Sunol AgPark Education Program

Funder: San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Other education program funding from American Honda Foundation, East Bay Community Foundation, Clorox Company Foundation, and Science by Nature.

Date of project: 2011 – 2016 under SAGE management; 2017 – present under ACRCD management.

A primary goal of the Sunol AgPark is to provide public education about sustainable agriculture and natural resource stewardship, and promote a connection between urban residents and their regional watershed lands. These education and interpretive programs for students, teachers, and community groups are fundamental to the Sunol AgPark model.

SAGE and its partners created and implemented education programs for diverse audiences, and interpretive programs which achieve the following goals:

  1. Offer programs for students that foster understanding of the connection between good nutrition, local agricultural production, and natural resource stewardship.
  2. Engage with youth groups and underserved urban youth to offer educational opportunities, including training, internships, and special projects related to nutrition, agriculture and natural resource conservation
  3. Provide educational and interpretive opportunities for the public to learn about sustainable agriculture and natural resource conservation, water conservation and use, the regional water distribution system, and the cultural and land use history of the region.

SAGE’s education program at the Sunol AgPark included field trips for 4th – 8th grade groups, in-school programs about watersheds, high school service learning based field trips, and paid summer farming internships for young adults.

SAGE developed a curriculum called “Farming in the Watershed” that engages children with the farmers and landscape of the unique, 18-acre AgPark  through a variety of hands-on activities. The curriculum has 18 lessons in 3 units all tied to the California State Standards that were in place at the time of production.

The three hour field trip included an orientation to the AgPark and historic Water Temple, a farm scavenger hunt, a hands-on lesson, and working with a farmer or on their farm. Students were encouraged to explore the farm, make sensory observations, and connect to food and farm ecology topics in an experiential way. Classes were taught by experienced agro-environmental educators and farmer-educators. The field trips were targeted towards low-income, urban schools in the Bay Area and SAGE subsidized almost all the costs of the field trip, including bus transportation.

High School in-class lessonIn-school programs brought the Farming in the Watershed’s experiential learning activities to the school. Students received an orientation to (or debrief about) the AgPark and then participated in hands-on activities on topics relating to watersheds, such as: the geography of watersheds, the relationship between soils and water, the water systems that serve both farms and cities, and the relationship of water to the production of the food they eat.

Service learning field trips at the Sunol AgPark were targeted towards high school and middle school students. These service learning trips gave youth a chance to dig in at the Sunol AgPark. Groups were assigned specific natural resource stewardship and farming projects, such as planting and maintaining the habitat hedgerow and assisting a farmer with harvesting crops. We encouraged groups to visit the site several times to establish a sense of ownership and accomplishment. This opportunity gave students and youth an opportunity to learn and practice new skills and participate in teamwork through the accomplishment of a project, while making an important contribution to AgPark.

SAGE’s summer internship program offered a paid summer internship to high school students and young adults. Interns worked on the fields with different AgPark farmers, and received a deep experience and training on farming and farm topics. The intern position provided an in depth, hands-on experience of organic farming practices.

Relevant Publications and other Projects:

Sunol AgPark Education Overview

FITW Curriculum

Kids Cook Farm-Fresh Foods

[Other Sunol AgPark Sub Projects- hedgerow, service learning, volunteering]

Nancy Ceridwyn at the Sunol AgPark teaching article