden, pondering what they saw and making connections to what they were learning in the classroom with the help of their sixth grade “student teachers.”
Our next tour stop landed us in the gardens of ACE Elementary School in Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood. Nicole Lebron, the After-School Programs Coordinator, from the Children’s Home Society, led the outdoor presentation. In this incredible space, we saw their flourishing garden beds tended by students.
Next up? Rollins College in Winter Park. The tour was met by Meredith Hein, Director of the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, and Ann Francis, Environmental Studies and the Program Coordinator for Sustainability. Rollins College students presented their garden to our group. Seeing my beautiful campus’ urban farm and greenhouse was awe-inspiring to know that colleges and universities are on board with sustainability missions. Chef Gustavo Vasconez prepared a mindful menu for lunch. In between bites, we gained insights about the produce coming from Rollins’ garden and how it’s being incorporated into the Campus Center Cafeteria. This is beyond important for a college student to realize the power of growing your own food.
Nearing the end of our tour, we visited Lake Weston Elementary in Orlando’s Fairview Shores neighborhood. The students inspired us as they presented their version of a school garden to our group. Each student explained what kind of work they’d been focusing on in the garden, while Carl Howard, the Staffing Specialist, facilitated this hands-on environment for the students. They simply radiated passion for their work, conveying how important (and impactful) their school garden was to them.
Our last stop included viewing the open land at Edgewater High School in Orlando’s College Park neighborhood, envisioning how they’ll utilize the available space for a greenhouse project. We listened to a presentation by John Rife, of 4Roots Foundation, who spoke about the vision for the space in the near future.
Each stop consisted of presenters walking us through their school gardens, where we got a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the aesthetics and interworking of each location. All of the stops emphasized the importance of empathy, focusing on the unique story of each location. We met the planners, the hands-on workers, and the nature-lovers. We witnessed the determination, the passion, and the faith of each team. Each different, but the same. The commonality? Gaining food confidence through seed-to-table experiences.
This year’s Garden and Empathy Tour proved quite meaningful and impactful. To our readers, we want you to know how much we value you and your support. We ask you to consider the idea of empathy and how it plays a role in your lives. Thank you for being a part of this journey with us.
Additional thanks for helping to make this year’s tour a success goes to: Florida Hospital Community, one of our community partners; Ashley Williams, our Public Allies intern; Josephine Balzac-Arroyo, Rollins College Department of Social Entrepreneurship; and Alan Chryst, Rollins College Greenhouse Director.
Author’s Bio: Carlye Goldman is an intern with Edible Education Experience and studies Social Entrepreneurship and Global Health at Rollins College. She also plays tennis for Rollins and is passionate about connecting sustainable agriculture and education.