Nadean Curtiss, School Farms Curriculum Coordinator

nadean-seeds1a_2919Growing up on Beacon Hill in Seattle was a good foundation for learning to love gardening. We played outside everyday in the summer feasting on fresh raspberries, apples and pears from the neighbors yards. Even more fundamental was the ancestral knowledge that was passed down from my grandmother. She gardened every day bringing what she’d grown or preserved to the table for her family. Hers was a rough life that demanded she work the soil so that her family could grow. All that work turned into love for coaxing food and flowers from the earth and transforming them into the most delicious meals. I remember her kitchen as full of the of garden produce, fresh milk and cream, and wonderful smells and tastes. It was an everyday magic that fascinated me and kept me experimenting with gardens and growing for most of my life.

 After living abroad in Turkey and China for the past 16 years, I’ve returned home to Whidbey Island. It’s a blessed place we inhabit here and I feel lucky to have landed back in such a clean beautiful environment after years of fighting pollution and watching over development take it’s toll. China is a country of gardeners. Seems like every small plot of land, including little patches near the sidewalks are cultivated for growing vegetables. While teaching at Nanjing International School I started an after school garden club that was affiliated with Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program. We cultivated our little plot on the school grounds and grew enough vegetables to sell in order to raise funds for environmental causes funded by Roots and Shoots. After several years we joined forces with the upper school and moved our garden plot to a larger section of land on the school grounds and called ourselves ‘The Green Team’. The school where I taught grades two through five during my 8 years in Nanjing is an International Baccalaureate school and a critical component of the curriculum is to understand the world we live in and take action as a global citizen to make it a better place.

Nearly 30 years of teaching on three different continents has taught me that I really won’t have enough time to learn as much as I’d like to. Like my grandmother, I started out scrambling to survive and make my way. At some point what I was trying so hard to accomplish changed into a fascination and excitement that sometimes exhausted me, but never left me bored. My degrees received in Special Education, Education and English Language, seem minor compared to the years of work with children from all over the world. Nothing is more rewarding than facilitating curiosity and watching those sparks catch fire. I am lucky to be back on Whidbey in the growing community garden at the Elementary School coaxing food from the soil, transforming time into learning experiences for students and continuing the legacy that acts as a catalyst for a healthy world.  

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