In January, Archbishop Mitty High School opened the John A. and Susan Sobrato Science and Student Life Center, which provides space for students to study physics, chemistry, computer science, and robotics. This is the second story in a three-part series that highlights how AMHS science courses explore social justice in the classroom.
Students gathered in the Archbishop Mitty High School (AMHS) greenhouse and carefully placed pea and radish seeds into seedling trays. The 23 students are part of a lab-based, semester-long elective that mixes science with a heavy dose of social justice as the course explores why vegetables, fruit, grains, and meat can be produced in large quantities, yet many people still don’t get enough nutritious food to eat.
“It’s looking at the good foods to eat and why people don’t eat them,” said Mrs. Fenker, who teaches the class. “It’s the economic and social barriers that create the challenge.”
Feeding the World: Science of Agriculture is designed to get students thinking about topics such as food deserts, the basics of soil science, the effects of agricultural work on farm workers, and the need for sustainable ways to grow food. Addressing the heart of the AMHS mission, the course gives students a rigorous academic background that prepares them for college while teaching them to be community leaders who promote service, peace, and justice in a global society.
Senior Arman Farsai credits the class with teaching him that there are side effects to eating food that isn’t grown organically or locally. As part of the class, students visited a farmers market and a supermarket and took notes on the produce available. They observed the quality and diversity of the products, how far the food traveled, and the prices. Then, they started working in the school garden.
“You get to know how to plant and grow your own food,” Farsai said, as he paused in front of a row of vegetables in the school garden, still holding the pitchfork he had used to turn compost earlier in the day.
It is not unusual for students in this class to tackle multiple labs in a week. Recently, the students started to look at the effect compost has on germinating seeds. Other labs in progress at the same time focused on worm composting and monitoring the temperature and pH levels of developing compost.
“I like how hands-on the class is,” explained senior Alexandra Nazarov, as she took a break after planting radishes and purple tomatoes. “Right now, we’re doing three different labs at once.”
Back in the garden, students turned the contents of the compost bins and planted radishes, peas, and tomatoes. Then, they carefully filled out labels listing the type of the plant they put in the ground and their own last names, so they could check in on the progress of their seeds. This spring, the garden will have carrots, fennel, parsnips, and basil ready to harvest. The students are learning about agriculture, but even more importantly, they’re learning the techniques needed to make food production sustainable, even as the world’s population continues to grow. Food grown in the garden goes to the school kitchen and is taken home by students. Eventually, some of it will go to local food pantries.
Pick up the next edition of The Valley Catholic to read more about how AMHS is teaching the next generation of scientists how they can make their world a better and more just place.