Cultivating Curriculum: How Investing in School Grounds, the Streetscape and Vacant Land as Urban Ecosystems can Address Food Security, the Community and Institutions of Public Education

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McAllister, Karen Elizabeth
Edible infrastructure
food health literacy
urban ecosystem
urban agriculture
Piedmont-Palladino, Susan
Date of Issue
July 31, 2019
Monterey California. Naval Postgraduate School
The 2014 Agricultural Act (Economic Research Division) (aka: The Farm Bill) was an important limelight shone on the issue of access to healthy foods, food education and the correlation between an increasingly unhealthy population and proximity to fresh, healthy food. Further legislation such as the Urban Agricultural Production Act of 2017 has been introduced to leverage the Farm Bill’s financial incentives to promote urban agricultural programs and transform vacant land into agricultural use. Specifically, this has become increasingly common in many lower income and disadvantaged communities affected by a lack of access to fresh food stores. Additionally, in response many public schools have pro-actively sought funds to transform their schoolyards into gardens and teaching classrooms (Gamson) in order to provide food literacy and education however, this practice remains the exception. Many children still face a lack of healthy food options or the availability of any fresh food outside of their school environment. What if the standard education facility could be used as a tool to confront not only the architecture of the learning space, but a school-as-ecosystem, representing a neighborhood catalyst to teach through action – addressing comprehensive global issues brought on by food desert environments and a child’s perspective about their own health? This thesis explores the possibility of casting the urban ecological net wide- envisioning a timescale for transforming public spaces and school grounds using green infrastructure practices, biological remediation, planning for changes in transportation technology and the expectations of a public education and child’s perception about their environment. Emphasizing a broad focus on all of the potential sites for food production in the city (including the school, schoolyard and what they represent to the community), surfaces a multi-functioning methodology encompassing community identity, amenity, ecology, infrastructure and beauty envisions what could become of urban areas in the future. The primary goal is to educate future generations in the value of the food network and to give them the kind of direct hands-on experience that educators emphasize while concurrently nourishing urban communities through development of a project carried out in common, one that has health benefits for the population, that engenders a sense of long-term pride, and that empowers people to make change in their environment, even in modest or temporary ways.The idea that school design can encourage and facilitate, hinder and inhibit behaviors at school, and the architectural symbolism of schools can have a profoundly wider impact on children and their behaviors in and outside of school (Tucker). There is a significant psychological difference in learning about the environment, for the environment and in the environment (Malone). Creating public space focused on individual learning and the physical and mental health of the individual aims to balance the scales of social economic injustices. It is going to take every effort from the hyper-localized to city-wide and even regional scales to make significant urban changes to create a taxonomy of spaces to support the growth of our cities while simultaneously educating young minds on the value of understanding our ecological relationship to the city and surrounding environment.
CIVINS (Civilian Institutions) Thesis document
Other Units
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
NPS Report Number
117 p.
Distribution Statement
Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.