BOOKS

Cover of Down to Earth
Down to Earth - How Kids Help Feed the World
Nikki Tate. Orca Book Publishers, 2013. 48 pages, $12.95.
*****
Reviewed by Dave Fingrut

An increasing percentage of the world’s population lives in urban areas, limiting our connection to agrarian cycles and our relationships with animals. Nature Deficit Disorder, the health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles, and students’ inability to recognize as many types of plants as corporate logos, provide serious physical and emotional challenges. Down to Earth – How Kids Help Feed the World is a powerful resource that will help teachers restore students’ ecological agency and food security and facilitate their re-grounding.

Multi-talented author Nikki Tate has been a farmer, traveler, blogger and actor. Her book is full of resources for those interested in learning about different types of agriculture and animal domestication, and fits into the social studies, science and technology, and health curriculums. Favorably reviewed by Canadian Teacher, School Library Journal, and Kirkus, the book combines personal narratives with riddles, fun facts and beautiful photos covering topics such as genetic diversity, seed banks, staple crops, organic farming, animal welfare, rare breeds, free range animals, urban farming and rooftop gardening.

We learn about important global crops that many Ontario students may not be familiar with such as cassava, yucca, millet and sorghum, as well as lesser-known domesticated animals such as the wooly Mangalitsa pig, the Muscovy duck and the humble urban pigeon. The book encourages healthy-eating habits by creating conversation-starters about where students’ food comes from and the ideal circumstances under which it should be produced. It notes the important role youth and students themselves play in the agricultural sector by growing crops, taking care of farm animals and urban gardening.

Students will find ideas for science fair projects and social studies reports from organizations like the 4-H Club, Rare Breeds Canada, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and Sustainable Harvest International. The book’s features on deconstructing food marketing and labeling tie in nicely with the media studies strand of the language curriculum.

Nikki Tate has also published Better Together: Creating Community in an Uncertain World, Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet, and Take Shelter: At Home Around the World, which focus on the inter-related topics of community, forest ecology and human habitation.

Dave Fingrut is a member of the Kawartha Pine Ridge Occasional Teacher Local.

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