Jane Hirschi

Ed. Notes- "Chance favors the prepared mind." When KIDS was still in its embryonic stage, our first website was designed by our daughter, Mara who lives in Cambridge, MA. Mara also designed websites for Jane Hirschi who was starting CitiSprouts in Cambridge. We came together and still work together on introducing young minds to food and the distribution of food. Both programs have come a long way together and still believe that the best is yet to come.


Let's start with where you are from and your background

I have lived almost my whole life on the eastern seaboard. I grew up in Florida, moved to Maine, and now live in the Boston area. I hold a Masters degree in Communication Studies from the University of Maine. In my early 30s, I was teaching communication classes as an adjunct instructor at Boston University and then Bentley College. While it was not a job I felt passionate about, the schedule allowed me time to be with my two young daughters. I confess that I had never really thought very deeply about elementary education until my oldest daughter started pre- kindergarten in Cambridge Public Schools. I was amazed at the skill of her wonderful teacher, the diversity of her class, and just the excitement of young children learning about each other and the world around them. The teacher invited me to volunteer in the class on the mornings when I wasn't teaching, so I introduced activities that I loved to do at home with my daughter: cooking, growing plants, mucking about in dirt. When I brought these simple activities to the prekindergarten classroom, I realized that many of the children weren't familiar with different kinds of fruits and vegetables growing in New England. Many had not ever touched or tasted pumpkin, lettuce, cherry tomatoes. They had not dug in a garden or found a worm wiggling into the soil. And they loved it! That was the beginning of my involvement in garden-based learning in public schools.

What interested you in hunger and education?

19 years later, CitySprouts is a program that literally opens the door to learning for thousands of children in Boston and Cambridge each year. We work with children ages 3 (entering public pre-school) to 14 (through 8th grade) to help them build science knowledge and skill, and a love of the natural world world. We do it though the edible learning garden because children are naturally interested in plants they can eat and discovering that food is something they can grow themselves. Almost all of the schools we work with are Title 1 schools, meaning the majority of families are economically disadvantaged. Education is our primary focus. Food, hunger and food systems are very important secondary products of the medium CitySprouts works with.

What issues do you work on and why?

Equity in education is foremost-- ensuring that every child has access to the rich, hands-on experiences of learning through a garden. We now know that garden-based learning levels the learning field for kids who come to school with fewer learning skills, smaller vocabulary, and little if any experience in nature. I don't claim that garden-based learning by itself can close the achievement gap in our schools but it's a very, very helpful and affordable part of the solution!

What are the biggest challenges for the issues that you care most about today?

I have only gotten more interested in public elementary education and our school system. I think it's as fascinating as it is frustrating. The history of reforms and how they failed or succeeded is endlessly interesting to me. In that system, I am focused on teachers and their teaching practice. CitySprouts garden educators support over 325 teachers and their students every year, throughout the year. I know these teachers depend on us to bring their students vital, engaging learning experiences that help them build positive relationships and get excited-- as they should be-- about the world around them.

What drives you?

What drives me? Children's joy when they are given time to explore their schoolyard learning garden; their curiosity about food systems and ecology; their engagement when they feel seen, appreciated and challenged to grow; and families who appreciate that their children are getting engaged in learning because of the garden.

In conclusion, what message do you want to deliver to our readers? What do you think your legacy should be.?

My message is to remember our children-- all of our children-- and how important it is that they all get a joyful and rigorous education in our public schools. It's about equity and access to a good education but it's also about making sure the next generation is environmentally literate and ready to take on the immense environmental challenges we are leaving them with. And I would add that children's joy is infectious, and every one of us would benefit from allowing ourselves to share that joy!

eliminate hunger

About us

Kids Can Make a Difference is a program of iEARN (International Education and Resource Network), the world's largest non-profit global network. iEARN enables teachers and youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world.

Finding Solutions to Poverty & Inequality Alliance:

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