Study Skills: Lizzie Moore, Ed.M.
Yes, Lizzie Moore owns overalls and can drive a tractor. (The compost spreader is her favorite.) And yes, with the rise of CSAs and glossy magazines like Modern Farmer, she admits there’s a hip factor to farming these days. But none of these are the reasons she left the classroom to start her very own farm on seven acres in Napa, California.
“I always loved the outdoors,” says Moore, a student in the Specialized Studies Program who is here learning about place-based food entrepreneurship programs. “I always wanted to teach outdoors.” With BOCA Farm, that’s exactly what she’s doing. After getting the farm up and running, she circled back to her former school, Blue Oak Elementary, also in Napa, and created a partnership that brings students into the fields for extended periods.
“Most of the time, there are one-off field trips where students learn for a day where food comes from,” she says. “That’s the drive-by approach, where you don’t get the emotional and practical aspects. You don’t see what happens when it rains or there’s frost.”
Instead, at BOCA, fourth- and fifth-grade students and teachers spend a full 10 school days per semester at the farm, fully participating in the farm’s operation. For Moore, this means putting her teacher’s hat back on.
“I help teachers develop ideas and goals, which is a highlight — teaching based on what’s in season! I also instruct students. The farm classroom is full of surprises: cherry tomatoes that taste like candy, a jackrabbit that suddenly pops out from behind a squash vine, a volunteer crop from the prior season.”
Her favorite part of these days, she says, is realizing how the simplest activities can spark questions and creativity.
“I’ll never forget when a group of students spent almost half a day digging a hole. They wondered why the consistency and color of the soil changed as they dug and why the moisture content was higher deeper down. They strove to identify all sorts of bugs and roots,” she says. “They brought their questions back to the classroom, where they researched and recorded their findings. Back at the farm, the kids felt a newfound sense of connection to the site, and their next round of questioning became more sophisticated: What would happen if we used the deeper soils to germinate seeds? What is the mineral content of the deepest soil? How do farmers test their soil? I asked myself: Who knew that a shovel could be such a powerful learning tool?”
Photograph by Jonathan Kozowyk