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Leadership and Activism, School Stories

Sowing Seeds

My job for the last year has been to engage schools and districts to take wellness seriously as a keystone in their success. Often overlooked or sold out, healthy bodies are essential for healthy minds. Eating well and being physically active improves tests scores, reduces absenteeism, reduces health care costs, improves self-esteem, and can lessen environmental impacts.

We all know Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, we all know the Lunch Lady song. If you’re in a school, you also know that physical education has typically been paired back year after year, that there isn’t enough time to eat a good lunch, and that there are more cupcakes than days of the year.

The strategy for my job is to affect policies, systems, and environments, as these things affect the most people for the longest period of time. Consider that if your neighborhood has a problem with people speeding down the road you could either try to educate every driver why s/he should slow down, or you can install a speed bump. The latter takes a lot less time and energy and is proven to slow people down. The former has no guarantees; usually there are short-term changes, but over time people return to their habits as the pressures of time and having access to way more horsepower than anyone needs affects better judgement.

An environmental change I have championed at work is school gardens. I just released $20,000 to 10 schools to build and expand school gardens. Each school received +/- $2,000. Five schools are starting brand new gardens. Today I helped (modestly, most of the work was already done when I arrived) one school build 12 raised beds and install a fence. As the garden coordinator being interviewed said, “this garden will affect all the students.” All 800 of them.

Studies have shown that kids who work in gardens have better attitudes towards food, are more willing to try new things, and might have better problem solving skills. Also, their self-esteem goes up and their behavior in classrooms improve because they have been outside.

Everyday, we sow seeds. We sow seeds of hope and love, or doubt and fear. Everyday, we plant seeds that will shape the future. Today, I am very proud of the seeds I have sown.

About Adam Burk

Adam aims to serve the greater good; alleviate unnecessary suffering; and create beautiful, sane human communities in concert with the living planet. Recently, he has helped to rebuild local food systems in Maine in large part through school food services, organized the TEDxDirigo conference, and is a digital organizer with the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA).


12 thoughts on “Sowing Seeds

  1. This is a great post & very apt for the times we are now in both with the need for the curriculum to support wellness & the use of school gardens two areas of concern here in the UK. I’d be delighted to publish it as a guest post on the Head’s Office I have a large educational readership & also link to parents with my other blog JFB57.

    Let me know your thoughts!

    Posted by jfb57 | April 18, 2011, 6:15 pm
    • Hi JFB57,

      Thanks for your note. I would prefer if you wrote a reflection on how my post affected you on your blog and linked back to this post if it is something you want to share with people. That way the conversation can stay in one place.

      Is there work you are involved in with wellness and school gardens currently?


      Posted by Adam Burk | April 19, 2011, 4:15 pm
  2. I agree with JFB57! This is a wonderful post about the important and amazing work you do Adam. You are a visionary among us and I am inspired by your ideals and action. You remind me to ask myself: what seeds am I sowing? Today in my work, tomorrow in the future I hope to help bring about.

    Thank you,


    Posted by Kirsten Olson | April 19, 2011, 9:15 am
  3. This is an excellent way to hear about the work you are doing and an amazing post to go along with your amazing work. I have worked with community and school gardens and as we speak a school garden is being started where I work by students. I tried to plant the garden seed last year but it didn’t take hold.We wont always know what seeds we plant or sow, sometimes it’s just our sheer presence that will support an “organic” movement or uprising.

    The simple act of getting outdoors for all of us has become more challenging, especially in schools where there are lots of hurdles from apprehension of those who are not comfortable facilitating groups outdoors to concerns over liability and not enough time “covering “curriculum”

    The simple act of getting outdoors is vital in giving any human being the time to notice nature and perhaps come to love it or at least appreciate and respect it. This is part of the wellness equation, eating well, being active , being centered, intellectually and spiritually engaged are all part of a way of thinking about how all things are connected. Ever notice that when we spend more time outdoors our thinking is deeper and clearer, we tend to want to eat better, perhaps even planting a garden or joining a CSA, or maybe just supporting one. We also tend to be more active and feel better because we have been.

    Maybe the way to connect driver education with the speed bump so that the change is lasting is to have the interactions. Adam not only are you sowing seeds but cultivating and sustaining what you have sown, this is vital work not just to education but to the health of our planet and it’s biodiversity. You’re an amazing dude!


    Posted by Peter Berg | April 19, 2011, 1:28 pm
    • Peter,

      Thank you for your kind comment. It’s so wonderful that the students are planting a garden at your school. This is one aspect of the garden planning process that has consistently disappointed me–the lack of student involvement. It has been because they weren’t invited, or because they were too busy if they were. To me there is no better project to involve students in from the ground up than a garden. Yet consistently it is an adult driven process. Hopefully, over time that shifts.

      And I completely agree that consciously being outdoors has a multitude of benefits for individuals, communities, and the planet. We all need to do more of it.


      Posted by Adam Burk | April 19, 2011, 4:21 pm
  4. Posts like these simultaneously inspire me to act and remind me of how far I have to go in getting out of my own ideas of classroom and school. Well done, Adam.

    I would like teaching to become more about enacting a worthy vision very well instead of trying to develop a counter-vision around what we’re presently asked to do and trying to do both well enough to make a difference while keeping a job.

    You’re next post is about that, right, Adam?

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | April 20, 2011, 6:57 pm
  5. let’s go dudes

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | April 21, 2011, 9:38 pm
  6. Can a worthy vision be crafted by just a few for the many or only forged by many for the many?

    Posted by Peter Berg | April 21, 2011, 10:11 pm
  7. Adam, that’s what I was thinking as well, wondering out loud about whether the vision for personal practice can still exist while “educating the masses” or does it end up being finding the few places that fits with ones personal vision. I don’t know that there is an answer your post and Chad’s comment got me thinking about this again 🙂

    Posted by Peter Berg | April 22, 2011, 10:28 am

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